PLATFORM GRANT: Earth Systems Engineering: Sustainable systems engineering for adapting to global change

Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: Civil Engineering and Geosciences


In August 2003, in the midst of the hottest European summer on record, the journal Nature entitled an editorial Welcome to the Anthropocene . The editors explained how the Earth has become an 'anthropogenic planet' in which its natural systems are marked by, and often profoundly influenced by, human activity. Management of the 'anthropogenic planet' presents enormous challenges to engineers. For example, to plan and design water resource systems require a capacity to analyse the behaviour of whole river basins over timescales of decades, to simulate and test the effectiveness of alternative management options and to monitor and modify the system performance. This process of rationally 'engineering' coupled technological, human and natural systems is referred to as Earth Systems Engineering. In Newcastle we have established a pioneering research programme in Earth Systems Engineering dedicated to understanding and modelling of processes of change within coupled technological, human and natural systems. We use our knowledge to inform the sustainable management of these complex systems, often through the development of computer-based decision support tools. Our research programme in Earth Systems Engineering is structure around six interacting themes. In Theme A we are developing detailed scenarios of future climate change. Theme B combines cutting edge field monitoring data with satellite datasets, to provide inputs to the computer models of technological, natural and human systems that we are pioneering in Theme C. In Theme D we are applying novel methods for dealing with the uncertainty that pervades complex systems management problems. Theme E brings the preceding knowledge together to inform engineers and policy makers in choice of management options, primarily through the development of visualisation and decision support tools. These methods are tested and demonstrated in Theme F in major integrated case studies, which currently encompass integrated assessment of whole cities, and catchment management. We will over the next five years work towards a major regional-scale demonstration. We seek Platform Grant funding to orchestrate this complex endeavour and realise our vision for the new era in analysis and decision making that is required for engineers to respond to the challenges of intensifying global change. This will be achieved through targeted research activities and strategic investment in the success of our team. We will use Platform Grant funding to: 1. Test and pilot new high risk methods that may hold the key to the problems we are trying to solve.2. Enhance the computer modelling systems upon which we depend.3. Join up our research in order to deliver integrated systems approaches.4. Safeguard monitoring programmes at our field sites. 5. Enable research staff to take increased responsibility for research projects, by providing opportunities to pilot ideas, write proposals and see projects through to fruition. 6. Train the junior researchers and postgraduates who represent the next generation of high-flyers. 7. Support interdisciplinary working, by running an interdisciplinary seminar programme and supporting discipline-hopping activities by our researchers. 8. Build international partnerships and secure the international profile of our research. 9. Deepen relationships with industry and government through collaborative work with industrial partners and secondments by researchers. 10. Engage with schools and the public to build understanding of the solutions that engineers can offer to the challenges of global change, and to motivate the next generation of potential Earth Systems Engineers. By enabling our talented team of researchers to realise their potential and by funding initiatives to integrate and grow our Earth Systems Engineering research programme, a Platform Grant will help us to deliver the engineering systems responses to global change that are so urgently needed.


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Aguilar F (2010) Modelling vertical error in LiDAR-derived digital elevation models in ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing

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Alyami M (2009) Numerical analysis of deformation behaviour of quay walls under earthquake loading in Soil Dynamics and Earthquake Engineering

Description We have met, and generally surpassed, all of our original objectives. Highlighting selected achievements,
we note how our work has been complemented by, and benefited from, the special nature of PG funding.
(i) Integrate and accelerate our ambitious programme of research in Earth Systems Engineering.
Our delivery of transformative research is summarised here according to the themes in our Platform Grant:
Theme A: Climatic change scenarios for engineering systems analysis
Our focus has been on the development of future weather scenarios tailored for impact studies on engineering systems. Much of this has centred around advances in our strategically vital stochastic weather generator, which include (i) incorporation of probabilistic scenarios within the weather generator, subsequently developed as a webservice for UKCP09 (, to
provide climate information for industry and academia, (ii) an enhanced version of the weather generator that produces spatially correlated heatwave and rainfall events (Jenkins et al., 2014), and, (iii) large scale spatial extreme rainfall models for flood and water resource planning, reinsurance and analysis of national scale infrastructure (e.g. Jones et al., 2013). Speculative research has shown the potential of approaches
that use transient climate scenarios (Goderniaux et al., 2011) and high resolution climate model simulations to capture convective rainfall events and provide scenarios for flash flooding (Kendon et al., 2013).
Theme B: Multiscale observation and monitoring of infrastructure
Provision of geospatial information has evolved rapidly over the last five years with datasets pertaining to the human, built and natural environment now captured ubiquitously by an ever expanding toolbox of sensors mounted on increasingly versatile, often integrated, platform systems (e.g. mobile mapping systems, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles - UAVs). Stateoftheart examples we have investigated include fullwaveform
airborne lidar (e.g. Abed et al., 2012) for river channel and flood bathymetry. Significant advances have also been made in error modelling (Aguilar et al., 2010) and in developing distributed processing solutions for remotely sensed datasets, as well as the synergistic combination of multisensor datasets (Hardy et al., 2012), to derive information on infrastructure and
urban systems for the purposes of engineering analysis (Miller et al., 2012; Holderness et al., 2013).
Theme C: Analysis and simulation of coupled humannaturalengineered systems
At the outset there had been limited research on modelling coupled humannatural engineered systems. PG funding has enabled us to explore a range of approaches at the forefront of the emerging global research agenda in this area. This has involved extension of traditional land use models (e.g. Dawson et al., 2011b), whilst more speculative research has developed agentbased models that explore feedbacks and responses of people to information on risk (Dawson et al., 2011a; O'Connell, O'Donnell, 2013) and applied transition theory (CastanBroto et al., 2014) to understand the disruptive
influence of extreme events on infrastructure systems. Notably, work by Dawson et al. (2011a) has been used by local governments to inform the siting of flood evacuation shelters.
Theme D: Uncertainty analysis to identify robust engineering interventions We have explored highly innovative probabilistic and nonprobabilistic approaches (Kriegler et al., 2009) to decision making. The latter are arguably a more appropriate way to characterise the extreme uncertainties associated with engineering decisions over long time horizons. "Classical" probabilistic methods (Hall et al., 2009; Manning et al., 2009) have been developed and applied to help understand uncertainties related to ESE decisions. Following the relocation of original theme leader Hall, emphasis shifted to spatial uncertainty analysis. Many systems of interest are spatially heterogeneous and understanding the sensitivity of system
response to these spatial uncertainties enables improved targeting of interventions (O'Donnell et al., 2011;
Serinaldi & Kilsby, 2012).
Theme E: Decisionsupport tools to integrate knowledge and support policy making
Prototype software for integrated systems modelling (e.g. in support of Dawson et al., 2011b) allows multiple models to be 'chained' via database workflows. Pilot work funded by the PG (Barr et al., 2012) on spatial network data structures, now forms the basis of the ITRC's national infrastructure database and has been applied to hotspots of infrastructure vulnerability for Infrastructure UK. Web services have allowed industry and other academics to use our models (e.g. Stephens et al., 2011). Our socioinformatics tools for visualisation and decision support have facilitated participative stakeholder events to develop citywide climate adaptation strategies
(Walsh et al., 2013a).
Theme F: Integrated demonstrations for broad scale analysis of engineering systems
PG funding has leveraged, and integrated across, many projects to implement a suite of flagship largescale
demonstrations to test methods developed in Themes AE against the challenges of ESE. These include:
? Integrated assessment of coastal systems: groundbreaking work has quantified, for the first time, the tradeoffs between erosion and flood risks in East England that are introduced by the morphological connectivity of beach sediment movements (Dawson et al. 2009).
? Integrated catchment management: pioneering methods for multiscale monitoring and modelling have been used for quantitative assessment of fullscale interventions of upland land use management on catchment scale flood generation (O'Donnell et al., 2011) and informed government policy [7].
? Urban Integrated Assessment: coupled economic, landuse and climate impacts (flooding, drought,heatwave) models have enabled analysis of tradeoffs between spatial planning, climate adaptation and greenhouse gas mitigation strategies at the cityscale (e.g. Dawson et al., 2011b).
? Infrastructure 'system of systems' modelling: high profile work has studied the vulnerability of the European air travel network after the Eyjafjallajökull eruption (Wilkinson et al., 2011) and the influence of infrastructure interdependencies on reducing system resilience (Dunn et al. 2013).
Exploitation Route Climate scenarios work - actively being taken forward in collaboration with UK Met Office and others in research and industry with applications in flood risk, water resources management and agriculture.
Sustainable Cities work actively moving forward with partners in academia, government and industry through e.g. EPSRC iBUILD programme grant.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Construction,Education,Energy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Transport

Description The nature of this grant has been to enhance and leverage other research projects and so our findings and use of Platform Grant funding have been very effective through two mechanisms: ? Pump priming and demonstration of high risk research concepts: One such example was work by Barr et al. (2012) that demonstrated the feasibility of the network data model, which is now used by the ITRC and the University of Wollongong SMART Infrastructure programme; ? Adding value across groups of projects: For example, Tyndall Centre Cities, SWERVE ARCADIA and SCORCHIO all explored different aspects of climate impacts, adaptation and greenhouse gas mitigation in London. PG funds enabled us to integrate across these projects and inform revision of the London Spatial Development Plan Leverage PG funding to add value: We hold £5.68m (EPSRC) and £3.3m (NERC & EU) active grants PG funds have helped us leverage these by, for example: ? Enabling leadership of an EU COST network, which provided a platform to set the international agenda on urban sustainability and led to the FP7 RAMSES project. ? Flexibility to attend international workshops has, for example, led to RA Burton being awarded £572k of DFID funding as PI to develop a Caribbean weather generator. ? Investment in time to engage with industry led, for example, to an invitation to join the Willis Research Network ? Newcastle University, invested >£350k in additional field monitoring equipment, RA time and computer hardware to support the ESE programme. Reviewing the achievements of the Platform Grant seven years on, the range and size of impact is clearer to see. The establishment of Earth Systems Engineering as a research framework at Newcastle has resulted in major research programmes taking root, most notably in the area of adaptation to climate change and the analysis and design of resilient infrastructure, underlined by Prof Richard Dawson's appointment to the Adaptation Sub-Committee of the Climate Change Committee of the UK government. Prof Stuart Barr has further developed the resilient cities theme and has been appointed as Director of the Australian Urban Research Infrastructure Network. The urban land use simulation strand grew with funding in the Infrastructure Transition Research Consortium, culminating in multi-disciplinary analysis of the proposed Ox-Cam ARC ( Modelling capabilities developed under the Platform Grant have similarly borne fruit. The rainfall modelling methods and CityCAT flood model have been applied to flood risk management studies worldwide, for city authorities, the EU Urban Audit for 571 cities, and within the insurance industry for the Bank of England PRA climate change stress tests. On the climate scenario side, the weather generator concept supported by the Platform Grant is now being further applied within the OpenCLIM project developing a framework of modelling capabilities to support the next UK Climate Change Risk analysis, alongside a range of hydrological, flood and urban models. The Earth Systems Engineering approach of the Platform Grant has also facilitated the fundamental climate science work in collaboration with the Met Office where future intense rainfall and impacts on flooding have been quantified using a new generation of high resolution climate models, directly feeding in to engineering practice. The observational and monitoring aspects incubated by the Platform Grant have been further grown with funding from the UKRIC initiative, culminating in the Urban Observatory ( UO, the largest set of publicly available real time urban data in the UK) built on the network data approach pioneered by Barr. The UO has been active in monitoring to quantify the impacts of virus measures introduced in response to COVID-19 and is now reporting to government. The National Green Infrastructure Facility (NGIF) has similarly emerged as a 'living laboratory', underpinning research into Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDs) and Green Infrastructure approaches. Finally, the global aims for water security and sustainability embodied by the ESE initiative have been achieved through the UKRI GCRF Water Security and Sustainable Development Hub led by Newcastle University with partners in four continents addressing the Sustainable Development Goals of Clean Water and Sanitation, Quality Education and Climate Action.
First Year Of Impact 2008
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Construction,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Energy,Environment,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Government, Democracy and Justice,Transport
Impact Types Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

Title ABM Flood model 
Description An Agent-Based Model for Flood Incident Management This model demonstrates a simulation approach to flood event management by coupling an agent-based model of individual behaviour with a raster cell flood model. These simulations can provide valuable evidence to flood risk managers and local authorities to support disaster management through identification of evacuation routes liable to congestion, areas most at risk of flooding, potential for loss of life, flood damages and the effectiveness of flood incident management actions. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Year Produced 2013 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The model has been applied to the town of Towyn to advise the local authority. 
Description Hourly rainfall data across whole UK have been collated and quality controlled from multiple sources - EA, Met Office etc. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2014 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Improved understanding of changes in extreme rainfall and associated uncertainty. 
Description EA 
Organisation Environment Agency
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Development of weather generator software (EARWIG) Development of CityCat urban flood model software Analysis of fluvial and coastal flooding and effects of repeated shocks on coastal and fluvial defences
Collaborator Contribution Provision of extensive data sets including lidar DEMs, river flow data, rainfall data
Impact Software - EARWIG weather generator Software - CityCat flood mdoel
Description NWL 
Organisation Northumbrian Water
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Strategic inputs to operations ranging from urban flooding and sewer modelling to climate change impact assessment for water resource and flooding. Several consultancy projects in the same areas.
Collaborator Contribution Support and partnership in numerous RCUK and other funded projects in the areas of urban flood management. Provision of data sets including whole sewer network of Newcastle.
Impact Ongoing collaboration advising on Blue-Green infrastructure developments in Newcastle including a Learning Action Alliance bringing all Flood Riosk Management stakeholders together in a highly effective network. Working computer model of urban drainage of Newcastle region.
Start Year 2010
Description Network Rail 
Organisation Network Rail Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Spatial analysis of the reliability of transport networks subject to rainfall-induced landslides
Collaborator Contribution Provision of case study, data and advice on requirements.
Impact Paper: Spatial analysis of the reliability of transport networks subject to rainfall-induced landslides DOI: 10.1002/hyp.6927
Start Year 2006
Description SHETRAN is a model for water flow, solute and sediment transport in river catchments. SHETRAN is a finite-difference model in which the physics-based governing partial differential equations for flow and transport are solved on a three-dimensional grid. SHETRAN is a physically-based, spatially-distributed (PBSD) modelling system. There are two download versions of SHETRAN. A version with a Graphical User Interface (GUI) in a Windows environment and the Standard version which uses text based files. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2009 
Impact SHETRAN has been applied worldwide by Newcastle and other research groups including the following: Case study 1 - Land Use Change and Flood risk Study of the effect of long-term land use change on flood risk (EA Project SC060092). As part of this work the Dunsop catchment in the forest of Bowland, UK (tributary of the Hodder/ribble) was selected. Preliminary SHETRAN simulations have been carried out for this site. Case study 2 - Impact of forests on the catchment response for extreme rainfall events This work is part of the EPIC FORCE project ( focusing on impact of forest management on river basin response for extreme rainfall/snowmelt events. This case study looks at the La Reina (0.35 km2) catchment in Region 10, 41?S, in Chile. This is an intensively monitored research catchment that was forested before the entire basin was logged in January 2001 and then replanted. Case study 3 - Wetland Inundation Three-year study which addressed the issues of water availability for wetland restoration and re-creation. One of the chosen study sites was Ellerton Ings on the River Derwent in Yorkshire. Case Study 4 - Soil Moisture Profiles Field and modelling study to investigate the possible range of water resource impacts associated with woodland on sandstone aquifers. The field site was the Clipstone forest, Nottinghamshire, UK Case Study 5 - Climate Change in the Yangtze Basin Shetran simulations of the Yangtze basin to just below the Three gorges Dam at Yichang. Simulations were carried out using the 78 latest CMIP5 scenarios with change factors calculated for the 2040-2070's compared to the 1980-2010's. Part of the Global Secure project ( Case Study 6 - 45 Years of Changes in Forest Hydrology at the Experimental Coalburn Catchment Coalburn is the longest running forest research catchment in the UK and it provides a unique dataset for looking at the long-term affects of forestry on hydrology. Shetran Simulations were carried out from 1993 - 2010 using hourly measured data as part of the ForeStClim project ( 
Title UKCP09 Weather Generator 
Description The stochastic weather generator software on the UKCP09 web site for providing time series of weather corresponding to future climates. 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2009 
Impact UK government (Defra and EA) were responsible for the UKCP09 programme where the web-based software was run 16,132 times by 1338 unique users from 2009 to May 2013 and supported the first national Climate Change Risk Assessment in 2012. 
Description BBC Newsnight 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interview with BBC David Shukman at launch of UKCP09 cliamte projections on BBC Newsnight. Specifically discussed results and uncertainties from our climate scenarios work underpinned by Platform Grant and previous BETWIXT project.

Considerable further media and publci interest and uptake of web User Interface to use our software.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009