Preventing floods with a global, next-generation flood hazard model

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Assessing current and future flood risk is crucial as flooding alone already constitutes now about one third of all economic losses due to natural hazards – with increasing tendency. To improve flood hazard and risk assessments and hence reduce the impact of floods, I am developing an advanced global flood hazard model.

With the large-scale set-up of this model, the connected consequences of floods in many countries can be understood better

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Depending on climate change, socio-economic change and flood protection level, an area can expect more or less urban damage, economic losses or affected number of inhabitants because of future floods. Our model is ought to be capable of producing such flood hazard information at an unachieved level of detail. To that end, a hydrologic model is coupled with a hydrodynamic model which represents a novelty in itself at this large scale. By coupling both models, reality can be represented better. This way all hydrologic processes such as soil infiltration and water storage, evaporation and surface water storage can directly be linked to hydrodynamic computations where surface water flow is determined and vice versa.

Practical Examples

Recently, the Flood Risk Analyzer of the World Resource Institute has been launched. This analyzer is developed by the World Resource Institute (WRI) and four Dutch partners: Universiteit Utrecht, VU Amsterdam, Deltares (Delft) and the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. By means of this tool, users can visualize flood risk at the country, state and river basin scale across the globe.  In addition the use can retrieve information about expected flood risk for various scenarios in the year 2030. Output of my research may constitute the basis of an even more detailed version.

Why is this so important

More detailed knowledge about flood-prone areas across the world can support the construction of necessary protection measures such as dams and levees. Floods are “transboundary phenomena”. With the large-scale set-up of my model, the connected consequences of floods in many countries can be understood better.

Planners from different countries can better plan flood protection measures and the collaboration between countries can be improved. Financial funding organizations such as the World Bank can also use the model output. These organizations rely on projections to allocate their financial resources accordingly. With improved data as background for decisions, the organizations can spend their money more effectively, consequently helping more people with the same budget.

Last, there are still many areas where no local models exist. Local policy-makers and technicians can then use our global model to make a first evaluation of current flood hazard and risk. Using the model output they can assess how it may change in the future and decide which steps will be necessary to coop with the future challenges.

Biography

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After graduating at the Technical University of Munich, Germany, in Environmental Engineering, I moved to the University of Twente, The Netherlands, to do a Master’s in Civil Engineering and Management.  Here I followed courses in the specialization Water Engineering and management. In my Master’s Thesis, I developed a global model to compute sediment transport into the oceans. Next to my academic education, I worked in several engineering companies to broaden and deepen my practical experience. In the beginning of 2015, I started as PhD Candidate at Utrecht University, The Netherlands, where I currently develop a global next-generation flood hazard model.

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My dream for this project

I have a dream, namely that my research can contribute in reducing the economic losses and casualties resulting from floods. Especially with climate change and continuing growth of the World’s population, I hope that the model results can be used to improve policy-making as well as flood adaption and mitigation measures and to raise the public awareness towards the inherent risk of flooding. Given the already critical state in some areas, triggering these processes is inevitable and my modeling approach may facilitate this.

My expertise

Flood hazard, flood risk, global scale, climate change, model coupling, risk assessment