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Scientific Investigations Report 2014–5165

Prepared in cooperation with the Missouri Department of Transportation and Federal Emergency Management Agency

Methods for Estimating Annual Exceedance-Probability Discharges and Largest Recorded Floods for Unregulated Streams in Rural Missouri

By Rodney E. Southard and Andrea G. Veilleux

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (4.4 MB)Abstract

Regression analysis techniques were used to develop a set of equations for rural ungaged stream sites for estimating discharges with 50-, 20-, 10-, 4-, 2-, 1-, 0.5-, and 0.2-percent annual exceedance probabilities, which are equivalent to annual flood-frequency recurrence intervals of 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 200, and 500 years, respectively. Basin and climatic characteristics were computed using geographic information software and digital geospatial data. A total of 35 characteristics were computed for use in preliminary statewide and regional regression analyses. Annual exceedance-probability discharge estimates were computed for 278 streamgages by using the expected moments algorithm to fit a log-Pearson Type III distribution to the logarithms of annual peak discharges for each streamgage using annual peak-discharge data from water year 1844 to 2012. Low-outlier and historic information were incorporated into the annual exceedance-probability analyses, and a generalized multiple Grubbs-Beck test was used to detect potentially influential low floods. Annual peak flows less than a minimum recordable discharge at a streamgage were incorporated into the at-site station analyses.

An updated regional skew coefficient was determined for the State of Missouri using Bayesian weighted least-squares/generalized least squares regression analyses. At-site skew estimates for 108 long-term streamgages with 30 or more years of record and the 35 basin characteristics defined for this study were used to estimate the regional variability in skew. However, a constant generalized-skew value of -0.30 and a mean square error of 0.14 were determined in this study.

Previous flood studies indicated that the distinct physical features of the three physiographic provinces have a pronounced effect on the magnitude of flood peaks. Trends in the magnitudes of the residuals from preliminary statewide regression analyses from previous studies confirmed that regional analyses in this study were similar and related to three primary physiographic provinces. The final regional regression analyses resulted in three sets of equations. For Regions 1 and 2, the basin characteristics of drainage area and basin shape factor were statistically significant. For Region 3, because of the small amount of data from streamgages, only drainage area was statistically significant. Average standard errors of prediction ranged from 28.7 to 38.4 percent for flood region 1, 24.1 to 43.5 percent for flood region 2, and 25.8 to 30.5 percent for region 3. The regional regression equations are only applicable to stream sites in Missouri with flows not significantly affected by regulation, channelization, backwater, diversion, or urbanization. Basins with about 5 percent or less impervious area were considered to be rural. Applicability of the equations are limited to the basin characteristic values that range from 0.11 to 8,212.38 square miles (mi2) and basin shape from 2.25 to 26.59 for Region 1, 0.17 to 4,008.92 mi2 and basin shape 2.04 to 26.89 for Region 2, and 2.12 to 2,177.58 mi2 for Region 3.

Annual peak data from streamgages were used to qualitatively assess the largest floods recorded at streamgages in Missouri since the 1915 water year. Based on existing streamgage data, the 1983 flood event was the largest flood event on record since 1915. The next five largest flood events, in descending order, took place in 1993, 1973, 2008, 1994 and 1915. Since 1915, five of six of the largest floods on record occurred from 1973 to 2012.

First posted September 19, 2014

For additional information contact:
Director, Missouri Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
1400 Independence Road
Rolla, MO 65401

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Suggested citation:

Southard, R.E., and Veilleux, A.G., 2014, Methods for estimating annual exceedance-probability discharges and largest recorded floods for unregulated streams in rural Missouri: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2014–5165, 39 p.,

ISSN 2328-031X (print)

ISSN 2328-0328 (online)




Methods for Data Development for Streamgages

Regional Regression Analyses to Estimate Annual Exceedance-Probability Discharges

Largest Recorded Floods in Missouri


References Cited

Appendix—Introduction to Statistical Analysis of Regional Skew

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