Flood frequency estimation and uncertainty in arid/semi-arid regions

Asher Metzger, Francesco Marra, James A. Smith, Efrat Morin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


At site flood frequency analysis (FFA) in arid/semi-arid watersheds poses unique challenges to researchers and practitioners due to the generally limited data records. This study presents a comprehensive evaluation of FFA in arid/semi-arid watersheds in relation to the unique characteristics of these regions, such as the limited number of floods occurring each year and the large variability of the flood peak discharges. Study cases in Israel and the US are examined and compared with non-arid watersheds, characterized by Mediterranean climate, and with synthetic flood records. Results show that the tail of extreme value distributions describing arid/semi-arid watersheds is found to be heavier than the one describing Mediterranean watersheds. The number of yearly floods and the variability of flood peak discharge are shown to have a crucial impact on the accuracy of the quantile estimates with smaller number of events per year and larger coefficient of variation of flood peak discharge being related to larger errors in the estimated quantiles. Partial duration series approach provides a slightly reduced bias in the estimates, but should not be blindly preferred over annual maxima series as it presents comparable estimation uncertainty. In general, the generalized extreme value and the generalized Pareto distribution are found to be non-optimal choices for the examined arid/semi-arid watersheds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number125254
JournalJournal of Hydrology
StatePublished - Nov 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology


  • Annual maxima series
  • Arid/semi-arid regions
  • Extreme value theory
  • Flood frequency analysis
  • Parameter estimation
  • Partial duration series


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