Using optimisation meta-heuristics for the roughness estimation problem in river flow analysis




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Peer reviewed



Climate change threats make it difficult to perform reliable and quick predictions on floods forecasting. This gives rise to the need of having advanced methods, e.g., computational intelligence tools, to improve upon the results from flooding events simulations and, in turn, design best practices for riverbed maintenance. In this context, being able to accurately estimate the roughness coefficient, also known as Manning’s n coefficient, plays an important role when computational models are employed. In this piece of research, we propose an optimal approach for the estimation of ‘n’. First, an objective function is designed for measuring the quality of ‘candidate’ Manning’s coefficients relative to specif cross-sections of a river. Second, such function is optimised to return coefficients having the highest quality as possible. Five well-known meta-heuristic algorithms are employed to achieve this goal, these being a classic Evolution Strategy, a Differential Evolution algorithm, the popular Covariance Matrix Adaptation Evolution Strategy, a classic Particle Swarm Optimisation and a Bayesian Optimisation framework. We report results on two real-world case studies based on the Italian rivers ‘Paglia’ and ‘Aniene’. A comparative analysis between the employed optimisation algorithms is performed and discussed both empirically and statistically. From the hydrodynamic point of view, the experimental results are satisfactory and produced within significantly less computational time in comparison to classic methods. This shows the suitability of the proposed approach for optimal estimation of the roughness coefficient and, in turn, for designing optimised hydrological models.


open access article


meta-heuristics, river flow analysis, manning’s coefficient


Agresta, A., Baioletti, M., Biscarini, C., Caraffini, F., Milani, A., Santucci, V. (2021) Using Optimisation Meta-Heuristics for the Roughness Estimation Problem in River Flow Analysis. Applied Sciences, 11(22),10575.


Research Institute

Institute of Artificial Intelligence (IAI)