Infrastructure Engineering - Research Publications

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    Development of a Fast and Accurate Hybrid Model for Floodplain Inundation Simulations
    Fraehr, N ; Wang, QJJ ; Wu, W ; Nathan, R (AMER GEOPHYSICAL UNION, 2023-06)
    Abstract High computational cost is often the most limiting factor when running high‐resolution hydrodynamic models to simulate spatial‐temporal flood inundation behavior. To address this issue, a recent study introduced the hybrid Low‐fidelity, Spatial analysis, and Gaussian Process learning (LSG) model. The LSG model simulates the dynamic behavior of flood inundation extent by upskilling simulations from a low‐resolution hydrodynamic model through Empirical Orthogonal Function (EOF) analysis and Sparse Gaussian Process learning. However, information on flood extent alone is often not sufficient to provide accurate flood risk assessments. In addition, the LSG model has only been tested on hydrodynamic models with structured grids, while modern hydrodynamic models tend to use unstructured grids. This study therefore further develops the LSG model to simulate water depth as well as flood extent and demonstrates its efficacy as a surrogate for a high‐resolution hydrodynamic model with an unstructured grid. The further developed LSG model is evaluated on the flat and complex Chowilla floodplain of the Murray River in Australia and accurately predicts both depth and extent of the flood inundation, while being 12 times more computationally efficient than a high‐resolution hydrodynamic model. In addition, it has been found that weighting before the EOF analysis can compensate for the varying grid cell sizes in an unstructured grid and the inundation extent should be predicted from an extent‐based LSG model rather than deriving it from water depth predictions.
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    The time of emergence of climate-induced hydrologic change in Australian rivers
    John, A ; Nathan, R ; Horne, A ; Fowler, K ; Stewardson, M ; Peel, M ; Webb, JA (ELSEVIER, 2023-04)
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    Monthly flow indicators can be used to infer daily stream flow behaviour across Australia
    Morden, R ; Horne, A ; Nathan, R ; Bond, NR ; Olden, JD (ELSEVIER, 2023-02)
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    Diverging projections for flood and rainfall frequency curves
    Wasko, C ; Guo, D ; Ho, M ; Nathan, R ; Vogel, E (ELSEVIER, 2023-05)
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    Explaining changes in rainfall-runoff relationships during and after Australia's Millennium Drought: a community perspective
    Fowler, K ; Peel, M ; Saft, M ; Peterson, T ; Western, A ; Band, L ; Petheram, C ; Dharmadi, S ; Tan, KS ; Zhang, L ; Lane, P ; Kiem, A ; Marshall, L ; Griebel, A ; Medlyn, B ; Ryu, D ; Bonotto, G ; Wasko, C ; Ukkola, A ; Stephens, C ; Frost, A ; Weligamage, H ; Saco, P ; Zheng, H ; Chiew, F ; Daly, E ; Walker, G ; Vervoort, RW ; Hughes, J ; Trotter, L ; Neal, B ; Cartwright, I ; Nathan, R ( 2022-04-20)
    The Millennium Drought lasted more than a decade, and is notable for causing persistent shifts in the relationship between rainfall and runoff in many south-east Australian catchments. Research to date has successfully characterised where and when shifts occurred and explored relationships with potential drivers, but a convincing physical explanation for observed changes in catchment behaviour is still lacking. Originating from a large multi-disciplinary workshop, this paper presents a range of possible process explanations of flow response, and then evaluates these hypotheses against available evidence. The hypotheses consider climatic forcing, vegetation, soil moisture dynamics, groundwater, and anthropogenic influence. The hypotheses are assessed against evidence both temporally (eg. why was the Millennium Drought different to previous droughts?) and spatially (eg. why did rainfall-runoff relationships shift in some catchments but not in others?). The results point to the unprecedented length of the drought as the primary climatic driver, paired with interrelated groundwater processes, including: declines in groundwater storage, reduced recharge associated with vadose zone expansion, and reduced connection between subsurface and surface water processes. Other causes include increased evaporative demand and interception of runoff by small private dams. Finally, we discuss the need for long-term field monitoring, particularly targeting internal catchment processes and subsurface dynamics. We recommend continued investment in understanding of hydrological shifts, particularly given their relevance to water planning under climate variability and change.
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    Automating rainfall recording: Ensuring homogeneity when instruments change
    Wasko, C ; Visser, JB ; Nathan, R ; Ho, M ; Sharma, A (Elsevier, 2022-06-01)
    Sub-daily rainfall is used in modelling of small catchments, design of urban drainage, calculating soil erosion, understanding the water balance of vegetated catchments, and assessing the impact of climate change on short duration storms. Hence it is critical to ensure that sub-daily rainfall records are homogeneous, but with a global shift to automated measurement of rainfall, there has been a change in the rainfall recording instrumentation. Although changes in instrumentation should be documented, in many cases this is not the case and station metadata are missing. As result, studies of rainfall patterns, particularly those investigating trends, often cannot report their treatment of possible inhomogeneities and must assume the data is suitable for further analysis. Here, we argue that standard quality assurance methods for checking inhomogeneities in rainfall may not identify a change in the rainfall record due to a change in instrumentation. Through testing (1) an aggregation of rainfall to the coarsest instrument resolution, (2) removal of rainfall below a minimum rainfall depth, (3) removal of rainfall below a minimum accumulation (event) depth, and (4) a combination of the above adjustments, we present recommendations for ensuring sub-daily rainfall is homogenous with minimum alteration to the rainfall record. We assess the proposed methods using the case study of Australia's sub-daily rainfall monitoring network, where, in 1996 the pluviograph network was switched to tipping buckets, creating a large-sample test bed with a known systematic instrumentation change. Our results show that event-based statistics are considerably more sensitive to instrument change than annually aggregated rainfall statistics and hence standard methods for quality assurance may not identify possible inhomogeneities. We suggest an aggregation of the data to the coarsest instrument resolution, with the removal of small rainfall accumulations, can alleviate inhomogeneities for event-based statistics, whereas, for annual statistics, aggregation to the coarsest instrument resolution is sufficient. In the absence of a known instrumentation change, removing rainfall at or below the instrument resolution is also a viable technique for improving rainfall record homogeneity for event-based statistics. These findings will aid future sub-daily rainfall studies by justifying the use of a minimum rainfall or event depth for subsequent analysis.
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    The politicisation of science in the Murray-Darling Basin, Australia: discussion of 'Scientific integrity, public policy and water governance'
    Stewardson, MJ ; Bond, N ; Brookes, J ; Capon, S ; Dyer, F ; Grace, M ; Frazier, P ; Hart, B ; Horne, A ; King, A ; Langton, M ; Nathan, R ; Rutherfurd, I ; Sheldon, F ; Thompson, R ; Vertessy, R ; Walker, G ; Wang, QJ ; Wassens, S ; Watts, R ; Webb, A ; Western, AW (Taylor & Francis, 2021-10-30)
    Many water scientists aim for their work to inform water policy and management, and in pursuit of this objective, they often work alongside government water agencies to ensure their research is relevant, timely and communicated effectively. A paper in this issue, examining 'Science integrity, public policy and water governance in the Murray-Darling Basin, Australia’, suggests that a large group of scientists, who work on water management in the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) including the Basin Plan, have been subject to possible ‘administrative capture'. Specifically, it is suggested that they have advocated for policies favoured by government agencies with the objective of gaining personal benefit, such as increased research funding. We examine evidence for this claim and conclude that it is not justified. The efforts of scientists working alongside government water agencies appear to have been misinterpreted as possible administrative capture. Although unsubstantiated, this claim does indicate that the science used in basin water planning is increasingly caught up in the politics of water management. We suggest actions to improve science-policy engagement in basin planning, to promote constructive debate over contested views and avoid the over-politicisation of basin science.
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    Evidence of shorter more extreme rainfalls and increased flood variability under climate change
    Wasko, C ; Nathan, R ; Stein, L ; O'Shea, D (ELSEVIER, 2021-12)
    Increases in extreme rainfall intensities as a result of climate change pose a great risk due to the possibility of increases in pluvial flooding, particularly in urban and developed areas. But evidence is emerging that the observed increases in extreme rainfall are not resulting in universal increases in flooding. Indeed, on a global scale, studies consistently find more gauge stations with decreasing rather than increasing trends in the annual maxima flood magnitude. Here, we aim to improve our understanding of how rainfall and streamflow extremes are changing and why floods are not always observed to increase despite increases in rainfall extremes. To do so, we examine trends in streamflow events using 2776 stations from the Global Runoff Data Centre, with events chosen to isolate the impact of changes to their respective rainfall and antecedent soil moisture. The analysis is limited to stations with 30 years or more of active record with the majority of stations in North America, Europe, Brazil, Oceania, and southern Africa. Consistent with physical reasoning, for more frequent events such as the annual maxima, it is found the peak 1-day rainfall event intensity is increasing approximately a rate of 6–7%/°C, with rarer event intensities increasing at a rate exceeding the Clausius-Clapeyron relation. We find that storm volumes are not increasing as greatly as the peak rainfall and storm durations are decreasing, pointing to an intensification of rainfall events and a peakier temporal pattern. While rainfall is intensifying, the magnitude of frequent floods (those expected to occur on average once per year) are in general decreasing, particularly in tropical and arid regions of the world. We find that this is likely due to a dominance of drying antecedent soil moisture conditions. However, the magnitude of rarer floods has, on average been increasing. We suggest this is because, for these rarer events, the increase in rainfall outweighs the decrease in soil moisture. Our results point to a worst of both world's scenario where small floods, responsible for filling our water supplies, are decreasing, while the large flood events which pose a risk to life and infrastructure, are increasing.
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    Can riparian eucalypts be used for hydroclimatic reconstruction? The case for Eucalyptus coolabah to define palaeo-flood events
    Gillen, J ; Costelloe, JF ; Allen, KJ ; Fallon, SJ ; Peel, MC ; Stewardson, M ; Nathan, R (Elsevier, 2021-01-01)
    In the Australian semi-arid–arid zone, hydrological records are typically only 40–60 years long, prohibiting an understanding of long-term hydrological variability. Kati-Thanda – Lake Eyre Basin (KT-LEB), is the fifth largest terminal lake in the world, experiences highly variable flows and supports myriad flora and fauna. The opportunistic and highly irregular growth of trees in KT-LEB means that tree-ring records have not been developed in the region. E. coolabah is a keystone species in the KT-LEB and can live for more than 300 years. In this study, we find that trees in the riparian zone exhibit larger and more diffuse vessels compared to trees on the flood plain. 14C dating indicates that clear temporal variations in vessel size and density are synchronous across trees at the same site and consistent with changes in hydrological conditions recorded in instrumental records. More diffuse and larger vessels in the floodplain trees are congruous with wetter events, while bands of wood with smaller and denser vessels co-occur with drier conditions. These results suggest the species has potential as a high-resolution, albeit not annual, palaeohydrological indicator in the semi arid–arid zone - potentially a major step forward in deriving palaeohydrological tree-ring records for this region.
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    Impact of atmospheric circulation on the rainfall-temperature relationship in Australia
    Magan, B ; Kim, S ; Wasko, C ; Barbero, R ; Moron, V ; Nathan, R ; Sharma, A (IOP PUBLISHING LTD, 2020-09-01)
    Anthropogenic climate change is leading to the intensification of extreme rainfall due to an increase in atmospheric water holding capacity at higher temperatures as governed by the Clausius-Clapeyron (C-C) relationship. However, the rainfall-temperature sensitivity (termed scaling) often deviates from the C-C relationship. This manuscript uses classifications prescribed by regional-scale atmospheric circulation patterns to investigate whether deviations from the C-C relationship in tropical Australia can be explained by differing weather types (WT). We show that the rainfall-temperature scaling differs depending on the WTs, with the difference increasing with rainfall magnitude. All monsoonal WTs have similar scaling, in excess of the C-C relationship, while trade winds (the driest WTs) result in the greatest scaling, up to twice that of the C-C relationship. Finally, we show the scaling for each WT also varies spatially, illustrating that both local factors and the WT will contribute to the behaviour of rainfall under warming.