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EvoFlood: quantifying the evolution of flood hazard and risk across a changing world


Flooding is the deadliest and most costly natural hazard on the planet, affecting societies across the globe. Nearly one billion people are exposed to the risk of flooding in their lifetime and around 300 million are impacted by floods in any given year.

There is now clear consensus that global warming is already causing increases in the frequency of extreme rainfall events. This in turn will generate substantial increases in global flood hazard over the coming decades. Meanwhile, society’s exposure to this hazard is compounded still further as a result of population growth and the encroachment of people and key infrastructure onto floodplains.

Hull Flood 2007
Each year, flooding causes over 6,000 fatalities and economic losses exceeding US$60 billion - Di Baldasarre et al, 2013

Reliable tools are required to predict how flood hazard and exposure will change in the future. Despite recent improvements in flood modelling, the existing Global Flood Models (GFMs) used to simulate the probability of flooding across the Earth have two fundamental limitations. First, current GFMs represent the topography and roughness of river channels and floodplains in highly simplified ways, and their relatively low resolution cannot fully represent the natural connectivity between channels and floodplains. This restricts severely their ability to predict the extent and frequency of flood events, how it varies in space, and how it depends on flood magnitude. The second limitation is that current GFMs treat rivers and their floodplains essentially as 'static pipes' that remain unchanged over time, rather than naturally evolving channels affected by the impacts of diverse environmental changes.

New GFMs are required that can adequately predict the evolution of future flood hazard and understand its underlying causes.


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Project partners

Members of the EvoFlood Consortium are:

University of Hull

University of Birmingham

University of Brighton

University of Bristol

Durham University

University of Exeter

University of Oxford

University of Reading

University of Southampton

To meet these challenges, the Universities of Hull and Southampton are leading the EvoFlood project – a 5-year collaborative endeavour across nine universities, which aims to make major advances in the science of predicting global flood hazard and risk by representing the dynamic evolution of river channels and their floodplains within GFMs.

The team bring combined skills in hydrology, channel-floodplain flow coupling, flooding and flood risk, and population dynamics and response to disaster events and modelling morphodynamics – how the interaction of rivers and their bed and banks change over time due to processes such as tide, flood, increased river flow and currents as well as manmade interventions such as flood barriers, flood plains and hard engineering.

We will develop an entirely new generation of Global Flood Models by:

  • using Big Data sets and novel methods to enhance their representation of channel and floodplain morphology
  • including new approaches to representing the evolution of channel morphology and channel-floodplain connectivity
  • combining these developments with tools for projecting changes in catchment flow and sediment supply regimes over the 21st century.

These advances will enable us to deliver new understanding on how the feedbacks between climate, hydrology, and channel morphodynamics drive changes in flood conveyance and future flooding. Moreover, we will also connect our next generation GFM with innovative population models that are based on the integration of satellite, survey, cell phone and census data. We will apply the coupled model system under a range of future climate, environmental and societal change scenarios, enabling us to fully interrogate and assess the extent to which people are exposed, and dynamically respond, to evolving flood hazard and risk.

To help achieve our ambitious aims, the EvoFlood team will appoint a total of nine new researcher posts, covering many aspects of geomorphology, hydrology and numerical modelling.


Evoflood Credit Flood_in_Dibrugarh Arunabh0368 via Wikimedia Commons 1024px

Flooding in front of the United Bank of India, Dibrugarh, August 31, 2015. Photo courtesy of Arunabh0368 at Wikimedia Common


Lead Researchers:

Professor Daniel Parsons (PI) 

Professor Stephen Darby (Co-PI), School of Geography & Environmental Science, University of Southampton

Professor Philip Ashworth, School of Environment and Technology, University of Brighton

Dr Georgina Bennett, Geography, University of Exeter

Professor Hannah Cloke, Geography and Environmental Sciences, University of Reading

Professor Richard Hardy, Geography, Durham University

Dr Julian Leyland, School of Geography & Environmental Science, University of Southampton

Dr Stuart McLelland, Energy and Environment Institute, University of Hull

Dr Jeffrey Neal, Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol

Professor Andrew Nicholas, Geography, University of Exeter

Professor Gregory Sambrook Smith, School of Geography, Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham

Dr Louise Slater, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford

Professor Andrew Tatum, Geography and Environmental Science, University of Southampton

Dr Michael Wortmann, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford

The Impact

EvoFlood will deliver a fundamental change in the quantification, mapping and prediction of the interactions between channel-floodplain morphology and connectivity, and flood hazard across the world's river basins. It will bring a greater level of understanding to both contemporary and future flooding and allow for more robust flood prediction. The project will place the UK at the forefront of global hydrology, flood modelling and risk management.

We will share models and data on open source platforms to maximise the utilisation of our new GFMs. Project outcomes will be embedded with scientists, global numerical modelling groups and policy-makers to allow these agencies to develop appropriate strategies to meet the growing global flood risk. The GFMs will also be shared with humanitarian agencies, river basin stakeholders, communities prone to regular or extreme flooding, the general public and school children – a democratisation of data to ensure the widest possible reach for our project outputs.

EvoFlood will employ a new generation of researchers across the partner institutions, further embedding an understanding of these innovative new modelling techniques within the academic sector.

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