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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 8, 973-992, 2004
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Dependence between sea surge, river flow and precipitation in south and west Britain
C. Svensson and D. A. Jones Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Wallingford, OX10 8BB, UK
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Abstract. Estuaries around Great Britain may be at heightened risk of flooding because of the simultaneous occurrence of extreme sea surge and river flow, both of which may be caused by mid-latitude cyclones. A measure especially suited for extremes was employed to estimate dependence between river flow and sea surge. To assist in the interpretation of why flow-surge dependence occurs in some areas and not in others, the dependence between precipitation and surge and between precipitation and river flow was also studied. Case studies of the meteorological situations leading to high surges and/or river flows were also carried out. The present study concerns catchments draining to the south and west coasts of Great Britain. Statistically significant dependence between river flow and daily maximum sea surge may be found at catchments spread along most of this coastline. However, higher dependence is generally found in catchments in hilly areas with a southerly to westerly aspect. Here, precipitation in south-westerly airflow, which is generally the quadrant of prevailing winds, will be enhanced orographically as the first higher ground is encountered. The sloping catchments may respond quickly to the abundant rainfall and the flow peak may arrive in the estuary on the same day as a large sea surge is produced by the winds and low atmospheric pressure associated with the cyclone. There are three regions where flow-surge dependence is strong: the western part of the English south coast, southern Wales and around the Solway Firth. To reduce the influence of tide-surge interaction on the dependence analysis, the dependence between river flow and daily maximum surge occurring at high tide was estimated. The general pattern of areas with higher dependence is similar to that using the daily maximum surge. The dependence between river flow and daily maximum sea surge is often strongest when surge and flow occur on the same day. The west coast from Wales and northwards has slightly stronger flow-surge dependence in summer than in winter, whereas dependence is stronger in winter than in summer for the southern part of the study area.

Keywords: : Britain, dependence, sea surge, river flow, precipitation, mid-latitude cyclone, seasonality, time lag

Citation: Svensson, C. and Jones, D. A.: Dependence between sea surge, river flow and precipitation in south and west Britain, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 8, 973-992, doi:10.5194/hess-8-973-2004, 2004.

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