Extreme multi-basin flooding linked with extra-tropical cyclones

Paolo De Luca*, John K. Hillier, Robert L. Wilby, Nevil W. Quinn, Shaun Harrigan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Fluvial floods are typically investigated as 'events' at the single basin-scale, hence flood management authorities may underestimate the threat of flooding across multiple basins driven by large-scale and nearly concurrent atmospheric event(s). We pilot a national-scale statistical analysis of the spatio-temporal characteristics of extreme multi-basin flooding (MBF) episodes, using peak river flow data for 260 basins in Great Britain (1975-2014), a sentinel region for storms impacting northwest and central Europe. During the most widespread MBF episode, 108 basins (∼46% of the study area) recorded annual maximum (AMAX) discharge within a 16 day window. Such episodes are associated with persistent cyclonic and westerly atmospheric circulations, atmospheric rivers, and precipitation falling onto previously saturated ground, leading to hydrological response times <40 h and documented flood impacts. Furthermore, peak flows tend to occur after 0-13 days of very severe gales causing combined and spatially-distributed, yet differentially time-lagged, wind and flood damages. These findings have implications for emergency responders, insurers and contingency planners worldwide.

Original languageEnglish
Article number114009
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • emergency management
  • extra-tropical cyclones
  • flooding
  • Great Britain
  • interactions
  • multi-basin
  • natural hazards


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