Generalizing rapid flood predictions to unseen urban catchments with conditional generative adversarial networks

Cesar A.F. do Lago*, Marcio H. Giacomoni, Roberto Bentivoglio, Riccardo Taormina, Marcus N. Gomes, Eduardo M. Mendiondo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
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Two-dimensional hydrodynamic models are computationally expensive. This drawback can limit their application to solving problems requiring real-time predictions or several simulation runs. Although the literature presented improvements in using Deep Learning as an alternative to hydrodynamic models, Artificial Neural Networks applications for flood prediction cannot satisfactorily predict floods for areas outside the training datasets with different boundary conditions. In this paper, we used a conditional generative adversarial network (cGAN) aiming to generalize flood predictions in catchments not included in the training process. The proposed method, called cGAN-Flood, uses two cGAN models to solve a rain-on-grid problem by first identifying wet cells and then estimating the water depths. The cGANs were trained using HEC-RAS outputs as ground truth. cGAN-Flood distributes a target flood volume (vt) in a given catchment, which can be calculated via water balance from hydrological simulations. Our approach was trained on ten and tested on five urban catchments with distinct characteristics. The cGAN-Flood was compared to HEC-RAS for different rainfall magnitudes and surface roughness. We also compared our approach to the Weighted Cellular Automata 2D (WCA2D), a rapid flood model (RFM) used for rain-on-grid simulations. Our method successfully predicted water depths in the testing areas, showing that cGAN-Flood could generalize to different locations. However, cGAN-Flood tended to underestimate depths in channels in some areas for events with a small peak of precipitation intensity. cGAN-Flood was 50 and 250 times faster than WCA2D and HEC-RAS, respectively. Due to its computational efficiency and accuracy, we suggest that cGAN-Flood can be applied when fast simulations are necessary, and it can be a viable modeling solution for flood forecasts in large-scale watersheds.

Original languageEnglish
Article number129276
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository 'You share, we take care!' - Taverne project
Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


  • Deep learning
  • Generative adversarial networks
  • Rain on grid
  • Rapid flood modeling

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