Relevance of the correlation between precipitation and the 0 °C isothermal altitude for extreme flood estimation

Zeimetz, Fraenz; Schaefli, Bettina; Artigue, Guillaume; García Hernández, Javier; Schleiss, Anton J. (2017). Relevance of the correlation between precipitation and the 0 °C isothermal altitude for extreme flood estimation. Journal of hydrology, 551, pp. 177-187. Elsevier 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2017.05.022

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Abstract Extreme floods are commonly estimated with the help of design storms and hydrological models. In this paper, we propose a new method to take into account the relationship between precipitation intensity (P) and air temperature (T) to account for potential snow accumulation and melt processes during the elaboration of design storms. The proposed method is based on a detailed analysis of this P-T relationship in the Swiss Alps. The region, no upper precipitation intensity limit is detectable for increasing temperature. However, a relationship between the highest measured temperature before a precipitation event and the duration of the subsequent event could be identified. An explanation for this relationship is proposed here based on the temperature gradient measured before the precipitation events. The relevance of these results is discussed for an example of Probable Maximum Precipitation-Probable Maximum Flood (PMP-PMF) estimation for the high mountainous Mattmark dam catchment in the Swiss Alps. The proposed method to associate a critical air temperature to a PMP is easily transposable to similar alpine settings where meteorological soundings as well as ground temperature and precipitation measurements are available. In the future, the analyses presented here might be further refined by distinguishing between precipitation event types (frontal versus orographic).

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography

UniBE Contributor:

Schaefli, Bettina


900 History > 910 Geography & travel








Bettina Schäfli

Date Deposited:

15 Jan 2021 16:13

Last Modified:

15 Jan 2021 16:21

Publisher DOI:





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