Global compound floods from precipitation and storm surge: Hazards and the roles of cyclones

Yangchen Lai, Jianfeng Li*, Xihui Gu*, Cancan Liu, Yongqin David Chen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


During simultaneous or successive occurrences of precipitation and storm surges, the interplay of the two types of extremes can exacerbate the impact to a greater extent than either of them in isolation. The compound flood hazards from precipitation and storm surges vary across regions of the world because of the various weather conditions. By analyzing in-situ observations of precipitation and storm surges across the globe, we found that the return periods of compound floods with marginal values exceeding the 98.5<jats:sup>th percentile (i.e., equivalent to a joint return period of 12 years if the marginal variables are independent) are < 2 years in most areas, while those in northern Europe are > 8 years due to weaker dependence. Our quantitative assessment shows that cyclones (i.e., tropical cyclones (TCs) and extratropical cyclones (ETCs)) are the major triggers of compound floods. More than 80% of compound floods in East Asia and > 50% of those in the Gulf of Mexico and northern Australia are associated with TCs, while in northern Europe and the higher latitude coast of North America, ETCs contribute to the majority of compound floods (i.e., 80%). Weather patterns characterized by deep low pressure, cyclonic wind, and abundant precipitable water content are conducive to the occurrence of compound floods. Extreme precipitation and extreme storm surges over Europe tend to occur in different months, which explains the relatively lower probability of compound floods in Europe. The comprehensive hazard assessment of global compound floods in this study serves as an important reference for flood risk management in coastal regions across the globe.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8319-8339
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number20
Early online date21 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2021


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