Tropical Cyclone Compound Flood Hazard Assessment: From Investigating Drivers to Quantifying Extreme Water Levels

Avantika Gori, Ning Lin, Dazhi Xi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Compound flooding, characterized by the co-occurrence of multiple flood mechanisms, is a major threat to coastlines across the globe. Tropical cyclones (TCs) are responsible for many compound floods due to their storm surge and intense rainfall. Previous efforts to quantify compound flood hazard have typically adopted statistical approaches that may be unable to fully capture spatio-temporal dynamics between rainfall-runoff and storm surge, which ultimately impact total water levels. In contrast, we pose a physics-driven approach that utilizes a large set of realistic TC events and a simplified physics-based rainfall model and simulates each event within a hydrodynamic model framework. We apply our approach to investigate TC flooding in the Cape Fear River, NC. We find TC approach angle, forward speed, and intensity are relevant for compound flood potential, but rainfall rate and time lag between the centroid of rainfall and peak storm tide are the strongest predictors of compounding magnitude. Neglecting rainfall underestimates 100-year flood depths across 28% of the floodplain, and taking the maximum of each hazard modeled separately still underestimates 16% of the floodplain. We find the main stem of the river is surge-dominated, upstream portions of small streams and pluvial areas are rainfall dominated, but midstream portions of streams are compounding zones, and areas close to the coastline are surge dominated for lower return periods but compounding zones for high return periods (100 years). Our method links joint rainfall-surge occurrence to actual flood impacts and demonstrates how compound flooding is distributed across coastal catchments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2020EF001660
JournalEarth's Future
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Environmental Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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