FloodMEMORY partnership to forecast flood impacts and prevent future risks

Engineering researchers from Swansea University will this month begin work on a £2.2 million multi-partner project to investigate the effects of floods on defences, urban areas, communities and businesses – to help mitigate against future flood risks.

The three-year Multi-Event Modelling of Risk and Recovery (FloodMEMORY) project is led by Newcastle University and also involves the Universities of Aberdeen, Cranfield, Heriot-Watt, Newcastle, Nottingham, Southampton, Queen Mary in London, the West of England, and the National Oceanography Centre.

The project, which has received funding of more than £1.765 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), will look at the most critical flood scenarios caused by sequences or clusters of extreme weather events striking vulnerable natural, built and socioeconomic systems.

FloodMEMORY will analyse and simulate situations where a second flood may strike before flood defences have been reinstated after damage, or householders and small businesses are in a vulnerable condition recovering from the first flood.

The project team is hopeful that by examining such events and identifying the worst case scenarios, the findings of the project will lead to enhanced flood resilience and better allocation of resources for protection and recovery. Ultimately the processes developed could be used worldwide.

HarshinieDr Harshinie Karunarathna (pictured), senior lecturer in coastal engineering at Swansea University’s College of Engineering, who is leading the research work at the University, said: “We are very excited to be part of this challenging project, which aims to deliver a major advance in the ability to forecast flood impacts.

“Swansea will be leading the work on Coastal Flood Systems, which will employ state of the art coastal area models with the aim of forecasting beach change and coastal flooding from extreme events at long term time scales.”

Changes in the frequency and severity of flooding are under close scrutiny due to increased storminess in projections of future climate. The project will look at observed records of storms and try to understand how clustering may obscure or even exacerbate any climate induced changes.

This is crucial for designing flood defence schemes now, which will operate for decades into the future, as current methods of estimating risk in a stationary climate do not fully account for the observed clustering of flood events and possible changes in variability.

Other aspects of the project will look at how coasts (natural beaches and engineered defences) and rivers behave during storms.

Of particular interest is the effect of previous storms and floods moving sediment, i.e. shingle, sand and river bed material, so that the beach or river is in a different – perhaps weaker – condition when a second flood event arrives. The movement of sediment is difficult to predict as mostly happens during storms, so our knowledge of these processes is currently lacking.