Deep learning-based Regional Flood Frequency Analysis

Alternate pathway for regional flood frequency analysis in data-sparse region

Published in Journal of Hydrology
Authors: Nikunj K. Mangukiya, Ashutosh Sharma


  • We propose an alternate deep learning-based approach for regional flood frequency analysis.
  • Proposed approach outperformed regression-based approaches in the data-sparse region.
  • Relying on regional assumptions can result in biased estimates.
  • Proposed approach captures hydrological dynamics more accurately than regression-based methods.


Accurately analyzing flood frequency is crucial for developing effective flood management strategies and designing flood protection infrastructure, but the complex and nonlinear nature of the hydrological system poses significant challenges. The use of advanced statistical techniques, hydrological modeling, and computational tools has facilitated the implementation of several regional flood frequency analysis (RFFA) methods, including machine learning (ML) approaches. However, such regional methods, being statistical and data-intensive with limited hydrologic inferences, can be challenging for regions with limited data. In this study, we evaluated an alternate approach or path for RFFA in two contrasting regions: a data-sparse region in India and a data-dense region in the USA. The alternate approach involves using deep learning (DL)-based model for streamflow prediction, followed by at-site flood frequency analysis to estimate flood quantiles. The proposed alternate approach was compared with the classical RFFA method, which utilized the Random Forest (RF) and eXtreme Gradient Boosting (XGBoost) algorithms to establish the intricate relationship between different flood quantiles and predictor variables related to physio-meteorological conditions. The findings showed that the alternate approach outperformed the classical RFFA method in the data-sparse region of India, reducing the mean absolute error (MAE) and root mean squared error (RMSE) by approximately 50 %, and achieving a higher coefficient of determination (R2 = 0.85 to 0.96). In the data-dense region, the classical and alternate approaches produced comparable results. However, the alternate approach has the benefit of flexibility and offers a complete time series of daily flow at the ungauged watersheds, enabling the estimation of other flow attributes or magnitudes for any return period without needing a separate classical RFFA model. The study demonstrates that the alternate approach can produce reliable flood quantile estimates in regions with limited data, offering a promising solution for managing floods in these areas.

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