Title: Potentialities of ensemble strategies for flood forecasting over the Milano urban area
Abstract: Analysis of ensemble forecasting strategies, which can provide a tangible backing for flood early warning procedures and mitigation measures over the Mediterranean region, is one of the fundamental motivations of the international HyMeX programme. Here, we examine two severe hydrometeorological episodes that affected the Milano urban area and for which the complex flood protection system of the city did not completely succeed. Indeed, flood damage have exponentially increased during the last 60 years, due to industrial and urban developments. Thus, the improvement of the Milano flood control system needs a synergism between structural and non-structural approaches. First, we examine how land-use changes due to urban development have altered the hydrological response to intense rainfalls. Second, we test a flood forecasting system which comprises the Flash-flood Event-based Spatially distributed rainfall–runoff Transformation, including Water Balance (FEST-WB) and the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) models. Accurate forecasts of deep moist convection and extreme precipitation are difficult to be predicted due to uncertainties arising from the numeric weather prediction (NWP) physical parameterizations and high sensitivity to misrepresentation of the atmospheric state; however, two hydrological ensemble prediction systems (HEPS) have been designed to explicitly cope with uncertainties in the initial and lateral boundary conditions (IC/LBCs) and physical parameterizations of the NWP model. No substantial differences in skill have been found between both ensemble strategies when considering an enhanced diversity of IC/LBCs for the perturbed initial conditions ensemble. Furthermore, no additional benefits have been found by considering more frequent LBCs in a mixed physics ensemble, as ensemble spread seems to be reduced. These findings could help to design the most appropriate ensemble strategies before these hydrometeorological extremes, given the computational cost of running such advanced HEPSs for operational purposes.