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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 16, issue 5 | Copyright
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 16, 1189-1203, 2016
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-16-1189-2016
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 25 May 2016

Research article | 25 May 2016

Damage functions for climate-related hazards: unification and uncertainty analysis

Boris F. Prahl1, Diego Rybski1, Markus Boettle1, and Jürgen P. Kropp1,2 Boris F. Prahl et al.
  • 1Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Potsdam, Germany
  • 2Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany

Abstract. Most climate change impacts manifest in the form of natural hazards. Damage assessment typically relies on damage functions that translate the magnitude of extreme events to a quantifiable damage. In practice, the availability of damage functions is limited due to a lack of data sources and a lack of understanding of damage processes. The study of the characteristics of damage functions for different hazards could strengthen the theoretical foundation of damage functions and support their development and validation. Accordingly, we investigate analogies of damage functions for coastal flooding and for wind storms and identify a unified approach. This approach has general applicability for granular portfolios and may also be applied, for example, to heat-related mortality. Moreover, the unification enables the transfer of methodology between hazards and a consistent treatment of uncertainty. This is demonstrated by a sensitivity analysis on the basis of two simple case studies (for coastal flood and storm damage). The analysis reveals the relevance of the various uncertainty sources at varying hazard magnitude and on both the microscale and the macroscale level. Main findings are the dominance of uncertainty from the hazard magnitude and the persistent behaviour of intrinsic uncertainties on both scale levels. Our results shed light on the general role of uncertainties and provide useful insight for the application of the unified approach.

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Damage functions are an essential tool for vulnerability assessment and the quantification of disaster loss. They are often tailored to specific hazards and regions, which complicates knowledge transfer between different hazards and places. In our work, we unify approaches for climate-related hazards, e.g. for storms and coastal floods. A unified damage function is embedded in an uncertainty framework, where we identify the dominating sources of uncertainty on local and regional scales.
Damage functions are an essential tool for vulnerability assessment and the quantification of...
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