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Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 10, issue 8 | Copyright

Special issue: Risk management of extreme flood events

Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 10, 1697-1724, 2010
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-10-1697-2010
© Author(s) 2010. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

  18 Aug 2010

18 Aug 2010

Review article "Assessment of economic flood damage"

B. Merz1, H. Kreibich1, R. Schwarze2,4, and A. Thieken3,4 B. Merz et al.
  • 1Helmholtz Centre Potsdam, German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ), Telegrafenberg, 14473 Potsdam, Germany
  • 2Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, Permoser Straße 15, 04316 Leipzig, Germany
  • 3alpS – Centre for Natural Hazard and Risk Management and Leopold-Franzens-University Innsbruck, Grabenweg 3, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria
  • 4CSC – Climate Service Center, GKSS-Forschungszentrum Geesthacht GmbH, Bundesstrasse 45a, 20146 Hamburg, Germany

Abstract. Damage assessments of natural hazards supply crucial information to decision support and policy development in the fields of natural hazard management and adaptation planning to climate change. Specifically, the estimation of economic flood damage is gaining greater importance as flood risk management is becoming the dominant approach of flood control policies throughout Europe. This paper reviews the state-of-the-art and identifies research directions of economic flood damage assessment. Despite the fact that considerable research effort has been spent and progress has been made on damage data collection, data analysis and model development in recent years, there still seems to be a mismatch between the relevance of damage assessments and the quality of the available models and datasets. Often, simple approaches are used, mainly due to limitations in available data and knowledge on damage mechanisms. The results of damage assessments depend on many assumptions, e.g. the selection of spatial and temporal boundaries, and there are many pitfalls in economic evaluation, e.g. the choice between replacement costs or depreciated values. Much larger efforts are required for empirical and synthetic data collection and for providing consistent, reliable data to scientists and practitioners. A major shortcoming of damage modelling is that model validation is scarcely performed. Uncertainty analyses and thorough scrutiny of model inputs and assumptions should be mandatory for each damage model development and application, respectively. In our view, flood risk assessments are often not well balanced. Much more attention is given to the hazard assessment part, whereas damage assessment is treated as some kind of appendix within the risk analysis. Advances in flood damage assessment could trigger subsequent methodological improvements in other natural hazard areas with comparable time-space properties.

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