Objective Definition of Rainfall Intensity-Duration Thresholds for Post-fire Flash Floods and Debris Flows in the Area Burned by the Waldo Canyon Fire, Colorado, USA

  • M. Staley DennisEmail author
  • E. Gartner Joseph
  • W. Kean Jason
Conference paper


We present an objectively defined rainfall intensity-duration (I-D) threshold for the initiation of flash floods and debris flows for basins recently burned in the 2012 Waldo Canyon fire near Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA. Our results are based on 453 rainfall records which include 8 instances of hazardous flooding and debris flow from 10 July 2012 to 14 August 2013. We objectively defined the thresholds by maximizing the number of correct predictions of debris flow or flood occurrence while minimizing the rate of both Type I (false positive) and Type II (false negative) errors. The equation I = 11.6D−0.7 represents the I-D threshold (I, in mm/h) for durations (D, in hours) ranging from 0.083 h (5 min) to 1 h for basins burned by the 2012 Waldo Canyon fire. As periods of high-intensity rainfall over short durations (less than 1 h) produced all of the debris flow and flood events, real-time monitoring of rainfall conditions will result in very short lead times for early-warning. Our results highlight the need for improved forecasting of the rainfall rates during short-duration, high-intensity convective rainfall events.


Wildfire Debris flow Flash flood Threshold 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Staley Dennis
    • 1
    Email author
  • E. Gartner Joseph
    • 1
  • W. Kean Jason
    • 1
  1. 1.U.S. Geological SurveyGoldenUSA

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