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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 4, issue 2 | Copyright

Special issue: Multidisciplinary approaches in natural hazards

Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 4, 295-308, 2004
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-4-295-2004
© Author(s) 2004. This work is licensed under
the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License.

  16 Apr 2004

16 Apr 2004

Flood risk assessment and associated uncertainty

H. Apel1, A. H. Thieken1, B. Merz1, and G. Blöschl2 H. Apel et al.
  • 1GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam (GFZ), Section 5.4 Engineering Hydrology, Telegrafenberg, 14473 Potsdam, Germany
  • 2Institute of Hydraulics, Hydrology and Water Resources Management, Vienna University of Technology, Karlsplatz 13, A–1040 Wien, Austria

Abstract. Flood disaster mitigation strategies should be based on a comprehensive assessment of the flood risk combined with a thorough investigation of the uncertainties associated with the risk assessment procedure. Within the "German Research Network of Natural Disasters" (DFNK) the working group "Flood Risk Analysis" investigated the flood process chain from precipitation, runoff generation and concentration in the catchment, flood routing in the river network, possible failure of flood protection measures, inundation to economic damage. The working group represented each of these processes by deterministic, spatially distributed models at different scales. While these models provide the necessary understanding of the flood process chain, they are not suitable for risk and uncertainty analyses due to their complex nature and high CPU-time demand. We have therefore developed a stochastic flood risk model consisting of simplified model components associated with the components of the process chain. We parameterised these model components based on the results of the complex deterministic models and used them for the risk and uncertainty analysis in a Monte Carlo framework. The Monte Carlo framework is hierarchically structured in two layers representing two different sources of uncertainty, aleatory uncertainty (due to natural and anthropogenic variability) and epistemic uncertainty (due to incomplete knowledge of the system). The model allows us to calculate probabilities of occurrence for events of different magnitudes along with the expected economic damage in a target area in the first layer of the Monte Carlo framework, i.e. to assess the economic risks, and to derive uncertainty bounds associated with these risks in the second layer. It is also possible to identify the contributions of individual sources of uncertainty to the overall uncertainty. It could be shown that the uncertainty caused by epistemic sources significantly alters the results obtained with aleatory uncertainty alone. The model was applied to reaches of the river Rhine downstream of Cologne.

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