EGU23-3239, updated on 22 Feb 2023
EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Accelerating urban flood modelling using a GPU-parallel non-uniform structured grid and sub-grid approach

Youtong Rong, Paul Bates, and Jeffrey Neal
Youtong Rong et al.
  • University of Bristol, Faculty of Science, Geographical Sciences, Bristol, United Kingdom of Great Britain – England, Scotland, Wales (

Remote sensing technology and the resulting high resolution geospatial data now allow for a detailed description of urban landscape, advancing the development of raster-based flood models. Previous studies have highlighted the critical role of finely resolved and accurate terrain data (5m or less) in capturing flow patterns in urban areas. However, using a uniform fine grid resolution over a rectangular domain generally results in dense grids and leads to large computational costs. The small cell size is often an overspecification for rural regions where the flow processes are changing much less rapidly. Unstructured grid models resolve this issue and trade off more complex programming and slower operation against being able to represent a given problem with fewer computational elements. An alternative solution has been recently proposed to apply the non-uniform structured grid, with fine grids covering only the regions where this detail is a necessity, for example to capture the preferential flow paths influenced by small-scale topographic features or man-made structures (river channels, buildings, roads, defences, etc.). Without this, the smoothing effect of mesh coarsening upon input topographical data in urban areas leads to a uncertain prediction of the inundation extent and the timing of inundation due to the simplified wetting process. Flow connectivity formed by the river channels and the road network, which has a strong control on urban floodplain hydraulics, is also better represented by mixing grid resolutions. Considering the large consequences in terms of economic losses caused by urban flooding, here we develop a GPU-accelerated non-uniform sub-/super-grid channel model (river channels with width below or above the fine grid resolution) for accurate and efficient urban flood modelling. Urban areas and the river channel network are forced to keep fine resolution, while a coarse representation, depending on the terrain gradient, is allowed for rural regions. This model allows the utilization of available sub-/super-grid scale bathymetric information for 1D in-channel flow representation, and a 2D model for floodplain with variable grid resolution, minimising the computational costs and below water line data requirements in the river channel. Three tests are set up to validate the model performance, and the results show that modelling the urban area with fine resolution improved the model reliability and accuracy, and reduces computational cost in rural areas where a coarse grid may be used.

How to cite: Rong, Y., Bates, P., and Neal, J.: Accelerating urban flood modelling using a GPU-parallel non-uniform structured grid and sub-grid approach, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-3239,, 2023.