Flash floods are distinguished from ‘normal flooding’ by an abrupt onset arising from intense short period rainfall. Historical information based on pre-gauged descriptive information is used to prepare time series of flash floods for Northeast England and Southwest England as decadal numbers of events from 1800. The time series show a minimum in the late twentieth century for both locations. Flash flood frequency is then assessed for three locations in Northeast England by comparing recent extreme floods with historical accounts: (1) an urban pluvial flood in Newcastle in June 2012, (2) a severe flood in September 1968 on the Cotting Burn, a small ungauged tributary of the River Wansbeck, and (3) an extreme rate of rise in river level on the River Wansbeck in August 1994. Although there have been no comparable recent occurrences, several flash floods of equal or greater magnitude at the same locations were identified from historical accounts. Using the longer historical record in conjunction with limited recent observations has advantages when assessing the frequency of occurrence of rare events. However, these advantages are tempered by the possibility of non-stationarity in the historical series owing to catchment changes, from natural climatic variability and from potential anthropogenic climate change.
- flash flood
- historical information
- pluvial flood
- risk of recurrence
- First received 20 January 2016.
- Accepted in revised form 22 January 2016.
- © IWA Publishing 2016