Spatiotemporal clustering of flash floods in a changing climate (China, 1950–2015)

Nan Wang, L. Lombardo, Marj Tonini, Weiming Cheng*, Liang Guo, Junnan Xiong

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
26 Downloads (Pure)


The persistence over space and time of flash flood disasters-flash floods that have caused either economical losses or loss of life or both-is a diagnostic measure of areas subjected to hydrological risk. The concept of persistence can be assessed via clustering analyses, performed here to analyze the national inventory of flash flood disasters in China that occurred in the period 1950-2015. Specifically, we investigated the spatiotemporal pattern distribution of the flash flood disasters and their clustering behavior by using both global and local methods: The first based on Ripley's K function, and the second on scan statistics. As a result, we could visualize patterns of aggregated events, estimate the cluster duration and make assumptions about their evolution over time, also with respect to the precipitation trend. Due to the large spatial (the whole Chinese territory) and temporal (66 years) scale of the dataset, we were able to capture whether certain clusters gather in specific locations and times but also whether their magnitude tends to increase or decrease. Overall, the eastern regions in China are much more subjected to flash flood disasters compared to the rest of the country. Detected clusters revealed that these phenomena predominantly occur between July and October, a period coinciding with the wet season in China. The number of detected clusters increases with time, but the associated duration drastically decreases in the recent period. This may indicate a change towards triggering mechanisms which are typical of short-duration extreme rainfall events. Finally, being flash flood disasters directly linked to precipitation and their extreme realization, we indirectly assessed whether the magnitude of the trigger itself has also varied through space and time, enabling considerations in the context of climatic change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2109-2124
Number of pages16
JournalNatural hazards and earth systems sciences discussions
Issue number7
Early online date25 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jul 2021




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