Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Civil Engineering (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering


Veronica Webster Griffis


Regional flood frequency techniques are commonly used to estimate flood quantiles when flood data is unavailable or the record length at an individual gauging station is insufficient for reliable analyses. These methods compensate for limited or unavailable data by pooling data from nearby gauged sites. This requires the delineation of hydrologically homogeneous regions in which the flood regime is sufficiently similar to allow the spatial transfer of information. It is generally accepted that hydrologic similarity results from similar physiographic characteristics, and thus these characteristics can be used to delineate regions and classify ungauged sites. However, as currently practiced, the delineation is highly subjective and dependent on the similarity measures and classification techniques employed.

A standardized procedure for delineation of hydrologically homogeneous regions is presented herein. Key aspects are a new statistical metric to identify physically discordant sites, and the identification of an appropriate set of physically based measures of extreme hydrological similarity. A combination of multivariate statistical techniques applied to multiple flood statistics and basin characteristics for gauging stations in the Southeastern U.S. revealed that basin slope, elevation, and soil drainage largely determine the extreme hydrological behavior of a watershed. Use of these characteristics as similarity measures in the standardized approach for region delineation yields regions which are more homogeneous and more efficient for quantile estimation at ungauged sites than those delineated using alternative physically-based procedures typically employed in practice. The proposed methods and key physical characteristics are also shown to be efficient for region delineation and quantile development in alternative areas composed of watersheds with statistically different physical composition. In addition, the use of aggregated values of key watershed characteristics was found to be sufficient for the regionalization of flood data; the added time and computational effort required to derive spatially distributed watershed variables does not increase the accuracy of quantile estimators for ungauged sites.

This dissertation also presents a methodology by which flood quantile estimates in Haiti can be derived using relationships developed for data rich regions of the U.S. As currently practiced, regional flood frequency techniques can only be applied within the predefined area used for model development. However, results presented herein demonstrate that the regional flood distribution can successfully be extrapolated to areas of similar physical composition located beyond the extent of that used for model development provided differences in precipitation are accounted for and the site in question can be appropriately classified within a delineated region.