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Gauged and historical abrupt wave front floods ('walls of water') in Pennine rivers, northern England

Lookup NU author(s): David Archer, Professor Hayley Fowler



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


© 2024 The Authors. Journal of Flood Risk Management published by Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management and John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Extremely rapid rates of rise in level and discharge in a subset of flash floods (‘abrupt wave front floods’, AWF) are separate hazards from peak level. Such flood events are investigated for Pennine catchments in northern England using both gauged and historical information. Gauged level and flow digital records at 15-min intervals provide recent data. Historical information for 122 AWF events is extracted from a chronology of flash floods for Britain. Historical AWF events are mapped and found to occur on every major Pennine catchment; catchment descriptors are derived as a basis for assessing catchment vulnerability. We discuss the disputed origin of AWF. Using gauged data, we contrast the rising limb of AWF and ‘normal’ floods. We investigate time series of historical AWF, noting a puzzling peak in the late 19th century. Current rainfall and river monitoring does not provide a reliable basis for understanding AWF processes or for operational response and we suggest improvements. Similarly, current models for design flood estimation and forecasting do not generate the observed rapid increase in level in AWF floods.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Archer D, Watkiss S, Warren S, Lamb R, Fowler HJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Flood Risk Management

Year: 2024

Pages: ePub ahead of Print

Online publication date: 10/04/2024

Acceptance date: 25/03/2024

Date deposited: 17/04/2024

ISSN (electronic): 1753-318X

Publisher: John Wiley and Sons Inc.


DOI: 10.1111/jfr3.12989


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Funder referenceFunder name
JBA Trust