Developing enhanced impact models for integration with next generation NWP and climate outputs

Lead Research Organisation: King's College London
Department Name: Geography


Current best estimates indicate that approximately 5M people living in 2M properties are at risk of flooding resulting from extreme storms in the UK. Of these approximately 200,000 homes are not protected against a 1 in 75 year recurrence interval event, the Government's minimum recommended level of protection. When major floods do occur then total damage costs are high (£3.5Bn for the summer 2007 floods) and the total annual spending on flood defence approaches £800M. Protecting this population and minimizing these costs into the future requires the development of robust hydrologic and hydraulic models to translate the outputs from Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP) and climate models into meaningful estimates of impact (with uncertainty). These predictions of impact can then be used to plan investment decisions, provide real-time warnings, design flood defence schemes and generally help better manage storm risks and mitigate the effects of dangerous climate change. Building on foundations developed by consortium members as part of the NERC Flood Risk from Extreme Events (FREE) and EPSRC/NERC Flood Risk Management Research Consortium (FRMRC) Programmes, we here propose an integrated programme of research that will lead to step change improvements in our ability to quantify storm impacts over both the short and long term. Based on the knowledge gained in the above programmes, we suggest that improvements in storm impact modelling can be achieved through four linked objectives which we are uniquely positioned to deliver. Specifically, these are: 1. Downscaling, uncertainty propagation and evaluation of hydrologic modelling structures. 2. The development of data assimilation and remote sensing approaches to enhance predictions from storm impact models. 3. Fully dynamically coupled extreme storm surge and fluvial modelling. 4. The development of a new class of hydraulic model that can be used to convert predictions of rainfall-runoff or coastal extreme water levels to estimates of flood extent and depth at the resolution of LiDAR data (~1 - 2m horizontal resolution) over whole city regions using a true momentum-conserving approach. In this proposal we evaluate the potential of the above four approaches to reduce the uncertainty in ensemble predictions of storm impact given typical errors in the NWP and climate model outputs which are used as boundary forcing for impact modelling chains. Our initial characterization of the errors in predicted storm features (spatial rainfall and wind speed fields) in current implementations of NWP and climate models will be based on existing studies conducted by the UK Met Office and the University of Reading. As the project proceeds we will use the advances in storm modelling being developed for Deliverables 1 and 2 of this call to enhance our error characterizations and ensure that the techniques we develop are appropriate for current and future meteorological modelling technologies. We will rigorously evaluate the success of our proposed methods through the use of unique benchmark data sets of storm impact being developed at the Universities of Bristol and Reading.


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Wetterhall F (2013) HESS Opinions "Forecaster priorities for improving probabilistic flood forecasts" in Hydrology and Earth System Sciences

Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
NE/I005358/1 01/06/2011 30/09/2012 £24,203
NE/I005358/2 Transfer NE/I005358/1 01/09/2013 30/04/2015 £15,788
Description Improved flood forecasting practices through a better understanding of ensemble decision making, work with the EFAS and technical model improvements in operational flood forecasting systems.
Exploitation Route Improved operational flood forecasting systems.
Sectors Environment

Description In developing systems of European Flood Awareness System and other national and international flood programmes.
First Year Of Impact 2011
Sector Environment
Impact Types Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

Description SAGE
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in advisory committee
Impact Improved response to 2014 flooding via expert consultation at Floods SAGEs.
Description Training in interpretation of Ensemble Flood Forecast products
Geographic Reach Asia 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact Flood forecasters more confident to implement and use ensemble flood forecasts in their operational products
Description Applying probabilistic flood forecasting in Flood Incident Management.
Amount £200,000 (GBP)
Funding ID Science Project SC090032 
Organisation Environment Agency 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2009 
End 05/2011
Description DEFRA Catchment Modelling call
Amount £50,452 (GBP)
Organisation Department For Environment, Food And Rural Affairs (DEFRA) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2014 
End 09/2015
Description Industrial CASE PhD: Uncertainty in future flood risk for insurance markets
Amount £78,000 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/H017836/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2010 
End 08/2014
Description Interdisciplinary PhD studentship: Developing a Risk-Based and Participatory Approach to Reducing the Uncertainty in Modelling Climate Impact on Flood Inundation
Amount £78,000 (GBP)
Funding ID 1014118 
Organisation Economic and Social Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2010 
End 08/2015
Title Ensemble Flood Forecasting 
Description A modelling methodology for representing uncertainty by implementing probabilistic ensembles in flood forecasts, particularly in the medium range. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Year Produced 2009 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The method is now integrated into the European Flood Awareness System and has been emulated in other operational systems, including those int the UK. 
Description CH2MHill 
Organisation CH2M HILL
Country United States 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We are exploring flood risk models and techniques used by CH2MHill in particular for work on government/agency consultancy projects.
Collaborator Contribution Sharing models, data, expertise and links to government/agency consultancy projects.
Impact Dale et al (2013) DEFRA/EA technical report on ensemble flood forecasting.
Start Year 2008
Description Environment Agency 
Organisation Environment Agency
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Working on understanding flood risk in flood susceptible catchments and improving flood forecasting.
Collaborator Contribution Provision of data, expertise, forecast systems. The context of the flood risk framework.
Impact EA/DEFRA technical report
Start Year 2007
Description European Flood Awareness System 
Organisation European Commission
Department European Flood Awareness System (EFAS)
Country European Union (EU) 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Scientific innovation, technical system developments and practical focus on enduser understanding for the EFAS: e.g. The research provided the first evidence of the potential for improvements in flood forecasting through using ensemble forecasting and decision making techniques.
Collaborator Contribution Provision of expert advice, computing resources and expertise, data, methods, stakeholder network. Research secondments. Willingness to co-test new ideas within the operational system.
Impact The EFAS now provides flood forecasting information two days or more before a flood event to the national authorities around Europe as well as the Emergency Response Coordination Centre of the European Commission, and has been operational since 2012. The skill of EFAS forecasts and warnings has been continuously improving ( and the system has demonstrated its early warning capabilities in several recent events (e.g. the Balkan floods in 2014 and the central European Floods in 2013). This has provided an earlier flood preparedness, days earlier than conventional flood forecasting systems, and thus greatly improving flood preparedness for the ERCC, European national authorities and all European Citizens. Hannah's scientific innovation and technical system developments has provided an evidence base for implementing early warning from ensembles and contributed directly to the improved flood warning from EFAS. Hannah's work with social scientists on improving communication of EFAS flood alerts has allowed EFAS forecasters to change their practice both in the way alerts are given and the way that they engage with forecast recipients, allowing costly and potentially contentious decisions to be made in a more consistent, risk-informed way. In addition, the EFAS system with an estimated development cost over 10 years of 20 million Euros, is now estimated to provide net economic benefit.
Description Flood Forecasting Centre 
Organisation Meteorological Office UK
Department Flood Forecasting Centre
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Improving technical implementation of flood forecasts and decision making procedures.
Collaborator Contribution Access to data, decision making systems, forecast room and forecast team.
Impact EA/DEFRA technical report on probabilistic flood forecasting. Stephens & Cloke, 2014
Start Year 2011
Description Joint Research Centre 
Organisation European Commission
Department Joint Research Centre (JRC)
Country European Union (EU) 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Working on using ensemble forecasts and uncertainty analysis in their operational modelling systems.
Collaborator Contribution Expertise, access to computers, research visits, access to data, models and stakeholders.
Impact Development of EFAS
Description Met Office 
Organisation Meteorological Office UK
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Improving flood forecasting, land surface hydrology for seasonal forecasting, interpretation of climate projections for water resource impacts
Collaborator Contribution Provision of data, expertise, models. Co-producing methods.
Impact Several research articles
Start Year 2007
Description Environment Agency Long Term Investment Strategies Advisory Group - HC, PB 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Hannah Cloke and Paul Bates have been invited to sit on the Environment Agency Long Term Investment Strategy Advisory Group, to provide scientific advise on the long term planning on flood risk management.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
Description National Flood Resilience Review Scientific Advisory Group HC, PB 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Hannah Cloke and Paul Bates were invited to sit on the Scientific Advisory Group of the National Flood Resilience Review which commented on the current state and future needs of flood risk management in England.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016