Abstract. Multivariate hydrologic design under stationary conditions is traditionally performed through the use of the design criterion of the return period, which is theoretically equal to the average inter-arrival time of flood events divided by the exceedance probability of the design flood event. Under nonstationary conditions, the exceedance probability of a given multivariate flood event varies over time. This suggests that the traditional return-period concept cannot apply to engineering practice under nonstationary conditions, since by such a definition, a given multivariate flood event would correspond to a time-varying return period. In this paper, average annual reliability (AAR) was employed as the criterion for multivariate design rather than the return period to ensure that a given multivariate flood event corresponded to a unique design level under nonstationary conditions. The multivariate hydrologic design conditioned on the given AAR was estimated from the nonstationary multivariate flood distribution constructed by a dynamic C-vine copula, allowing for time-varying marginal distributions and a time-varying dependence structure. Both the most-likely design event and confidence interval for the multivariate hydrologic design conditioned on the given AAR were identified to provide supporting information for designers. The multivariate flood series from the Xijiang River, China, were chosen as a case study. The results indicated that both the marginal distributions and dependence structure of the multivariate flood series were nonstationary due to the driving forces of urbanization and reservoir regulation. The nonstationarities of both the marginal distributions and dependence structure were found to affect the outcome of the multivariate hydrologic design.
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