Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Civil and Environmental Engineering

Committee Chair

French, Mark N.

Committee Member

Bhaskar, Nageshwar R.

Committee Member

Parola, Arthur C.

Committee Member

Kantardzic, Mehmed M.


Watersheds--Research; Hydrology; Flood forecasting; Drought forecasting


Seasonal precipitation variation due to natural climate variation influences stream flow and the apparent frequency and severity of extreme hydrological conditions such as flood and drought. To study hydrologic response and understand the occurrence of extreme hydrological events, the relevant forcing variables must be identified. This study attempts to assess and quantify the historical occurrence and context of extreme hydrologic flow events and quantify the relation between relevant climate variables. Once identified, the flow data and climate variables are evaluated to identify the primary relationship indicators of hydrologic extreme event occurrence. Existing studies focus on developing basin-scale forecasting techniques based on climate anomalies in El Nino/La Nina episodes linked to global climate. Building on earlier work, the goal of this research is to quantify variations in historical river flows at seasonal temporal-scale, and regional to continental spatial-scale. The work identifies and quantifies runoff variability of major river basins and correlates flow with environmental forcing variables such as El Nino, La Nina, sunspot cycle. These variables are expected to be the primary external natural indicators of inter-annual and inter-seasonal patterns of regional precipitation and river flow. Relations between continental-scale hydrologic flows and external climate variables are evaluated through direct correlations in a seasonal context with environmental phenomenon such as sun spot numbers (SSN), Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), and Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). Methods including stochastic time series analysis and artificial neural networks are developed to represent the seasonal variability evident in the historical records of river flows. River flows are categorized into low, average and high flow levels to evaluate and simulate flow variations under associated climate variable variations. Results demonstrated not any particular method is suited to represent scenarios leading to extreme flow conditions. For selected flow scenarios, the persistence model performance may be comparable to more complex multivariate approaches, and complex methods did not always improve flow estimation. Overall model performance indicates inclusion of river flows and forcing variables on average improve model extreme event forecasting skills. As a means to further refine the flow estimation, an ensemble forecast method is implemented to provide a likelihood-based indication of expected river flow magnitude and variability. Results indicate seasonal flow variations are well-captured in the ensemble range, therefore the ensemble approach can often prove efficient in estimating extreme river flow conditions. The discriminant prediction approach, a probabilistic measure to forecast streamflow, is also adopted to derive model performance. Results show the efficiency of the method in terms of representing uncertainties in the forecasts.