The validity of flow approximations when simulating catchment-integrated flash floods

B. van den Bout*, V. G. Jetten

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
15 Downloads (Pure)


Within hydrological models, flow approximations are commonly used to reduce computation time. The validity of these approximations is strongly determined by flow height, flow velocity and the spatial resolution of the model. In this presentation, the validity and performance of the kinematic, diffusive and dynamic flow approximations are investigated for use in a catchment-based flood model. Particularly, the validity during flood events and for varying spatial resolutions is investigated. The OpenLISEM hydrological model is extended to implement both these flow approximations and channel flooding based on dynamic flow. The flow approximations are used to recreate measured discharge in three catchments, among which is the hydrograph of the 2003 flood event in the Fella river basin. Furthermore, spatial resolutions are varied for the flood simulation in order to investigate the influence of spatial resolution on these flow approximations. Results show that the kinematic, diffusive and dynamic flow approximation provide least to highest accuracy, respectively, in recreating measured discharge. Kinematic flow, which is commonly used in hydrological modelling, substantially over-estimates hydrological connectivity in the simulations with a spatial resolution of below 30 m. Since spatial resolutions of models have strongly increased over the past decades, usage of routed kinematic flow should be reconsidered. The combination of diffusive or dynamic overland flow and dynamic channel flooding provides high accuracy in recreating the 2003 Fella river flood event. Finally, in the case of flood events, spatial modelling of kinematic flow substantially over-estimates hydrological connectivity and flow concentration since pressure forces are removed, leading to significant errors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)674-688
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of hydrology
Early online date23 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018


  • Catchment hydrology
  • Flash floods
  • Hydraulics
  • OpenLISEM
  • Physically-based modeling
  • Spatial numerical modeling

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