A Bayesian decision approach to rainfall thresholds based flood warning

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Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 10, 413–426, 2006 www.hydrol-earth-syst-sci.net/10/413/2006/ © Author(s) 2006. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences A Bayesian decision approach to rainfall thresholds based flood warning M. L. V. Martina, E. Todini, and A. Libralon Dept. of Earth and Geo-Environmental Sciences, Univ. of Bologna, Piazza di Porta San Donato, 1, Bologna, 40126, Italy Received: 13 October 2005 – Published in Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss.: 13 December 2005 Revised: 31 March 2006 – Accepted: 1 April 2006 – Published: 7 June 2006 Abstract. Operational real time flood forecasting systems generally require a hydrological model to run in real time as well as a series of hydro-informatics tools to transform the flood forecast into relatively simple and clear messages to the decision makers involved in flood defense. The scope of this paper is to set forth the possibility of providing flood warnings at given river sections based on the direct comparison of the quantitative precipitation forecast with critical rainfall threshold values, without the need of an on-line real time forecasting system. This approach leads to an extremely simplified alert system to be used by non technical stakeholders and could also be used to supplement the traditional flood forecasting systems in case of system failures. The critical rainfall threshold values, incorporating the soil moisture initial conditions, result from statistical analyses using long hydrological time series combined with a Bayesian utility function minimization. In the paper, results of an application of the proposed methodology to the Sieve river, a tributary of the Arno river in Italy, are given to exemplify its practical applicability. 1 Introduction 1.1 The flood warning problem The aim of any flood warning system is to provide useful information to improving decisions such as for instance issuing alerts or activating the required protection measures. Traditional flood warning systems are based on on-line hydrological and/or hydraulic models capable of providing forecasts of discharges and/or water stages at critical river sections. Recently, flood warning systems have also been coupled with quantitative precipitation forecasts (QPF) gener- Correspondence to: M. L. V. Martina (martina@geomin.unibo.it) ated by numerical weather models (NWM), in order to extend the forecasting horizon from a few hours to a few days (EFFS, 2001–2004). Consequently, flood forecasting systems tend to require hydrological/hydraulic models to run in real time during flood emergencies, with increasing possibility of system failures due to several unexpected causes such as model instabilities, wrong updating procedures, error propagation, etc. In several countries operational flood management rests with professional who have the appropriate technical background to interpret all of the information provided by the real-time flood forecasting chain. However, in many other cases, the responsibility of issuing warnings or to take emergency decisions rests with non hydro-meteorology knowledgeable stakeholders, this is the case for instance of flood emergency managers or mayors. The aim of this paper is to explore the possibility of issuing flood warnings by directly comparing the forecast QPF to a critical rainfall threshold value incorporating all the important aspects of the problem (initial soil moisture conditions as well as expected costs), without the need to run the full chain of meteorological and hydrological/hydraulic real time forecasting models. Although it should not be considered as an alternative to the comprehensive hydro-meteorological forecasting chain, due to the simplicity of the final product (a couple of graphs), this approach can be an immediate tool for non purely technical decision makers in the case of early warnings and flash floods. Apart from their extensive use in the United States (Georgakakos, 2006) and in Central America, in Europe, the Integrated Project FLOODSite (http://www.floodsite.net) among others aims at assessing the advantage for using the rainfall threshold approach as an alternative to the traditional ones in the case of flash floods. Published by Copernicus GmbH on behalf of the European Geosciences Union. 414 M. L. V. Martina et al.: Bayesian rainfall thresholds Fig. 1. Example of a rainfall threshold and its use. 1.2 The rainfall threshold approach The use of rainfall thresholds is common in the context of landslides and debris flow hazard forecasting (Neary et al., 1986; Annunziati et al., 1996; Crosta and Frattini, 2000). Rainfall intensity increases surface landslide hazard (Crosta and Frattini, 2003) while soil moisture content affects slope stability (Iverson, 2000; Hennrich, 2000; Crosta et Frattini, 2001). In the context of flood forecasting/warning, rainfall thresholds have been generally used by meteorological organizations or by the Civil Protection Agencies to issue alerts. For instance, in Italy an alert is issued by the Civil Protection Agency if a storm event of more than 50 mm is forecast for the next 24 h over an area ranging from 2 to 50 km2. Unfortunately, this type of rainfall threshold, which does not account for the actual soil saturation conditions at the onset of a storm event, tends to heavily increase the number of false alarms. In order to analyze flood warning rainfall thresholds in more detail, following the definition of thresholds used for landslides hazard forecast, let us define them as “the cumulated volume of rainfall during a storm event which can generate a critical water stage (or discharge) at a specific river section”. Figure 1 shows an example of rainfall thresholds i.e. accumulated volume of rain versus time of rainfall accumulation. In order to establish the landslides warning thresholds, De Vita and Reichenbach (1998) use a number of statistics (such as the mean), to be derived from long historical records, of the amount of precipitation that happened immediately before the event. Mancini et al. (2002), as an alternative to the use of historical records in the case of floods, proposed an approach based on synthetic hyetographs with different shapes and durations for the estimation of flood warning rainfall thresholds. The threshold values are estimated by trial and error with an event based rainfall-runoff model, as the value of rainfall producing a critical discharge or critical water stage. Although the Mancini et al. (2002) approach overcomes the limitations of the statistical analysis based exclusively on historical records, rarely sufficiently long to produce statistically meaningful results, it presents some drawbacks due to the use of an event based hydrological model. In particular, it requires assumptions both on the temporal evolution of the designed storms and on the antecedent moisture conditions of the catchment, which one would like to avoid. A rainfall threshold approach has also been developed and used within the U.S. National Weather Service (NWS) flash flood watch/warning programme (Carpenter et al., 1999). Flash flood warnings and watches are issued by local NWS Weather Forecast Offices (WFOs), based on the comparison of flash flood guidance (FFG) values with rainfall amounts. FFG refers generally to the volume of rain of a given duration necessary to cause minor flooding on small streams. Guidance values are determined by regional River Forecast Centers (RFCs) and provided to local WFOs for flood forecasting and the issuance of flash flood watches and warnings. The basis of FFG is the computation of threshold runoff values, or the amount of effective rainfall of a given duration that is necessary to cause minor flooding. Effective rainfall is the residual rainfall after losses due to infiltration, detention, and evaporation have been subtracted from the actual rainfall: it is the portion of rainfall that becomes surface runoff at the catchment scale. The determination of FFG value in an operational context requires the development of (i) estimates of threshold runoff volume for various rainfall durations, and (ii) a relationship between rainfall and runoff as a function of the soil moisture conditions to be estimated for instance via a soil moisture accounting model (Sweeney et a., 1992). As applied in the USA, approaches for determining threshold runoff estimates varied from one RFC to another, and in many cases, were not based on generally applicable, objective methods. Carpenter et al. (1999) developed a procedure to provide improved estimates of threshold runoff based on objective hydrologic principles. For any specific duration, the runoff thresholds are computed as the flow causing flooding divided by the catchment area times the Unit Hydrograph peak value. The procedure includes four methods of computing threshold runoff according to the definition of flooding flow (two-year return period flow or bankfull discharge) and the methodology to estimate of the Unit Hydrograph peak (Synder’s synthetic Unit Hydrograph or Geomorphologic Unit Hydrograph). A Geographic Information System is used to process digital terrain data and to compute catchment-scale characteristics (such as drainage area, stream length and average channel slope), while regional relationships are used to estimate channel cross-sectional and flow parameters from the catchment-scale characteristics in the different locations within the region of application. However the quality of the regional relationships, along with the assumptions of the theory, limits the applicability of the approach. For example, the assumption that the catchment responds linearly to rainfall excess, which is needed to apply the unit hydrograph theory, imposes lower limits on the size of the catchment, as small catchments are more non-linear Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 10, 413–426, 2006 www.hydrol-earth-syst-sci.net/10/413/2006/ M. L. V. Martina et al.: Bayesian rainfall thresholds 415 than larger ones (Wang et al., 1981). But at the same time, the assumption of uniform rainfall excess over the whole catchment implicitly introduces upper bounds on the size of the catchments where a Unit Hydrograph approach could be considered reasonable. Furthermore, the assumption of uniform rainfall excess over the catchment also implicitly limits the size of the catchment for which a unit hydrograph approach is reasonable. With reference to the second aspect of the FFG, namely the estimation of the relationship between rainfall and runoff as a function of the soil moisture conditions, in a recent paper Georgakakos (2005) derives a relationship between actual rainfall and runoff, which is taken equal to the effective rainfall, both for the operational Sacramento soil moisture accounting (SAC) model and for a simpler general saturationexcess model. The results of this work have significant implications in operational application of the methodology. The threshold runoff is a function of the watershed surface geomorphologic characteristics and channel geometry but it also depends on the duration of the effective rainfall. This dependence implies one more relationship that must be invoked to determine the appropriate value and duration of the threshold runoff for any given initial soil moisture conditions. In other words operationally it is necessary to determine not only the relationship between the runoff thresholds and the flash flood guidance in terms of volumes but also in terms of their respective duration. The method presented in this paper overcomes all the limitations due to historical records length, and the restrictive linearity assumptions required by the Unit Hydrograph approach as well as the ones required by the Mancini et al. (2002) approach, by generating a long series of synthetic precipitation, which is then coupled to a continuous time Explicit Soil Moisture Accounting (ESMA) rainfall-runoff model. The use of continuous simulation, which necessarily implies continuous hydrological models of the ESMA type, was also advocated by Bras et al. (1985); Beven (1987); Cameron et al. (1999), and seems the most appropriate way for determining the statistical dependence of the rainfallrunoff relation to the initial soil moisture conditions. The statistical analysis of the long series of synthetic results allows in development of joint and conditional probability functions, which are then used within a Bayesian context to determine the appropriate rainfall thresholds. As presently implemented, the approach does not take into account the uncertainty in the quantitative precipitation forecasts (QPF) provided by the numerical weather prediction (NWP) models. However, since the uncertainty of QPF is still quite substantial, an extension of the present approach is under development to incorporate this uncertainty by means of a Bayesian technique. Nonetheless, this first step was felt essential to demonstrate the feasibility of the proposed technique with respect to the simple unconditional rainfall thresholds, i.e. independent from the initial soil moisture condi- tions, which today are the basis for issuing warnings in many countries. 2 Description of the proposed methodology In order to simplify the description of the methodology, two phases are here distinguished: (1) the rainfall thresholds estimation phase and (2) the operational utilization phase. The first phase includes all the procedures aimed at estimating the rainfall thresholds related to the risk of exceeding a critical water stage (or discharge) value at a river section. These procedures are executed just once for each river section of interest as well as for each forecasting horizon. The second phase includes all the operations to be carried out each time a significant storm is foreseen, in order to compare the precipitation volume forecast by a meteorological model with the critical threshold value already determined in phase 1. 2.1 The rainfall thresholds estimation As presented in Sect. 1.2, rainfall thresholds are here defined as the cumulated volume of rainfall during a storm event which can generate a critical water stage (or discharge) at a specific river section. When the rainfall threshold value is exceeded, the likelihood that the critical river level (or discharge) will be reached is high and consequently it becomes appropriate to issue a flood alert; alternatively, no flood alert is going to be issued when the threshold level is not reached. In other words the rainfall thresholds must incorporate a “convenient” dependence between the cumulated rainfall volume during the storm duration and the possible consequences on the water level or discharge in a river section. The term “convenient” is here used according to the meaning of the decision theory under uncertainty conditions, namely the decision which corresponds to the minimum (or the maximum) expected value of a Bayesian cost utility function. Given the different initial soil moisture conditions, which can heavily modify the runoff generation in a catchment, it is necessary to clarify that it is not possible to determine a unique rainfall threshold for a given river section. It is well known that the water content in the soil strongly affects the basin hydrologic response to a given storm, with the consequence that a storm event considered irrelevant in a dry season, can be extremely dangerous in a wet season when the extent of saturated areas may be large. This implies the necessity of determining several rainfall thresholds for different soil moisture conditions. Although one could define a large number of them, for the sake of simplicity and applicability of the method, similar to what is done in the Curve Number approach (Hawkins, 1985), only three classes of soil moisture condition have been considered in this work: dry soil, moderately saturated soil, wet soil. A useful indicator for discriminating among soil moisture classes, the An- www.hydrol-earth-syst-sci.net/10/413/2006/ Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 10, 413–426, 2006 416 M. L. V. Martina et al.: Bayesian rainfall thresholds Fig. 2. Schematic representation of the proposed methodology. (1) Subdivision of the three synthetic time series according to the soil moisture conditions (AMC); (2) Estimation of the joint pdfs between rainfall volume and water stage or discharge; (3) Estimation of the “convenient” rainfall threshold based on the minimisation of the expected value of the associated utility function. tecedent Moisture Condition (AMC) can be found in the literature (Gray, 1982; Hawkins, 1985), which leads to the following three classes of soil moisture AMC I (dry soil), AMC II (moderately saturated soil ) and AMC III (wet soil). Since each AMC class will condition the magnitude of the rainfall threshold, three threshold values have to be determined. Given the loose link that can be found between rainfall totals and the corresponding water stages (or discharges) at a given river section, the estimation of the rainfall thresholds requires the derivation of the joint probability function of rainfall totals over the contributing area and water stages (or discharges) at the relevant river section. This derivation is based on the analysis of three continuous time series: (i) the precipitation averaged over the catchment area, (ii) the mean soil moisture value, (iii) the river stage (or the discharge) in the target river section. It is obvious that these time series must be sufficiently long (possibly more than 10 years) to obtain statistically meaningful results. In the more usual case when the historical time series are not long enough, the average rainfall over the catchment is simulated by a stochastic rainfall generation model whose parameters are estimated on the basis of the observed historical time series. The rainfall stochastic model adopted in this work is the Neyman-Scott Rectangular Pulse NSRP model, widely documented in enfocar la importancia de la producción mediática de los niños en su descubrimiento del mundo, sobre todo utilizando el periódico escolar y la imprenta. Asimismo las asociaciones de profesores trabajaron en esta línea e incluso la enseñanza católica se comprometió desde los años sesenta realizando trabajos originales en el marco de la corriente del Lenguaje Total. Páginas 43-48 45 Comunicar, 28, 2007 En el ámbito de los medios, también desde el principio del siglo XX hay ciertas corrientes de conexión. Pero es a lo largo de los años sesenta cuando se constituyeron asociaciones de periodistas apasionados por sus funciones de mediadores, que fomentaron la importancia ciudadana de los medios como algo cercano a los jóvenes, a los profesores y a las familias. Así se crearon la APIJ (Asociación de Prensa Información para la Juventud), la ARPEJ (Asociación Regional de Prensa y Enseñanza para la Juventud), el CIPE (Comité Interprofesional para la Prensa en la Escuela) o la APE (Asociación de Prensa y Enseñanza), todas ellas para la prensa escrita Estas asociaciones fueron precedidas por movimientos surgidos en mayo de 1968, como el CREPAC que, utilizando películas realizadas por periodistas conocidos, aclaraba temas que habían sido manipulados por una televisión demasiado próxima al poder político y realizaba encuentros con grupos de telespectadores. cipio del siglo XX, y nos han legado textos fundadores muy preciados, importantes trabajos de campo y muchos logros educativos y pedagógicos. La educación en medios ha tenido carácter de oficialidad de múltiples maneras, aunque nunca como una enseñanza global. Así la campaña «Operación Joven Telespectador Activo» (JTA), lanzada al final de los años setenta y financiada de manera interministerial para hacer reflexionar sobre las prácticas televisuales de los jóvenes, la creación del CLEMI (Centro de Educación y Medios de Comunicación) en el seno del Ministerio de Educación Nacional en 1983, la creación de la optativa «Cine-audiovisual» en los bachilleratos de humanidades de los institutos en 1984 (primer bachillerato en 1989) y múltiples referencias a la educación de la imagen, de la prensa, de Internet. La forma más visible y rápida de evaluar el lugar de la educación en medios es valorar el lugar que se le ha reservado en los libros de texto del sistema educa- 2. Construir la educación en los medios sin nombrarla El lugar que ocupa la edu- La denominación «educación en medios», que debería cación en los medios es muy ambiguo, aunque las cosas están cambiando recientemente. entenderse como un concepto integrador que reagrupase todos los medios presentes y futuros, es a menudo percibida En principio, en Francia, co- por los «tradicionalistas de la cultura» como una tendencia mo en muchos otros países, la educación en los medios no es hacia la masificación y la pérdida de la calidad. una disciplina escolar a tiempo completo, sino que se ha ido conformado progresivamente a través de experiencias y reflexiones teóricas que han tivo en Francia. Una inmersión sistemática nos permi- permitido implantar interesantes actividades de carác- te constatar que los textos oficiales acogen numerosos ter puntual. Se ha ganado poco a poco el reconoci- ejemplos, citas, sin delimitarla con precisión. miento de la institución educativa y la comunidad es- colar. Podemos decir que ha conquistado un «lugar», 3. ¿Por qué la escuela ha necesitado casi un siglo en el ámbito de la enseñanza transversal entre las dis- para oficilializar lo que cotidianamente se hacía en ciplinas existentes. ella? Sin embargo, la escuela no está sola en esta aspi- Primero, porque las prácticas de educación en me- ración, porque el trabajo en medios es valorado igual- dios han existido antes de ser nombradas así. Recor- mente por el Ministerio de Cultura (campañas de foto- demos que no fue hasta 1973 cuando aparece este grafía, la llamada «Operación Escuelas», presencia de término y que su definición se debe a los expertos del colegios e institutos en el cine ), así como el Minis- Consejo Internacional del Cine y de la Televisión, que terio de la Juventud y Deportes que ha emprendido en el seno de la UNESCO, definen de esta forma: numerosas iniciativas. «Por educación en medios conviene entender el estu- Así, esta presencia de la educación en los medios dio, la enseñanza, el aprendizaje de los medios moder- no ha sido oficial. ¡La educación de los medios no apa- nos de comunicación y de expresión que forman parte rece oficialmente como tal en los textos de la escuela de un dominio específico y autónomo de conocimien- francesa hasta 2006! tos en la teoría y la práctica pedagógicas, a diferencia Este hecho no nos puede dejar de sorprender ya de su utilización como auxiliar para la enseñanza y el que las experiencias se han multiplicado desde el prin- aprendizaje en otros dominios de conocimientos tales Páginas 43-48 46 Comunicar, 28, 2007 como los de matemáticas, ciencias y geografía». A pe- mente en todas las asignaturas. Incluso los nuevos cu- sar de que esta definición ha servido para otorgarle un rrículos de materias científicas en 2006 para los alum- reconocimiento real, los debates sobre lo que abarca y nos de 11 a 18 años hacen referencia a la necesidad no, no están totalmente extinguidos. de trabajar sobre la información científica y técnica y En segundo lugar, porque si bien a la escuela fran- el uso de las imágenes que nacen de ella. cesa le gusta la innovación, después duda mucho en Desde junio de 2006, aparece oficialmente el tér- reflejar y sancionar estas prácticas innovadoras en sus mino «educación en medios» al publicar el Ministerio textos oficiales. Nos encontramos con una tradición de Educación los nuevos contenidos mínimos y las sólidamente fundada sobre una transmisión de conoci- competencias que deben adquirir los jóvenes al salir mientos muy estructurados, organizados en disciplinas del sistema educativo. escolares que se dedican la mayor parte a transmitir Este documento pretende averiguar cuáles son los conocimientos teóricos. La pedagogía es a menudo se- conocimientos y las competencias indispensables que cundaria, aunque los profesores disfrutan de una ver- deben dominar para terminar con éxito su escolaridad, dadera libertad pedagógica en sus clases. El trabajo seguir su formación y construir su futuro personal y crítico sobre los medios que estaba aún en elaboración profesional. Siete competencias diferentes han sido te- necesitaba este empuje para hacerse oficial. nidas en cuenta y en cada una de ellas, el trabajo con Aunque el trabajo de educación en los medios no los medios es reconocido frecuentemente. Para citar esté reconocido como disciplina, no está ausente de un ejemplo, la competencia sobre el dominio de la len- gua francesa definen las capa- cidades para expresarse oral- La metodología elaborada en el marco de la educación en mente que pueden adquirirse con la utilización de la radio e, medios parece incluso permitir la inclinación de la sociedad incluso, se propone fomentar de la información hacia una sociedad del conocimiento, como defiende la UNESCO. En Francia, se necesitaría unir el interés por la lectura a través de la lectura de la prensa. La educación en los medios las fuerzas dispersas en función de los soportes mediáticos y orientarse más hacia la educación en medios que al dominio adquiere pleno derecho y entidad en la sección sexta titulada «competencias sociales y cívi- técnico de los aparatos. cas» que indica que «los alum- nos deberán ser capaces de juz- gar y tendrán espíritu crítico, lo que supone ser educados en los las programaciones oficiales, ya que, a lo largo de un medios y tener conciencia de su lugar y de su influencia estudio de los textos, los documentalistas del CLEMI en la sociedad». han podido señalar más de una centena de referencias a la educación de los medios en el seno de disciplinas 4. Un entorno positivo como el francés, la historia, la geografía, las lenguas, Si nos atenemos a las cifras, el panorama de la las artes plásticas : trabajos sobre las portadas de educación en medios es muy positivo. Una gran ope- prensa, reflexiones sobre temas mediáticos, análisis de ración de visibilidad como la «Semana de la prensa y publicidad, análisis de imágenes desde todos los ángu- de los medios en la escuela», coordinada por el CLE- los, reflexión sobre las noticias en los países europeos, MI, confirma año tras año, después de 17 convocato- información y opinión rias, el atractivo que ejerce sobre los profesores y los Esta presencia se constata desde la escuela mater- alumnos. Concebida como una gran operación de nal (2 a 6 años) donde, por ejemplo, se le pregunta a complementariedad and controls. HLA-C allele Definite MD* patients (n=23) (%)# Probable MD* patients (n=24) (%)# Control group (n=91) (%) # P value (Definite vs. probable) P value (Definit vs. Control) P value (probable vs. Control) Cw*01 Cw*02 Cw*03 Cw*04 2 (4.3%) 0(0%) 1 (2.2%) 8(17.4%) 0(0%) 0(0%) 1(2.1%) 9(18.8%) 7 (3.8%) 7 (3.8%) 9 (4.9%) 2 (1.1%) 0.23 N/A >0.99ǂ 0.86 >0.99 0.35ǂ 0.69ǂ 10-4 0.35 0.35 0.69ǂ 10-4 Cw*06 7(15.2%) 3(6.3%) 33 (18.1%) 0.15 0.64 0.46 Cw*07 Cw*08 8(17.4%) 0(0%) 5(10.4%) 4(8.3%) 25 (13.7%) 4(2.2%) 0.32 0.11ǂ 0.52 0.58ǂ 0.54 0.06ǂ Cw*12 Cw*13 5(10.9%) 0(0%) 13(27.1%) 0(0%) 43(23.6%) 3(1.6%) 0.04 N/A 0.05 >0.99ǂ 0.62 >0.99ǂ Cw*14 Cw*15 3(6.5%) 1(2.2%) 4(8.3%) 0(0%) 17(9.3%) 0(0%) >0.99 0.48ǂ 0.77 0.48ǂ >0.99 N/A Cw*16 Cw*17 Cw*18 9(19.6%) 2(4.3%) 0(0%) 8(16.7%) 1(2.1%) 0(0%) 9(4.9%) 7(3.8%) 16(8.8%) 0.71 0.61ǂ N/A 0.001 >0.99ǂ 0.04ǂ >0.99 0.02ǂ 0.06ǂ Total #46(100%) #48(100%) #182(100%) *Meniere’s Disease, ǂ analyzed with fisher exact test, others are analyzed using chi square #The number of alleles is twice the number of patients, as each person has two alleles—one maternal and one paternal. Frequencies of HLA-Cw*04 (P<0.001) and HLA-Cw*16 (P=0.001) were found to be significantly higher in definite Meniere’s disease patients compared to the control subjects. Though, the allele frequency of HLA-Cw*18 was significantly lower in definite Meniere’s disease compared to the controls (P= 0.047) (Table. 3). Discussion The frequency of HLA-Cw alleles in 3 groups of definite Meniere’s disease patients, probable Meniere’s disease patients, and healthy controls has been appraised in this study. A significant association between HLA-Cw*04 and HLA-Cw*16 alleles with both probable and definite Meniere’s disease was observed in our patients. This was in agreement with the study of Koyama and colleagues in which they found significant association between HLA-Cw4 and HLADRB1*1602 in a Japanese sample. (16) Khorsandi et al. also found that HLA-Cw4 is found more in Iranian definite Meniere’s disease patients (13). The frequency of HLA-Cw*18 allele was significantly higher in the control group. HLA-Cw*12 allele frequency was significantly higher in probable Meniere’s disease group compared to the patients with definite Meniere’s. The observed association of HLA-Cw alleles in our patients suggested an autoimmune mechanism in both definite and probable Meniere’s disease. This is in agreement with Greco’s study who discussed Meniere’s autoimmunity in literature (4). A mechanism based approach to the disease diagnosis and treatment warrants more accurate diagnostic methods and more straightforward and powerful treatment approaches. Earlier studies have identified an association between the HLA-Cw7 antigen and Meniere’s disease in a British population (17). A significant increase in the frequency of HLA-Cw7 alleles in patients with Meniere’s disease was observed compared to other inner ear diseases and healthy subjects (18). Some studies have found an association between HLA-DRB1 alleles and Meniere’s disease. However the results had not been repeated in other populations (19,20). Yeo et al. have found that frequency of HLA-Cw*0303 and HLA-Cw*0602 alleles 264 Iranian Journal of Otorhinolaryngology, Vol.28(4), Serial No.87, Jul 2016 HLA-CW Alleles in Meniere disease were significantly increased in Korean patients with MD compared to healthy controls; on the other hand, HLA-B44 and HLA-Cw*0102 were significantly decreased in their patients (19). This can support the idea of the association between probable Meniere’s disease and the HLA Alleles. In another study on 80 Mediterranean patients with bilateral Meniere’s disease, an association between HLA-DRB1 *1101 and bilateral Meniere’s disease was observed; but there was no association between HLACw and bilateral Meniere’s disease (20). The number of patients with bilateral Meniere’s disease was very low in our studied population. The discrepancies in results are probably due to the ethnic or geographic background or also might be as a result of differences in phenotypic or clinical manifestations of patients in different studies which require careful interpretation. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study which compares HLA-Cw allele frequencies in definite Meniere’s disease and probable Meniere’s disease patients in an Iranian sample. Some HLA loci are inherited as haplotype blocks. Therefore the association found between HLA-Cw and Meniere’s disease in our study might be due to an association with another unknown gene in linkage with the HLACw allele, which was responsible for Meniere’s disease susceptibility. It will be very helpful to evaluate the presence of accompanied autoimmune disorders in our patients, which has not been performed in our study. In addition, population heterogeneity is a very important factor in genetic association studies as our patients were collected from a referral clinic from various ethnic and geographic origins. Conclusion In conclusion, this study confirmed the association between HLA-Cw*04 and HLA-Cw*16 alleles with both definite and probable MD. HLA-Cw*12 was found as a discriminating allele between definite and probable Meniere’s disease which requires more attention in replication studies. A protective role for HLA-Cw*18 also was proposed in this study. Further larger studies and more comprehensive studies on the role of other HLA genes in susceptibility to Meniere’s are warranted. Acknowledgements This study was part of MD thesis Dr Fatemeh Ghadimi and also was supported by Tehran University of Medical Sciences (TUMS).The grant number is:90-03-4815264. References 1. Wright T. Meniere’s disease. BMJ Clin Evid. 2015(9636):406–14. 2. Arweiler DJ, Jahnke K, Grosse-Wilde H. 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