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Hydrologic Frequency Analysis

Cory L. Horton, P.E.

This course provides guidance in applying statistical principles to the analysis of hydrologic data based on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Design Manual on Hydrologic Frequency Analysis. The manual illustrates, by example, many of the statistical techniques appropriate for hydrologic problems. The basic theory is usually not provided, but references are provided for those who wish to research the techniques in more detail. Frequency estimates of hydrologic, climatic and economic data are required for the planning, design and evaluation of water management plans. These plans may consist of combinations of structural measures such as reservoirs, levees, channels, pumping plants, hydroelectric power plants, etc., and nonstructural measures such as flood proofing, zoning, insurance programs, water use priorities, etc. The data to be analyzed could be streamflows, precipitation amounts, sediment loads, river stages, lake stages, storm surge levels, flood damage, water demands, etc. The probability estimates from these data are used in evaluating the economic, social and environmental effects of the proposed management action. The objective of frequency analysis in a hydrologic context is to infer the probability that various size events will be exceeded or not exceeded from a given sample of recorded events. Two basic problems exist for most hydrologic applications. First the sample is usually small, by statistical standards, resulting in uncertainty as to the true probability. And secondly, a single theoretical frequency distribution does not always fit a particular data-type equally well in all applications. This manual provides guidance in fitting frequency distributions and construction of confidence limits. Techniques are presented which can possibly reduce the errors caused by small sample sizes. Also, some types of data are noted which usually do not fit any theoretical distributions.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of course materials.

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