A rainfall threshold-based approach to early warnings in urban data-scarce regions: A case study of pluvial flooding in Alexandria, Egypt

Adele Young*, Biswa Bhattacharya, Chris Zevenbergen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
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Rapidly expanding cities in the Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) region are at risk of flooding due to heavy rainfall, insufficient drainage capacity, a lack of preparedness and insufficient data to conduct required studies. A low regret Early Warning Systems (EWS) using rainfall thresholds is proposed as a cost-effective short-term solution. This study aims to utilise a probabilistic approach to characterise and predict urban floods by assessing critical rainfall thresholds likely to cause flooding combined with ensemble precipitation forecast in Alexandria, Egypt. Rainfall thresholds were inferred by associating observed rainfall and historical flood information sourced from social media and newspapers. Floods were classified in a colour-coded hazard matrix as no flood (green), minor flood (yellow), significant flood (orange), and severe flood (red). Probability of occurrence of hazard classes was derived by incorporating ensemble rainfall into the hazard matrix to jointly evaluate likelihood and hazard severity. Results from this study showed that three of four severe events analysed could have been predicted with a high likelihood up to 24 hr before. The presented approach supports decision making to issue warnings and flood control actions with limited data and is a model for other data scare regions.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12702
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Flood Risk Management
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • early warning systems
  • Egypt
  • pluvial flood forecasting
  • rainfall thresholds

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