The role of using precipitation or river discharge data when assessing global coastal compound flooding

Interacting storm surges and high water runoff can cause compound flooding (CF) in low-lying coasts and river estuaries. The large-scale CF hazard has been typically studied using proxies such as the concurrence of storm surge extremes either with precipitation or with river discharge extremes. Here the impact of the choice of such proxies is addressed employing state-of-the-art global datasets.

Although they are proxies of diverse physical mechanisms, we find that the two approaches show similar CF spatial patterns. On average, deviations are smaller in regions where assessing the actual CF is more relevant, i.e. where the CF potential is high. Differences between the two assessments increase with the catchment size, and our findings indicate that CF in long rivers (catchment ≳5–10×103 km2) should be analysed using river discharge data. The precipitation-based assessment allows for considering local-rainfall-driven CF and CF in small rivers not resolved by large-scale datasets.

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