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Environmental Earth Sciences (2018) 77:76


Flash Flood Risk Assessment for Kyushu Island, Japan

Mohammad Shehata1,2 · Hideki Mizunaga1

Received: 31 July 2017 / Accepted: 11 January 2018

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Using advanced geospatial analysis technologies, flash flood risk is assessed for the island of Kyushu, Japan. In this study,
the flash flood risk is redefined in terms of the flash flood potential index (FFPI) and the flash flood residential hazard
(FFRH). The island experiences rainy weather, especially in the summer (June–August), when catastrophic flash flood
events have historically occurred. Studies of the surface hydrological properties of the island are very rare and localized;
hence, geospatial techniques are most appropriate for the assessment process. The Soil Conservation Service rainfall-runoff
model was used to estimate hydrological responses on the island. Four factors were included in the flash flood assessment.
A multi-criteria analysis was carried out to map the FFPI and FFRH from the evaluation factors. The results show that the
highest flash flood risk occurs in the northern parts of the island, where the soil displays relatively low infiltration rates and
relatively high curve numbers, despite the comparatively low precipitation rates that occur there. The results indicate that
soil hydrological properties are the main driving forces of flash floods, especially in regions with low precipitation rates.
The results of this research are consistent with previous in situ measurements of runoff made at several sites on the island.
The results also show a strong geographic correlation with historical flash flood events on the island. This research validates
the use of geospatial analysis for large geographic regions where in situ measurements cannot be taken due to time or cost
constraints. The results of this study provide decision makers with the information needed to select a management strategy
to address possible future flash flood events that considers safety and water harvesting.

Keywords  Flash flood · DEM · Runoff · Risk assessment · Kyushu Island

Introduction floods are considered to be the most widespread, devastat-

ing and abundant naturally occurring disasters; they result
Hydrological models usually focus on the physical param- from the complex interplay among geological, geomorpho-
eters of catchment areas, which is an advantage of such logical and hydrological conditions (Gashaw and Legesse
models, as noted by Ogden et al. (2000). One significant 2011) and produce drastic socioeconomic and environmental
application of hydrological modeling involves predicting and consequences (Wu and Sidle 1995; Glade 1998). During the
monitoring flash floods and their hazards, especially in urban last 3 decades, the number of significant flood events in the
areas (Wahid et al. 2016). world has increased substantially (Kourgialas and Karatzas
Flash floods can be defined as floods that begin within 2011).
a short period of time and typically display high peak dis- While it is true that field-based (in situ) measurements
charges; thus, such floods are usually caused by rainfall provide accurate estimates of surface hydrological param-
events that have a 1-h duration (Elkhrachy 2015). Flash eters and the associated flash floods, these field measure-
ments are time consuming, expensive and provide informa-
tion for limited geographic regions. Thus, through the use of
* Mohammad Shehata advances in remote sensing and geographic information sys- tem (GIS) technologies, the spatial analysis of larger areas
Department of Earth Resources Engineering, Faculty
becomes more reasonable, cost effective and time effective,
of Engineering, Kyushu University, Fukuoka 819‑0395, and adequate accuracy can be achieved.
Japan The number of fields in the environmental and hydrologi-
Department of Geology, Faculty of Science, Port Said cal sciences in which remote sensing and GIS technologies
University, Port Said 42522, Egypt

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are applied has grown considerably; examples include the in the northeastern and northwestern portions of Kyushu
mapping of landslides, groundwater resources and flood Island, respectively, experienced a catastrophic flash flood
susceptibility (Khosravi et al. 2016). Several approaches that claimed more than 32 victims, and more than 400,000
have been developed in hydrological studies to model flood residents were placed under evacuation orders (Duan et al.
risk and hazards (Jayakrishnan et al. 2005; Bahremand et al. 2014). Accordingly, a flash flood predictive model is needed
2007). In hydrological modeling, a GIS can be applied as a to enable the future management of flash flood risks on
standalone application or as a component of a hydrological Kyushu Island; this model will enable the adoption of strat-
model (Chormanski et al. 2008; Opolot 2013). Examples egies for eliminating the hazards associated with flash floods
of such models include the WetSpa (Wang et al. 1996; De and water management.
Smedt et al. 2000), HYDROTEL (Fortin et al. 2001), LIS- The main objectives of this paper are to:
FLOOD (De Roo et al. 2000), TOPMODEL (Quinn et al.
1991) and SWAT (Arnold et al. 1998) models. Most of these 1. Produce a FFPI map for Kyushu Island that is based
models require data on land cover, land use, river discharge on the surface hydrological parameters of this area and
rate, rainfall amount, surface roughness, elevations (supplied displays the tendency of different geographic regions to
as a DEM) and drainage basin size, among other quantities. experience flash floods.
Remote sensing techniques can be used to obtain the spati- 2. Produce a FFRH map to indicate urban areas that may
otemporal information that must be entered into distributed be subjected to flash floods.
hydrological models (Chormanski et al. 2008). 3. Assess the applicability of geospatial analysis to flash
Several studies have demonstrated the applicability of flood assessment in areas with geo-environmental condi-
using remotely sensed data coupled with GIS technologies in tions like those of Kyushu Island.
hydrological models to simulate and predict floods (Opolot
2013). Such studies include Townsend and Walsh 1998;
De Roo et al. 2000; De Smedt et al. 2002; Usul and Turan Study area
2006; Rahman 2006; Batelaan et al. 2007; Chormanski et al.
2008; Stancalie et al. 2009; Kabir et al. 2011; Santo et al. Kyushu Island (Fig. 1) is the third largest island in Japan, and
2012; Tehrany et al. 2013; Špitalar et al. 2014; Elkhrachy it is located in the southwest of the main island of Honshu.
2015; Portugués-Mollá et al. 2016; and Taha et al. 2017. The island displays rough topography; the highest elevation on
The general idea of these studies is that remote sensing and the island reaches 1769 m, and Japan’s most active volcano,
GIS technologies provide the spatial and temporal data that Mt Aso (with an elevation of 1591 m), is located in central
distributed hydrological models require in order to simulate Kyushu. Kyushu has a warmer climate than the main island of
the characteristics of surface hydrology (e.g., watersheds, Honshu. Although Kyushu does have some very fertile valleys,
slopes, drainage patterns, flow directions and runoff) and the island contains a number of active rivers with a total length
thus floods. of 1470 km. The longest such river is the Chikugo-Gawa River,
The flash flood risks for a specific geographic area can be which has a length of approximately 113 km.
quantified in terms of the flash flood potential index (FFPI) Precipitation records for the period from 2011 to 2015
and the flash flood residential hazard (FFRH). The FFPI were acquired from the aerodrome climatological records
represents the natural tendency of an area to produce flash provided by the Japan Meteorological Agency. Despite the
floods; this tendency is controlled by ground slope, land use, rainy conditions experienced by the island, the precipitation
soil type and surface hydrological parameters. Floods occur regime on the island tends to be seasonal; higher precipita-
when the precipitation rate exceeds the infiltration rate of the tion rates are recorded in the summer (June–August). The
soil, which is controlled by surface hydrological and hydro- island receives large amounts of precipitation that range
morphological parameters On the other hand, the FFRH rep- from 1650 mm/year in the northern parts to 3050 mm/year in
resents a measure of the hazard to which residential areas are the southern parts. The maximum hourly and daily precipita-
subjected during flood events. tion rates are 101 mm/h and 252.5 mm/day, respectively. The
Kyushu Island has suffered numerous historical flood- average monthly precipitation rate reaches 700 mm/month
ing events. These events have resulted in both catastrophic during the rainy season, as measured in southern Kyushu,
losses of life and severe damage to the infrastructure of the whereas this quantity does not exceed 400 mm/month in the
island. The North Kyushu flood occurred in the northern northern parts of the island (Fig. 2).
parts of Kyushu (i.e., Fukuoka, Saga, Kumamoto and Ōita The surface soil distribution on the island includes six soil
Prefectures) in June 1953. This flood left more than 2000 types. The soils on the island tend to be permeable to semiper-
people dead, injured or missing and a million Japanese meable in the southern parts, whereas the northern parts of the
citizens homeless (Chicago Tribune Archives website). island have soils with low permeability; thus, high surface run-
In July 2012, Ōita and Kumamoto prefectures, which lie off occurs there. The soil distribution map was digitized from

Environmental Earth Sciences (2018) 77:76 Page 3 of 20  76

Fig. 1  Rectified satellite image of Kyushu Island, Japan. Updated from topographic map of the island

a geologic map of the study area with a scale of 1:200,000 that the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan, Ministry
was obtained from the Geological Survey of Japan. of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. The dif-
ferent LULC classes were digitized to produce a map con-
sisting of polygons (Fig. 3). Some reference points were
Data preparation selected across the island, and an accuracy assessment was
Land use/land cover (LULC) mapping
Hydrological soil groups (HSGs) mapping
A land cover map was obtained from the Global Land
Cover Map (GLCM) provided by the Center for Global Hydrological soil groups (HSGs) indicate the infiltra-
Environmental Research. A land use map was obtained tion capacity of different soil types. According to USDA
from the vectorized version of the Global Map of Japan, (1986), four HSGs are identified. Type A soils display high
version 2.2, which was released in 2016 and is provided by infiltration rates; type B soils display moderate infiltration

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(a) (b)
300 3000

250 2500

200 2000

150 1500

100 1000

50 500

0 0
Fukuoka Saga Nagasaki KumamotoKagoshima Miyazaki

Max Daily precipitaon Max 1-hour precipitaon

600 Fukuoka
300 Nagasaki
200 Kumamoto
Jan. Feb. March Kagoshima
April May June July Aug. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec.

Fig. 2  Precipitation records collected from 2011 to 2015 at measuring stations distributed across the island. a The maximum daily and hourly
precipitation amounts (mm), b the annual precipitation amounts (mm) and c the average monthly precipitation amounts

rates; type C soils display slow infiltration rates; and type the surrounding high-relief regions, meaning that these
D soils display very slow infiltration rates. Table 1 illus- regions are particularly exposed to the threat of flooding.
trates the HSGs that correspond to each soil type in the Table 2 summarizes the datasets used in this research
study area. The HSG map (Fig. 4) shows the spatial dis- and the source and provider of each dataset.
tribution of HSGs A and C on the island. Soils with lower
infiltration capacities are concentrated in the northern
parts of the island. The majority of the island contains the Data analysis
higher-infiltration HSG A, which is especially prevalent in
the central and southern parts of the island. Hydro‑morphological and watershed analysis

The DEM of the area was resampled to a resolution of 30 m.

Ground surface slope The morphological and hydrological parameters were deter-
mined from the resampled DEM. The watersheds and stream
A slope map of the island was calculated from the DEM network were identified using the Hydrology tools provided
layer using the Spatial Analyst tools provided in the Arc- in the Spatial Analyst tools of the ArcGIS software pack-
GIS software package developed by ESRI. The area dis- age developed by ESRI. The characteristics required for the
plays rugged topography, and the slopes on the island present study are flow directions, flow accumulation, catch-
range from nearly horizontal surfaces in the northwestern ment areas, drainage lines and drainage points. The resulting
parts of the island to nearly vertical (86°) in the central images indicate the drainage pattern on the island and the
parts of the island. The flat regions receive water from catchment areas.

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Fig. 3  Land use/land cover map of the study area

Curve number (CN) and runoff calculation

Table 1  Hydrological soil groups of the study area
Soil types HSG Area ­(km2) The curve number (CN) method is an empirical approach
that estimates the direct runoff from relationships between
Lithosols A 1444.03
land use and the hydrological soil groups (Lim et al. 2006).
Gley soils C 1508.60
Higher CN values indicate lower soil infiltration and higher
Andosols A 9406.35
runoff and vice versa. GIS techniques and the Soil Con-
Brown forest soils A 19,483.30
servation Service–curve number (SCS-CN) method were
Red forest soils C 5953.23
used in combination to estimate the surface runoff. In this
Regosols A 225.566
approach, GIS was used to create a spatial database that

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Fig. 4  Soil hydro-group distribution map in the study area

Table 2  Datasets used in this Dataset Source Provider

DEM Aster DEM mosaics USGS/earth explorer
Precipitation depth records Aerodrome climatological tables Japan Meteorological Agency
Soil map Geologic map of the study area Geological Survey of Japan
Land cover map Global Land Cover Map Center for Global Environmental Research
Land use map Global Map of Japan, version 2.2 Geospatial Information Authority of Japan

Environmental Earth Sciences (2018) 77:76 Page 7 of 20  76

represents the hydrological characteristics of the watershed. applied according to the weight of each factor. The result-
The watershed base map, land use and soil coverages of the ing grid represents the FFPI of the study area. To assess for
study area were created using GIS. The SCS-CN technique the flash flood hazard within the urban areas, the FFPI layer
requires two vector-based datasets that represent the HSGs was intersected with the land cover map of the study area.
and the land use types. For the analysis process, different Three levels of hazard were identified; the low-level FFRH
land use classes were assigned different CNs. The land use (indexed as 1) represents urban areas with FFPI values less
categories used for hydrological analysis, along with the than 3; the moderate FFRH (indexed as 5) represents urban
corresponding CNs for each land use–soil group combina- areas with FFPI values ranging from 3 to 6; and the high-
tion (Mockus 1964), were obtained from the United States level FFRH (indexed as 10) represents urban areas with FFPI
Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation values that exceed 6.
Service (USDA-NRCS) (Appendix Table 6). The CN map
was then produced using the HEC-GeoHMS tools in the
ArcGIS software package developed by ESRI. Results and discussion
The surface runoff volume is a function of the CN and cli-
matic conditions. A rainfall database was thus incorporated Land use/land cover (LULC) and soil mapping
into the analysis to estimate the surface runoff volumes. The
United States Department of Agriculture and Soil Conser- The LULC on the island is represented by seven classes. Of
vation Service (USDA-SCS) method for the calculation of these classes, woodlands occupy the largest area, whereas
surface runoff volume was applied. This method employs areas of bare soil have the smallest coverage. Urban areas
the following equation: (i.e., built-up areas) are concentrated in the northeastern and
northwestern parts of the island; limited urban areas also
(P − Ia)2
Q= , (1) exist along the eastern coast of the island.
(P − Ia + S) The HSGs were divided into two categories, type A and
Here, Q is the accumulated runoff or rainfall excess in type C soils. Type A soils dominate, and type C soils cover
mm; P is the rainfall depth in mm; Ia is the initial abstraction the northern parts of the island and (to a lesser extent) the
in mm; and S is the potential maximum retention in mm. eastern coast.
According to the US Soil Conservation Service, Ia is An accuracy assessment was performed for the LULC
related to S as follows: classes and the soil-type classes. Table 3 shows the error
matrix of the LULC classes; the overall accuracy is 92.23%.
Ia = 0.2S. (2) All of the measures of the producer’s and user’s accuracy
The term S is given by exceed 70%. The results of the accuracy assessment analysis
for the soil-type groups are presented in Table 4. The overall
S= − 254, (3) accuracy of the soil-type classes is 84.44, and the producer’s
and user’s accuracies exceed 70%.
where CN is the curve number. Equation (1) can be rewrit-
ten as Watershed analysis
(P − 0.2S)
Q= . (4) By defining the flow directions and flow accumulation, the
P + 0.8S
catchment boundaries (hydrological basins) and the stream
Flash flood assessment network in the study area were mapped. The total length of
streams is 5447 km, of which the longest is the Chikugo
Four raster datasets were prepared for this analysis. Specifi- River, which has a length of approximately 130 km. The area
cally, these datasets included the slope layer derived from is characterized by a dendritic drainage pattern. Twenty-
the DEM, the soil layer, the LULC layer and the CN layer. eight basins and more than 300 sub-basins were identified;
All of the datasets were resampled to a resolution of 30 m these basins and sub-basins have surface areas that range
using a bilinear method. A relative (ranked) FFPI ranging from less than 1–2700 km2. Nine of the basins have aerial
from 1 to 10 was assigned to each layer, based on the layer extents that exceed 1000 km2. It is obvious that the larger
attributes associated with the hydrological response of each basins are associated with the river system on the island.
category (Appendix Table 7). Using the Model Builder in
ArcGIS, a module integrating the four datasets was cre- Curve numbers (CNs) and surface runoff
ated. The raster datasets were reclassified according to
their assigned ranks, and a weighting overlay technique was The CN values of watersheds are dependent on the surface
characteristics of the LULC and the physical properties of

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Table 3  Accuracy assessment analysis of the LULC classes

LULC class Reference points
Water Roads Urban (built up) Woodland Bare soil Grassland Agriculture Total User’s accuracy

Water 25 – – – – – – 25 100.0
Roads – 97 – – 2 – – 99 98.0
Urban (built up) – 3 118 – – – – 121 97.5
Woodland – – – 81 – 3 8 92 88.0
Bare soil – 3 2 – 21 – – 26 80.8
Grassland – – – 5 – 22 4 31 71.0
Agriculture – – – 3 1 2 63 69 91.3
Total 25 103 120 89 24 27 75 463
Producer’s accuracy 100.0 94.2 98.3 91.0 87.5 81.5 84.0

Table 4  Accuracy assessment of soil types

Soil types Reference points
Lithosols Gley soils Andosols Brown for- Red forest soils Regosols Total User’s accuracy
est soils

Lithosols 15 1 1 17 88.2
Gley soils 9 1 10 90.0
Andosols 2 12 14 85.7
Brown forest soil 1 18 2 21 85.7
Red forest soil 3 13 16 81.3
Regosols 2 1 9 12 75.0
Total 17 12 14 21 16 10 90
Producer’s accuracy 88.2 75.0 85.7 85.7 81.3 90.0

soils, which control hydrological processes that include the Flash flood risk maps
transmission and storage of received water. The CN map
(Fig. 5) shows values that range from 30 to 100. The map The purpose of creating this flash flood index is to analyze
reveals that most of the study area displays relatively low CN the physiographic characteristics (slope, soil texture and
values (less than 70), whereas high CN values are mainly structure, LULC and CN) together to derive information
concentrated in the northeastern part of Kyushu Island, about the hydrological responses of different geographic
where type C soils are found. regions that produce flash floods. Two maps were generated
The calculated runoff volumes (Fig. 6) show that the that represent the flood potential and flood hazard for urban
southern parts of the island display higher runoff vol- areas. The FFPI map (Fig. 7) was indexed using a range of
umes than the northern parts. These higher runoff volumes values extending from 1 to 10. The spatial distribution of
result from climatic conditions, particularly precipitation the index agrees relatively well with the slope distribution
amounts, which are higher in the southern parts of the in the study area. The highest FFPI values are concentrated
island. To assess the resulting runoff volumes, the results of mainly in the northern parts of Kyushu Island and along
this research were compared with the reported runoff vol- the coastal strip; the interior parts of the island exhibit low
umes for Kyushu Island. Table 5 shows the assessed runoff flood potential. Despite their elevated runoff volumes, the
volumes for the northern and southern portions of Kyushu southern parts of the island show relatively low FFPI values.
Island obtained in this study and from the literature. The The FFRH map (Fig. 8) was produced to enable assess-
data from the literature consist of in situ measurements. It ment of the hazards that urban areas are subjected to when
is obvious that the results of this research show a strong cor- flash floods occur. The map shows values that range from
relation with the previously measured data. The locations of 1 to 10. It is obvious that the coastal areas in the north-
the comparison points were selected to be geographically ern and northwestern parts experience the greatest risk;
matched (i.e., in the same locations). small areas on the eastern coast display similar conditions.
The regions of high risk depicted in Fig. 15 are strongly

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Fig. 5  Curve number distribution in the study area

geographically correlated with the historical flash flood Conclusions

events reported from the northern parts of the island. This
correlation validates the results of this study and dem- The topography of the island of Kyushu is quite rough;
onstrates the applicability of geospatial analysis for flash thus, the drainage pattern of the island is complex. Most
flood prediction over geographically extensive areas. regions on the island contain relatively high slopes. In
conjunction with the high precipitation rates, these slopes
pose a danger to the residents of this highly important
island. The research findings can be summarized as

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Fig. 6  Average annual runoff amounts in mm year−1

Table 5  Annual water balance Kyushu

of Kyushu Island
Northern part Southern part
This study Duong et al. This study Shimizu et al. (2008)
(2015) and Asano et al.

Annual rainfall (P) mm 1700 1761 3050 2997

Annual runoff (Q) mm 1060 1074 1750 1700
Annual loss (P–Q) mm 640 687 1300 1297
Runoff ratio (Q/P) % 62.35 60.9 57.3 56.7

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Fig. 7  Flash flood potentiality index map of the study area

• The majority of the area is characterized by high infil- firmed by past flooding in these areas. On the other
tration rates (HSG A); however, limited regions in the hand, the rest of the island is considered to be safe from
northern part of the island have low infiltration rates floods.
(HSG C). • The correlation between the results of this study and
• The majority of the island displays low to moderate flash previous in situ measurements confirm the applicabil-
flood potential. Elevated FFPI values are concentrated in ity of geospatial analysis in the accurate assessment
the coastal regions, especially along the northern part of of hydrological parameters and flash flood hazards as
the island. well. Such methods enable the monitoring of large
• The urban areas in the northern parts of the island areas at reduced costs in terms of money and time.
experience a high degree of flood risk, which is con-

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Fig. 8  Flash flood hazard index map of the study area

The results of this study provide decision makers and Appendix 1

urban planners with the information needed to select a
mitigation strategy to eliminate the hazards associated See Figs. 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15.
with flash floods and for harvesting the floodwaters.

Acknowledgements  This work was performed using funding provided

by the Cultural Affairs and Missions Sector, Ministry of Higher Educa-
tion, Egypt.

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Fig. 9  Digital elevation model of the study

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Fig. 10  Average annual precipitation depth (mm) in the study area from 2011 to 2015

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Fig. 11  Soil types distribution map of the study area

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Fig. 12  Ground surface slope map (in degrees) of the study area

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Fig. 13  Simplified flow chart for watershed analysis in ESRI ArcGIS

Fig. 14  Module of calculating flash flood potential index (FFPI) for the study area

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Fig. 15  Hydrological pattern of the study area

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