Floods: Riverine

Authored by: William Saunders , Alison MacNeil , Edward Capone

Encyclopedia of Natural Resources

Print publication date:  July  2014
Online publication date:  June  2014

Print ISBN: 9781439852583
eBook ISBN: 9781351043847
Adobe ISBN:


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Riverine flooding occurs whenever the flow of water in a river channel exceeds its carrying capacity. These floods are categorized as minor, moderate, or major, depending on their severity and impacts. Total damage from flooding in the United States averages over $8 billion annually. Surface runoff is the most common factor contributing to riverine floods and occurs whenever the amount or intensity of precipitation exceeds the soil’s capacity to accommodate the runoff water. Snowmelt is another factor that typically leads to riverine flooding in the late winter or early spring. Failures of dams or other structures are far less common, but riverine flooding from these events can be significantly more devastating than floods from naturally occurring events. Flooding statistics, such as annual exceedance probability, are commonly used to assess the magnitude of any specific flood event. To provide advanced notice of potential riverine flooding in the United States, River Forecast Centers of the National Weather Service regularly execute watershed and river analysis computer models to establish predictive forecasts.

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