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Durham University

Department of Geography

Staff Profile

Publication details for Professor Louise Bracken

Bracken, L.J. (nee Bull), Cox, N.J. & Shannon, J. The relationship between rainfall inputs and flood generation in south-east Spain. Hydrological Processes. 2008;22:683-696.

Author(s) from Durham


Rainfall and flood data are relatively sparse in semi-arid areas; hence there have been relatively few investigations into the relationships between rainfall inputs and flood generation in these environments. Previous work has shown that flood properties are influenced by a combination of precipitation characteristics including amount, intensity, duration and spatial distribution. Therefore floods may be produced by high intensity, short duration storms, or longer duration, low intensity rainfall. Most of this research has been undertaken in small catchments in either hyper-arid or relatively high rainfall Mediterranean climates. This paper presents results from a 6 year data record in south-east Spain from research conducted in two basins, the Rambla Nogalte (171 km2) and the Rambla de Torrealvilla (200 km2). Data cover an area of approximately 500 km2 and an annual average rainfall of 300 mm. At coarse temporal resolutions gauges spread over large areas record similar patterns of rainfall, although spells of rain show much more complexity; pulses of rain within storms can vary considerably in total rainfall, intensity and duration over the same area. The analysis for south-east Spain shows that most storms occur over a period of less than 24 h, but that the number of rainfall events declines as the duration exceeds 8 h. This is at odds with data on floods for the study area suggesting that they are produced by storms lasting longer than 18 h. However, one flood event was produced by a very short (15 min) storm with high intensity rainfall. Most floods tended to occur in May/June or September, which coincides with wetter months of the year (September, October, December and May). Floods are also more highly related to the total rainfall occurring in a spell of rain, than to intensity. The complexity of storm rainfall increases with the storm total, which makes it difficult to generalize on the importance of rainfall intensity for flood generation.