Flash flood-producing storm properties in a small urban watershed

Brianne K. Smith, James A. Smith, Mary Lynn Baeck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The structure and evolution of flash flood-producing storms over a small urban watershed in the mid-Atlantic United States with a prototypical flash flood response is examined. Lagrangian storm properties are investigated through analyses of the 32 storms that produced the largest peak discharges in Moores Run between January 2000 and May 2014. The Thunderstorm Identification, Tracking, Analysis, and Nowcasting (TITAN) algorithm is used to track storm characteristics over their life cycle with a focus on storm size, movement, intensity, and location. First, the 13 June 2003 and 1 June 2006 storms, which produced the two largest peak discharges for the study period, are analyzed. Heavy rainfall for the 13 June 2003 and 1 June 2006 storms were caused by a collapsing thunderstorm cell and a slow-moving, low-echo centroid storm. Analyses of the 32 storms show that collapsing storm cells play an important role in peak rainfall rate production and flash flooding. Storm motion is predominantly southwest-to-northeast, and approximately half of the storms exhibited some linear organization. Mean storm total rainfall for the 32 storms displayed an asymmetric distribution around Moores Run, with sharply decreasing gradients southwest of the watershed (upwind and into the city) and increased rainfall to the northeast (downwind and away from the city). Results indicate urban modification of rainfall in flash flood-producing storms. There was no evidence that the storms split around Baltimore. Flood-producing rainfall was highly concentrated in time; on average, approximately 21% of the storm total rainfall fell within 15 min.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2631-2647
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Hydrometeorology
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


  • Extreme events
  • Flood events
  • Rainfall
  • Storm tracks
  • Urban meteorology
  • Watersheds


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