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Challenges in flood modeling over data-scarce regions : how to exploit globally available soil moisture products to estimate antecedent soil wetness conditions in Morocco

  • El Khalki, E.
  • Tramblay, Yves
  • Massari, C.
  • Brocca, L.
  • Simonneaux, Vincent
  • Gascoin, S.
  • Saidi, M. E.
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2020
Horizon Pleins textes
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The Mediterranean region is characterized by intense rainfall events giving rise to devastating floods. In Maghreb countries such as Morocco, there is a strong need for forecasting systems to reduce the impacts of floods. The development of such a system in the case of ungauged catchments is complicated, but remote-sensing products could overcome the lack of in situ measurements. The soil moisture content can strongly modulate the magnitude of flood events and consequently is a crucial parameter to take into account for flood modeling. In this study, different soil moisture products (European Space Agency Climate Change Initiative, ESA-CCI; Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity, SMOS; Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity by the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique and Centre d'Etudes Spatiales de la Biosphere, SMOS-IC; Advanced Scatterometer, ASCAT; and ERAS reanalysis) are compared to in situ measurements and one continuous soil-moisture-accounting (SMA) model for basins located in the High Atlas Mountains, upstream of the city of Marrakech. The results show that the SMOSIC satellite product and the ERAS reanalysis are best correlated with observed soil moisture and with the SMA model outputs. The different soil moisture datasets were also compared to estimate the initial soil moisture condition for an event-based hydrological model based on the Soil Conservation Service curve number (SCS-CN). The ASCAT, SMOS-IC, and ERAS products performed equally well in validation to simulate floods, outperforming daily in situ soil moisture measurements that may not be representative of the whole catchment soil moisture conditions. The results also indicated that the daily time step may not fully represent the saturation state before a flood event due to the rapid decay of soil moisture after rainfall in these semiarid environments. Indeed, at the hourly time step, ERAS and in situ measurements were found to better represent the initial soil moisture conditions of the SCS-CN model by comparison with the daily time step. The results of this work could be used to implement efficient flood modeling and forecasting systems in semiarid regions where soil moisture measurements are lacking.

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