This Week in Disaster Resilience 3rd April 2020

Dear colleague,

Please find links below to some aspects of disaster resilience that were in the news this week…

Recent emergencies/disaster

Large tornado rips through Jonesboro, causing extensive damage, Arkansas

Indonesia – Deadly Landslide in Bali

Indonesia – Deadly Landslide in South Sulawesi

Kenya – Hundreds of Families Displaced by Flooding in Western Counties

Syria – Deadly Floods in North

Nineteen killed in massive China forest fire

Iran – More Fatalities After Floods in Fars Province

Peru – Homes Destroyed After Floods and Mudslides in Huánuco

India – Evacuations After Rain Triggers Landslides in Jammu and Kashmir

Pakistan – More Rain Damage in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan

DR Congo – Thousands Affected by Floods in Maniema Province

More than 3,000 have died from COVID-19 have died in the US

Tornadoes touch down in Alabama and Mississippi

Coronavirus Australia live news: CSIRO launches initial trial stage of two COVID-19 vaccines

Indonesia – Thousands Affected by Floods in Bandung

Afghanistan – Flash Floods Leave 11 Dead, Homes Destroyed

Papua New Guinea – Floods Hit Morobe Province

Spain – Dozens Rescued From Floods in Castellón After Highest Rainfall in 30 Years

Coronavirus latest: Confirmed cases cross the 1-million mark

Extreme Weather and Climate Change

Carbon emissions will drop, but experts fear 'revenge pollution'

The annual Australia’s Environment report finds last year’s heat and drought caused unprecedented damage

Why Clouds Are the Key to New Troubling Projections on Warming

Barclays sets net zero carbon target for 2050 after investor pressure

Coronavirus and climate change: The pandemic is a fire drill for our planet's future

Anatomy of a heatwave: how Antarctica recorded a 20.75°C day last month

Coal phase-out can provide “cheap” way to reduce emissions, researchers say

'Very un-Antarctic': When the icy continent was not very cold at all

Why the climate crisis is harder to spot in the UK and US

Tackling climate change

Beneath the virus lurks a bigger emergency, but the world is distracted from the climate threat

Rain, floods and confused seals: Inside Antarctica's warmest-ever summer

'We must use this time well': climate experts hopeful after Cop26 delay

Disaster risk reduction

Australia's Environment in 2019

What we’ve learned about the coronavirus — and what we still need to know

Post-fire ecological stocktake

Effective transmission across the globe: the role of climate in COVID-19 mitigation strategies

The Coronavirus Outbreak Presents Unique Housing Challenges for Seniors

UN launches COVID-19 plan that could ‘defeat the virus and build a better world’

A lethal pandemic was considered the most serious security risk to the UK. But nothing was done

Latest edition of Molino Stewart’s Floodplain Manager newsletter

This Looks Like a Depression, Not a Recession

Live animal trade continues across India and Asia

Natural solutions to UK flooding climb the agenda

4 major hurricanes are predicted as part of an above-normal 2020 Atlantic hurricane season

What climate change means for Northwestern US wildfires

Initial Insured Losses for UK’s February Floods Estimated at £297M (US$367.8M)

Emergency management

The residents of Ironbridge are still recovering from flooding earlier this year and now they must prepare for a pandemic

Africa is woefully ill-equipped to cope with covid-19

How South Korea flattened the curve

Italy starts to bend coronavirus curve

The home front: How international aid workers are fighting COVID-19 in Italy

San Francisco Shut Down: COVID-19 Quarantine

Japan struggles to get a grip on social distancing

Is coronavirus hitting young Americans harder than we thought?

FEMA braces for a multi-front war as hurricane season looms

Disaster education, communications and engagement

Public views of the coronavirus’s impact on the U.S.

Getting people to comply with social distancing policies is basically an exercise in marketing

Epidemics in Movies

Disaster Education, Communication and Engagement Book

How to Care for a Loved One With Coronavirus

Learn About Groundwater At Home!

Psychology and Disasters

Isolation is hazardous to your health. The term ‘social distancing’ doesn’t help

Navigating the new rules of social distance etiquette

A COVID-19 survival guide for parents of tweens and teens

Sociology and disasters

Coronavirus: Portugal to treat migrants as residents during pandemic

The Real Pandemic Danger Is Social Collapse

For the 2.5 million people in Metro Manila who reside in crowded slums, community quarantining and social distancing have entirely different implications

COVID-19 and the displaced

Coronavirus infection rates begin to fall, but 'flattening the curve' may mean WA is locked down even longer

Coronavirus could be final straw for EU, European experts warn

We aren’t just stopping coronavirus. We’re building a new world

1 in 10 children affected by bushfires is Indigenous. We’ve been ignoring them for too long

A Beginner's Guide to the Importance of Social Capital During a Pandemic

Social Capital's Role in Humanitarian Crises's_Role_in_Humanitarian_Crises


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If you have any links you wish to share please send them to:

 Neil Dufty

Principal, Molino Stewart Pty Ltd

E-mail: [email protected]


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Disaster Education, Communication and Engagement Book Published

Molino Stewart Principal Neil Dufty has recently had his book Disaster Education, Communication and Engagement published. The book provides a much-needed evidence-based guide for designing effective disaster learning plans and programs that are tailored to local communities and their particular hazard risks. Drawing on the most recent research from disaster psychology, disaster sociology, and education psychology, as well as evaluations of disaster learning programs, the book contains practical guidance for putting in place a proven design framework. Neil’s book has been selected to feature on the Natural Hazard Centre’s New Read Series section here. The book is available either in hard copy or digital format here.

Floodplain Manager March 2020


Two’s company, three’s a contagion risk!

What an extraordinary turn of events since my last editorial.  Undoubtedly many of you are working from home, as all at Molino Stewart have been for a couple of weeks now.  It has highlighted how vulnerable our businesses, community institutions and homes are to disruption.  Because we are in the business of risk management we perhaps adapted reasonably quickly but it was not without its unexpected hiccups.  I am pleased to say that for Molino Stewart, at this time, it is business as (un)usual, just from a different work environment.  We appreciate that many businesses are not that fortunate, including many of our clients in the tourism, entertainment and leisure industries and our hearts go out to all who are hurting badly from these changes.  We are also grieved by the trauma and loss of life this virus is causing and we are hopeful that the severe measures that have been put in place will significantly slow its spread.

The COVID-19 crisis has also highlighted the need for clear messaging and practical advice on appropriate risk mitigation behaviours, as well as how there will always be some in the community who consider themselves to be immune to the risks and who believe their behaviour will not pose a risk to others.  Again, we see these issues on a smaller scale with floods and other natural hazards.  So how do you better communicate risks and encourage appropriate behaviours?  Wiley has recently published ‘Disaster Education, Communication and Engagement’ a book which has been written by long-time Molino Stewart team member Neil Dufty.  Those of you who know Neil would acknowledge his wealth of knowledge and experience in this field and I congratulate him on pulling together a well-researched and practical resource for the disaster management community.

Of the many interesting articles in this month’s edition, the one that really caught my attention was an archaeological investigation of the impacts of the 1642 Yellow River flood which killed 300,000 people and destroyed the former Chinese capital city of Kaifung.  Of particular note were the observations that where flood defences were breached, the existence of those defences amplified the damages, perhaps a 380 year old lesson in the “levee effect” which we are still to learn.

At this time of year I would normally be looking forward to catching up with many of you in May at the annual FMA conference.  We may yet do so as the FMA looks at ways of running the conference online.  Who knows what the world will look like by the time I write the next editorial.

Steven Molino

Articles related to March 2020

Related - Floodplain Manager March 2020

Australia Floods

Ex-tropical Cyclone Esther brought heavy rainfall and caused flooding across the Northern Territory, Queensland and Victoria in early March.

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Esther made landfall as a Category 1 tropical cyclone on February 24 near the border between Queensland and the Northern Territory. The system then made its way to the south-eastern parts of the country throughout early March.

Northern Territory

Ex-tropical cyclone Esther’s remnant clouds and storms drenched parts of southern NT with 50-150 mm of rain recorded in the Tanami Desert and Barkly in a 48 hour period from 5 March. A number of major transport routes in the Barkly and Tanami region were cut by floodwaters causing some communities and homesteads to become isolated. In the Tanami Desert region a bus of 18 people became stranded in floodwaters and needed to be rescued by NT Police.


In south-west Queensland, ex-cyclone Esther broke a 21 year rainfall record at Thargomindah, with the airport recording 128 mm on March 5. The Bulloo River at Thargomindah peaked at 5.4 m cutting off several outback properties on the eastern banks.

In the south-east regions, areas around Brisbane and Ipswich saw up to 50 mm of rain in 24 hours on 5 March. Police responded to multiple incidents of drivers crossing floodwaters and being swept off roads.

In Boulia, in Queensland’s north-west, 120 mm of rain was recorded over a two day period between 4 and 5 March, meanwhile families were isolated by floodwaters at Penaroo Station in Eulo.


Heavy rainfall of up to 55 mm fell on 5 and 6 March in the wake of ex-cyclone Esther and caused localised flooding in Melbourne and its surrounds. The transport network was affected as services were suspended on the Hurstbridge and Sandringham line and Broadmeadows station became flooded. Victoria’s State Emergency Service (SES) received 323 callouts, including 17 vehicle-related incidences.

(Read here, here, here and here).

Amalgamation Stalls Mitigation

The amalgamation of Wyong and Gosford Councils has been blamed for inaction relating to flood management measures recommended for Tuggerah Lakes, NSW.

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The Tuggerah Lakes Floodplain Risk Management Study and Plan was completed in November 2014 and had been adopted by the former Wyong Shire Council. However, since the council amalgamated with Gosford Council, the recommendations outlined in the plan have not been addressed. Shadow Minister for the Central Coast, David Harris spoke at a State Parliament meeting revealing that the plan had shortcomings in terms of its “…lack of knowledge and information about what happened in the recent storms and flooding” which had not yet been assessed by the new Central Coast Council due to overriding priorities. For example, recommendation five states that the “prime objective is to include consideration of emergency entrance openings for the management of flooding”. According to Harris, Council has ignored the recommendations of flood consultants opting instead to construct a groyne on The Entrance Beach to improve beach nourishment. The apparent obliviousness of Council to the recommendations made in the plan is further exacerbated by the need for “a state government grant before starting the process” (Read here).

Darling Diversion Disputed

A $24 million deal by the NSW Government to divert water from the Warrego River, NSW to the western floodplain has been met with widespread criticism from downstream farmers.

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The diversion plan which is currently on public exhibition would see the installation of automated regulator gates to allow National Park staff to direct between two and five gigalitres of water into Toorale’s floodplain. The water redirected to the floodplains is part of a broader conservation effort to restore wetland habitat important to frogs, birds, and fish. However, graziers downstream of the proposed works feel that the floodplain diversion plan is endangering the supply available to them from the Darling River system. Much of the concern surrounds how Government intends to measure the amount of water able to be extracted. The Government responded to concerns stating that the amount of diverted water “would be calculated with figures from existing upstream gauges combined with the proposed new dam discharge gates”. Furthermore, the Water Sharing Plan for the Intersecting Streams Unregulated and Alluvial Water Sources 2011, is due to be reviewed by the Natural Resources Commission in 2021/22 in response to concerns(Read here).

Inland Rail Flood Modelling Questioned

Flood modelling for the Australian Rail Track Corporation’s (ARTC) Inland Rail project, has been questioned over apparent discrepancies with observed flood levels.

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The rail route is set to cross the Condamine River floodplain and the agriculturally important Felton Valley. ARTC’s hydrological modeling of the floodplains was undertaken to better inform the design of the Inland Rail. However, landowners are skeptical about the credibility of the modelling which in some areas drastically underestimates peak flood extent in relation to observed flood levels. For example, the Inland Rail modelling for some areas of Pampas was at ground level, when during the 2010 flood, water breached ground level and homes were inundated. The Inland Rail chief executive officer responded to this discrepancy stating “there was a local abnormality in the Pampas area as well as other areas across the floodplain where past experience was not lining up with modeling” and that “ARTC was trying to figure out what they were”. Local landowners elsewhere on the Macintyre floodplain have criticised ARTC for failing to appropriately act on the local information provided by them and concerns that the current design would exacerbate local flooding (Read here ).

Victims of the Macarthur Flood of 1946 Remembered

The Macarthur and District Historical Society has unveiled a bluestone plaque in honour of the family who lost their lives in the “Big Flood” of March, 1946.

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In the period between 15 to 17 March, 1946 up to 300 mm of rain fell on regions of south west Victoria including in the town of Macarthur. The resulting floods washed away hundreds of bridges, drowned cattle and sheep, and took the lives of four members of the Sparrow family. The Sparrow family was tragically killed whilst fleeing floodwater as it threatened to inundated their home. The day was marked by a ceremony held at the entrance to the old Sparrow farm 74 years later on 15 March, 2020 (Read more here).

FMA Conference COVID Challenged

In light of COVID-19 pandemic the Floodplain Management Australia (FMA) Annual conference has been cancelled, and the FMA Excellence awards have been postponed until 2021.

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The traditional face-to-face format of the conference to be held in Toowoomba this year will not go ahead as planned. However, event organisers are hoping to run the event digitally through an online platform. Details about the online format will be provided in the coming weeks (Read more here and here).

Real time Flood Forecasting Tool

Researchers at Texas A&M University claim to have developed a more accurate model for forecasting flood spread in real time.

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Conventional physics-based models use the earth’s surface and urban landscapes to determine the flow of water over the ground to predict where it might collect and cause flooding. This new algorithm uses the architecture of city drainage systems and readings from flood gauges to more accurately predict the flow of floodwater during hurricanes and other weather events. The algorithm was trained on past water flow patterns through drainage networks observed during Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Researchers found that that their model was 85% accurate in predicting how the flood propagated through the city’s drainage system for the 2017 flood. As the model relies on the integrity of flood gauge sensors it is proposed as a supplementary prediction tool to traditional physics-based models. It is hoped that insight gained from this model could improve pre-emptive emergency response and planning for future extreme weather events (Read more here ).

Citizen Science and Community Memory to Inform Flood Resilience App

Research projects run by the University of Warwick, UK have used the power of citizen science to increase resilience in flood-prone Brazilian communities.

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The researchers formed a network of citizens tasked with collecting and recording rainfall and flood data in various regions of Brazil. The data collected by communities was collated by the citizen scientists into a centralised mobile application designed to facilitate data sharing, and supplement current flood monitoring practices in real-time. In addition to field-based data collection, researchers also engaged older community members to share memories of past floods in order to inform future flood defences and facilitate a dialogue between the young and old. The benefits of the app include better understanding citizens perceived flood risk, informing best practices based on community needs and experiences, and improving the scale and reach of the flood information network as a result of the app’s universal accessibility (Read more here) .

UK Flood Risk Inquiry Launched

The House of Commons Environment Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee has launched an inquiry scrutinising the English Government's flood risk management measures.

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In light of recent floods that have devastated vast regions of England last winter (FM February), EFRA will hear evidence from a range of independent experts, affected communities, and Government officials to assess the current management of floods in England. Topics of the inquiry will include the adequacy of Government investment, the involvement of affected communities in decision making, the role of insurance and planning policies, and the extent that natural flood management is included in the Government’s approach. The hearing will also discuss the efficacy of the Government’s long-term policies in the face of climate change and the increased likelihood of more frequent extreme floods in the future. The inquiry is accepting evidence submissions until 15 May, 2020 and will draw upon evidence heard at the 2017-2019 inquiry, and the Committee’s interim report on coastal flooding and adaptation to climate change (Read more here and here ).

Growing Coastal Developments Increases Flood Damage Costs

An article published in the Journal of Sustainability has found that increasing development in South Koreas coastal cities between 2002 and 2018 had a significant impact on flood damage.

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Researchers studied 58 coastal cities and analysed flood damage using an analytical model that considered publically available data variables relating to climate, vulnerability, and exposure. These variables were applied to the levels of impervious surfaces observed within the cities over a 16 year period in order to estimate the average cost of coastal development in terms of flood damage. The results showed that a 1% increase in impervious surfaces in coastal flood risk areas increased flood damage costs by approximately 2% (Read more here).

Low Cost Flood Alert Measures

The Smart water Monitoring and Alert with Rainfall measurement from Telecommunication networks (SMART) project, developed by the National Research Institute for Development (IRD) aims to bring low-cost flood alerts to African cities.

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The SMART project’s main objective was to deliver accurate rainfall and flood monitoring data to low-income countries in Africa without the need for expensive and high maintenance weather observation systems. The project achieves this by using a mobile-data driven system to monitor extreme rainfall events that lead to flooding and to issue real-time alerts to African cities. Early trials of SMART in Cameroon used a three-stage processing and visualisation process which included: collection of mobile phone signals every 15 minutes, transformation of signal intensity into rainfall intensity and 2D maps, followed by integration of rain maps into a visualisation tool. The output of this process is the provision of real-time high resolution rain maps which can be used to inform early flood warning systems and alerts (Read more here ).

Geoarchaeological Study Quantifies Epic Flood of 1642

A recent study has used a combination of archaeological and geological methods to unveil the history of the Yellow River Flood that killed 300,000 people in China over 300 years ago.

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The Yellow River is thought to have flooded more than a thousand times in the past 2,000 years causing some of the deadliest floods in recorded history and claiming an estimated one million lives. Researchers gathered stratigraphic, radiocarbon, and archaeological evidence to corroborate historical accounts of the 1642 AD flood that submerged the former imperial capital of Kaifeng in several metres of flood deposit material. The study also found that by comparing the deposits left by the 1841 AD flood, and the layout of city walls that defence structures had varying effects on floodwater flow and resulting destruction. In the case that floodwaters didn’t breach the walls, the destructive effects were lessened, and in the event that the walls were breached the destruction was amplified by entrapment principles (Read more here.)

Flood Mitigation and Minimisation Using Wetlands

According to new research the flood mitigating powers of wetlands and mangrove forests are more cost-effective than man-made alternatives.

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In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers found that the protective value of wetlands is approximately $2.9 million/km2 annually. The study analysed the effects of all tropical cyclones on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the USA between 1996 and 2016 to make estimates on the protection offered by wetlands according to property value, elevation and building codes. It was found that all types of wetlands contribute significantly to reductions in property damage from storms, particularly in areas with the weakest building codes. For example, the loss of 2.8% wetland coverage in Florida counties affected by Hurricane Irma accounted for $695 million in damage. Another study published in Scientific Reports identified similar findings in terms of the benefits of mangrove forests in minimising flood losses. The researchers estimated the economic value of 700,000 km of mangrove forest globally and found that they reduce flood risk by $105 billion annually. The loss of mangroves would result in 15 million additional people being exposed to flooding globally as mangroves have the ability to reduce impacts of waves and storm surges, and also serve as the first line of defence against coastal flooding and erosion (Read more here and here ).

New Research into Atmospheric River Flood Risk

Scientists are using high-tech scientific instruments to better understand atmospheric rivers which have accounted for $70 billion of flood damage in the USA’s West in the past 40 years.

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The Centre for Western Weather and Water Extremes at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the Hurricane Hunters, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have embarked on a joint five-year mission to collect data during atmospheric river fly-overs (FM December 2019 – January 2020). The team use scientific instruments called dropsondes, which are projected into the atmospheric river in order to collect information about temperature, pressure, humidity, and wind. This data is then transmitted to weather databases around the world to aid in forecasting weather events associated with the atmospheric rivers. The endeavour aims to help managers of large water supplies such as dams to preempt when there is likely to be heavy rainfall in order to release water ahead of time and reduce flood risk associated with dam overflows (Read more here ).

Floods Resilience Tackled Using Japan’s Earthquake Experience

In the wake of severe flooding in the UK, an article has suggested that it may be advantageous to adopt some of Japan’s earthquake principles to increase resilience, rather than relying primarily on physical flood defences.

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The UK Government announced a $10 billion budget to be spent over five years on flood defences. However, traditional flood defences such as levees assume that flood frequency and intensity remain relatively static, which is unlikely to hold true under a changed climate. In Japan, the frequency of earthquakes of magnitudes 6.5 to 7 may occur up to twice a year. As such, a more robust integrated approach to disaster resilience has been adopted. For example, Japan implements frequent earthquake drills in public and private sectors and schools, utilises the technological sphere to issue warning messages and indicate high risk areas, and produces regular public awareness campaigns. As a result, death rates have decreased considerably. In the UK, the author of the article suggests that there should be a similar resilience framework sought; the budgeted flood defence spending might instead consider facilitating managed retreat from high risk areas, investing in natural drainage options, and increasing flood education programs (Read more here ).

Compulsory Acquisition of Flood Affected US Homes

The US Federal Government, as part of a push by the Army Corps of Engineers to protect people from disasters, has forced local governments into compulsorily acquiring flood affected homes.

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Under previous buyout programs, the decision to allow the Government to acquire a property was strictly voluntary. This left many people and homes still at risk of flooding. However, under the current buyout program the Government’s authority to take private property, with compensation, for public use under what is referred to in the US as “eminent domain” has been permitted. As such, local governments are able to utilise the eminent domain for high risk properties, even if the inhabitant has refused to comply. Residents in Nashville where 44 homes have been earmarked for acquisition have expressed anger at the decision. Concerns over discrepancies between the prices paid for property and the price offered by the Government have been brought to the fore. The price offered to acquire property is calculated by estimating the amount of damage that will be endured by the property over 50 years compared to purchase, demolition and inhabitant relocation costs. If the buyout costs less, the homeowner is asked to sell for the assessed value of the home and “that price is not negotiable, and neither is the offer”(Read more here ).

Preparing for Sea Level Rise Using a Flood Damage Framework

A paper published in Earth’s Future has proposed a framework to allow urban planners to consider multiple variables in order to aid responses to increased flood risk caused by sea-level rise.

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The framework introduced as the “flood damage allowance” approach connects extreme water levels with projected damages, incorporating both uncertainty regarding sea-level rise, as well as people’s individual tolerance of risk. Decision-makers may use this framework to make more informed decisions regarding the design of flood structures, such as the height of levees, depending on risk tolerance and projected flood loss costs (Read more here ).

Improving Forecasting of Ice-Jam Floods

Researchers from the University of Saskatchewan’s (USask) Global Institute for Water Security (GIWS) and School of Environment and Sustainability (SENS) have developed improved modelling to better predict the occurrence of ice jams.

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Ice Jams occur when river flow is blocked forcing water to back up and spill over the banks of a river. An ice jam in Manitoba, Canada in 2009 caused $45 million in direct financial losses and damaged 250 homes. The model uses the RIVICE platform to mimic ice-jam formation and predict jamming and flood potential. The modelling method has been trialled on a number of Canadian rivers prone to ice jams, and it is hoped that it will improve flood predictions and better inform mitigation measures (Read more here).

Flood-Type Specific Modelling for Predicting Flood Losses

A recently published paper in the Journal of Water Resources Research has evaluated the need for separate modelling across flood types to determine specific loss-driving factors.

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Previous flood loss modelling studies have found that losses from different flood types may result from different driving forces. Researchers undertook surveys of 4,418 respondents living in flood-prone properties in Germany and covered 13 flood impact variables ranging from household hazard characteristics, socioeconomic status, building characteristics and preparedness. The outcomes of the surveys were used to investigate whether different flood types display distinct loss-generating processes based on the magnitude of variable representation and significant differences between variables. The results showed that predictor variables such as building characteristic were more significant predictors of flood loss in surface water floods. On the other hand, riverine flood losses were better explained by levels of insurance and precautionary measures undertaken by the inhabitant. The outcome of this study indicates that flood loss models should factor in and have tailored predictor variables according to flood type to account for variability (Read more here).

Using Insurance Big Data to Improve Flood Stage Damage Curves

Researchers have analysed over 2 million claims from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), USA to demonstrate the power of using large datasets to dispel common issues in flood loss studies.

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Traditional depth-damage curves used to quantify flood losses are a monotonic distribution function between inundation depth and damage. Previous studies that aimed to verify the reliability of depth-damage curves were limited by data sample sizes and the interdependency of risk components such as vulnerability and hazard which are often spatially aggregated. This study used a large dataset of historical flood claims to provide insights into building vulnerability in the US whilst testing the efficacy of the depth-damage curve. The researchers found that by using the NFIP claims, damage instead can be better described by a beta distribution, where most losses are concentrated at the low and the high extremes of the relative damage spectrum. This finding insinuates that monotonic depth–damage functions may significantly mischaracterise flood vulnerability at the level of individual structures and often more broadly, and that this can be uncovered by using larger datasets (Read more here).

International Floods

There were 24 international floods reported across 23 countries throughout March 2020. At least people 107 died and over 8,300 were displaced.

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Internationally significant floods included:


Heavy rainfall has caused widespread flooding across several provinces in Pakistan killing 33 people and injuring 54. A total of 127 homes were damaged and 13 were completely destroyed. (Read more here, and here).


Torrential rain has caused flooding and landslides in coastal areas of São Paulo, Brazil killing 28 people and leaving hundreds injured. Up to 280 mm of rain fell in just 12 hours from 2 March affecting areas of the Baixada Santista region, in particular Guarujá, Santos and São Vicente. Landslides submerged homes as emergency authorities rescued 1,830 people and evacuated hundreds of displaced families. (Read more here and here ).


A low pressure system has produced torrential rain and flooding in Egypt’s capital Cairo which has killed at least 21 people. The floods affected the country’s railway network forcing suspensions of services nationwide. Power and water outages were also reported in several parts of the country. (Read more here ).


Severe rainfall has caused widespread flooding across many parts of Rwanda killing at least 10 people and displacing more than 800. In the worst hit areas of the Rulindo and Nyanza districts 42 homes were destroyed and roads and bridges were extensively damaged. Flooding in the country this year is estimated to have destroyed 858 houses and 196 hectares of crops. (Read more here)

Papua New Guinea

A landslide triggered by heavy rainfall in the Tambul-Nebilyer district of Western Highlands Province on 21 March, has killed 10 people and damaged 13 homes. Elsewhere in the neighbouring province of Chimbu, more than 700 people were displaced after floods destroyed homes close to the banks of the Wahgi River. (Read more here)


Submissions Now Open for the Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience (AIDR) Resilient Australia Awards
Submissions close 18 May 2020
For more information visit here

2020 Floodplain Management Australia Conference (Possible remote conference to be announced)
Where: TBC
When: TBC
For more information visit here

2020 Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM) Annual National Conference
Where: Fort Worth, Texas, USA
When: 7-12 June 2020
For more information visit here

2020 International Conference on Flood Management
Where: The University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, USA
When: 17-19 August, 2020
For more information visit here

FLOODrisk 2020 European Conference on Flood Risk Management
Where: Budapest, Hungary
When: 31 August – 4 September 2020
For more information visit here

FRIAR 2020 International Conference on Flood and Urban Water Management (Postponed from original date)
Where: Valencia, Spain
When: 28-30 September, 2020
For more information visit here


Benefits of Property Acquisition and Elevation in Flood-Prone Communities

A paper published in the Journal of Sustainability has used a robust decision making (RDM) approach to evaluate the efficacy of flood mitigation practices such as floor elevation against flood-prone property acquisition. The results indicate that the amount and allocation of mitigation funds directly influences the ability to select the most economically viable option. (Click here)

FloodLines Podcast

FloodLines is an eight part podcast series that discusses the floods, failed levees and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina that submerged New Orleans in 2005. The podcast combines archival recordings of official warnings presented to the public at the time, and relays the stories of the victims twenty years on. (Listen here).

Learning from Cyclone Idai

The Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance has published a Post Event Review Capability (PERC) study analysing the 2019 Cyclone Idai and Cyclone Kenneth impacts on Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe (FM March, 2019). The study summarises the results of hundreds of interviews with stakeholders from government, UN agencies, donors, NGOs and humanitarian response agencies, academics, and community members, to highlight key opportunities for building future resilience. (Click here).

Bangladesh Flood Resilience Portal Launched

Bangladesh is the latest country to be added to the flood resilience portal as of 10 March. The launch coincides poignantly with Bangladesh's National Disaster Preparedness Day offering flood resilience knowledge and solutions specific to a Bangladeshi context.(Click here).

WMO Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2019

The World Meteorological Organization has released its WMO Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2019. The statement summarises key findings of a variety of studies in climatology and other disciplines. One of the key findings of this report is that sea levels are rising at an increasing pace, exposing coastal areas and islands to a greater risk of flooding and leading to the submersion of low-lying areas. (Click here)

Flash Flood! Virtual Reality Game

Flash Flood! is a virtual reality simulation game made by Earth Arcade, Serious Geo Games, and the University of Hull, UK. The game allows the user to witness first hand the effects of floods on the geomorphology of river valleys based on real datasets. The game is available for free and is compatible with PCs, smart phones and tablets. (Click here).

Disaster Education, Communication and Engagement Book Published

Molino Stewart Principal Neil Dufty has recently had his book Disaster Education, Communication and Engagement published. The book provides a much-needed evidence-based guide for designing effective disaster learning plans and programs that are tailored to local communities and their particular hazard risks. Drawing on the most recent research from disaster psychology, disaster sociology, and education psychology, as well as evaluations of disaster learning programs, the book contains practical guidance for putting in place a proven design framework. Neil’s book has been selected to feature on the Natural Hazard Centre’s New Read Series section here. The book is available either in hard copy or digital format here.

This Week in Disaster Resilience 27th March 2020

Dear colleague,

Please find links below to some aspects of disaster resilience that were in the news this week…

Recent emergencies/disaster

Earthquake rocks Croatia's capital Zagreb

Ecuador – 350 Families Affected as Rivers Overflow in Pastaza

Iran – Deadly Floods Hit Southern Provinces

USA – 8 Killed in Ohio and Indiana Floods

Papua New Guinea – 10 Dead After Landslide in Western Highlands

Severe thunderstorms, rain and hail hit Dubai, UAE

Coronavirus latest news: Global pandemic is 'accelerating' warns WHO

Second wave of coronavirus cases hits Asia

Indonesia – Thousands Affected by Floods in Bandung

Burundi – Hundreds Displaced After More Severe Weather

Zambia – Families Displaced After More Floods in Luapula Province

Yemen – Deadly Floods Hit Aden

Burundi – Hundreds Displaced After More Severe Weather

Large and destructive tornado hits Tishomingo, Mississippi -- rare tornado emergency issued

Extreme Weather and Climate Change

See how global warming has changed the world since your childhood

With coronavirus and climate change, it’s about time

Rewilding project aims to give Thames its flood plain back

Managing disaster risks and water under climate change in Central Asia and Caucasus

Sea levels in Singapore 14cm above pre-1970 levels: Meteorological Service Singapore

Scientists just discovered a massive new vulnerability in the Antarctic ice sheet

Shedding light on how much carbon tropical forests can absorb

Evaluating Cloud Cover Predictions in Climate Models

Wind industry calls on Victoria to set “bold” science-based emissions targets

Climate crisis blamed for rains and floods that have killed 150 in Brazil

Holding back the tide - sea's advance threatens Tunisia's beaches

UK greenhouse gas emissions fall for seventh year in a row

Coronavirus, Climate Change, And Our Community

Disaster risk reduction

Social distancing: What it is and why it’s the best tool we have to fight the coronavirus

Natural disasters cost the world $232 billion last year. Here are the worst seven

Study: Coronavirus Lockdown Likely Saved 77,000 Lives In China Just By Reducing Pollution

Which Covid-19 drugs work best?

A Professor of Disasters and Health on COVID-19

Hong Kong appeared to have the coronavirus under control, then it let its guard down

Coronavirus: The Hammer and the Dance

Lives on the Line: The Big Benefits of Microgrids in Disaster

CDC says coronavirus RNA found in Princess Cruise ship cabins up to 17 days after passengers left

It's up to you: data shows coronavirus can only be controlled if eight out of 10 Aussies stay home

You could be spreading the coronavirus without realising you’ve got it

It’s wrong to blame bats for the coronavirus epidemic

Mapping precipitation in the Himilayas

‘While proactive school closures cannot interrupt transmission on their own, they reduce peak incidence by half and delay the epidemic’

Why Germany's Coronavirus Death Rate Is Far Lower Than In Other Countries

Help needed to rescue UK's old rainfall records

COVID-19 lands in Africa on some of the world’s least capable health systems, wholly unable to cope with a pandemic

Emergency management

The case for shutting down almost everything, and restarting when coronavirus is gone

Almost 25 million jobs could be lost worldwide as a result of COVID-19, says ILO

Coronavirus and aid: What we're watching

Swedish PM warned over 'Russian roulette-style' Covid-19 strategy

COVID-19 world wide data

Nearly half of Diamond Princess cruise ship passengers and crew who had coronavirus were asymptomatic when tested, CDC report says

U.S. could be next 'virus epicenter' as India locks down, global recession looms

Wildfire Season Is Almost Here, and Coronavirus Is Making Us Less Prepared

Disaster education, communications and engagement

A UN programme for schools is looking to make education a central part of the international response to climate change

World Water Day and World Meteorological Day 2020 - Joint message

Medium Coronavirus blog

Here’s how social media can combat the coronavirus ‘infodemic’

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak highlights serious deficiencies in scholarly communication

Try the Flash Flood Game

Earthquake safety at home guide

Floodlines: The story of an unnatural disaster

Staying well during self-isolation

Five questions to ask when you see a coronavirus map

Talking to kids about COVID-19

Coronavirus – tips for self-isolating

The University of Hull has secured almost £300,000 of funding to help young people in Vietnam better understand and tackle climate change

Psychology and Disasters

Before the pandemic, three-quarters of Americans said people would cooperate with each other in a crisis

Let’s Aim for Physical Rather Than Social Distancing

Close Encounters: How Near Misses Influence Disaster Decision Making

New poll suggests 1-in-5 Canadians feel pandemic blown out of proportion

Meet the heroes of Australia's bushfire crisis and find out - months on - how they are coping as they try to get back to normality

COVID-19 and your mental wellbeing

Sociology and disasters

When events unfold that disrupt the social order, most of us search for solace among our fellow human beings

Using social and behavioural science to support COVID-19 pandemic response

In the Battle Against Coronavirus, Humanity Lacks Leadership

Yuval Noah Harari: the world after coronavirus

Association president warns against spreading xenophobia along with virus

The community-led movement creating hope in the time of coronavirus

Pandemics reveal structural weaknesses: at pace and scale

Covid-19 is nature's wake-up call to complacent civilisation


Get disaster resilience updates at

Get climate change updates at

If you have any links you wish to share please send them to:

 Neil Dufty

Principal, Molino Stewart Pty Ltd

E-mail: [email protected]


Follow us on Twitter @molinostewart

Find out more about The International Emergency Management Society (TIEMS) at

Support for this initiative provided by Molino Stewart Pty Ltd If you wish to subscribe or unsubsribe please send an email to [email protected]

Subscribe to Molino Stewart’s free monthly newsletter ‘Floodplain Manager’ by registering your interest at [email protected]

This Week in Disaster Resilience 20th March 2020

Dear colleague,

Please find links below to some aspects of disaster resilience that were in the news this week…

Recent emergencies/disaster

Tanzania – Homes Damaged After Floods in Pwani Region

Colombia – Deadly Floods and Landslides in Santander

Timor-Leste – Around 200 Homes Destroyed After Massive Flooding in Dili

Angola – Floods in Cuanza Sul, Malanje and Lunda Sul Provinces

Madagascar – Tropical Cyclone Herold Causes Flooding in North East

Fiji – Roads Swamped After 200mm of Rain in 24 Hours

Peru – Dozens of Homes Damaged by Floods and Mudslides in Arequipa

Volcanic activity worldwide 19 Mar 2020: Klyuchevskoy volcano, Popocatépetl, Ibu, Dukono, Reventado

Extreme Weather and Climate Change

Climatologist makes clear: We’re still on pandemic path with global warming

Greenland's melting ice raised global sea level by 2.2mm in two months

World’s Warmest Winter Ended Long Before Spring

Disaster risk reduction

Why experts are urging social distancing to combat coronavirus outbreak

Coronavirus vaccines: five key questions as trials begin

New insights into US flood vulnerability revealed from flood insurance big data

COVID-19 Scientific Resources

This Is How We Can Beat the Coronavirus

Billion-dollar wildlife industry in Vietnam under assault as law drafted to halt trading

From food to tech, coronavirus to spur urban planning rethink

Auckland Volcanic Field magmatism, volcanism, and hazard: a review

Policy of building homes on flood plains to be reviewed

Emergency management

Nissan gets award for role of Leaf in energy resilience in disasters

Abe turns vague on timing as coronavirus leaves Tokyo Olympics in doubt

Italy has a world-class health system. The coronavirus has pushed it to the breaking point

Coronavirus Australia live updates: 'Disruptive' COVID-19 measures to last 'at least' six months, top doc says

The Impact of COVID-19 on Humanitarian Crises

Our politicians are not fit to oversee the coronavirus response. It’s time they got out of the way

Why Deaths from Coronavirus Are So High in Italy

In Egypt, floods add to difficulty of fighting pandemic

Millions lost as virus strikes Qld events

Disaster education, communications and engagement

COVID-19 is not a cause for panic. It is cause for action

Exploring the Complexity of Pandemics Through Play

Psychology and Disasters

Mass Panic Is Unlikely, Even During a Pandemic

Coping Strategies in Uncertain Times: Calming Your Nervous System During the Coronavirus Outbreak

Why Prioritizing Sleep in the Time of Coronavirus Is So Important

Sociology and disasters

How Will COVID-19 Affect Women and Girls in Low- and Middle-Income Countries?

Something invisible has stopped us


Get disaster resilience updates at

Get climate change updates at

If you have any links you wish to share please send them to:

 Neil Dufty

Principal, Molino Stewart Pty Ltd

E-mail: [email protected]


Follow us on Twitter @molinostewart

Find out more about The International Emergency Management Society (TIEMS) at

Support for this initiative provided by Molino Stewart Pty Ltd If you wish to subscribe or unsubsribe please send an email to [email protected]

Subscribe to Molino Stewart’s free monthly newsletter ‘Floodplain Manager’ by registering your interest at [email protected]

This Week in Disaster Resilience 13th March 2020

Dear colleague,

Please find links below to some aspects of disaster resilience that were in the news this week…

Recent emergencies/disaster

Coronavirus: Italy Orders Massive Shutdown; Cruise Ship Gets OK To Dock In California

Pakistan – Over 20 Dead After Heavy Rain Destroys Homes in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Coronavirus: Whole of Italy placed on 'red zone' quarantine and all public events banned

Indonesia – Hundreds Displaced by Flooding as Heavy Rain Continues

Rwanda – Heavy Rain and Storms Cause Fatalities

Coronavirus tracked: the latest figures as the outbreak spreads

Zambia – Thousands Affected by Floods in North

Iran – Over 20,000 Affected by Floods in South West Says UN

Volcanic activity worldwide 12 Mar 2020: Santiaguito volcano, Pacaya, Fuego, Klyuchevskoy

Extreme Weather and Climate Change

'We need a serious conversation': River flows could decline 40% in Australia's foodbowl

These are the places across Australia people will soon struggle to live in without serious challenges

Be honest Australia, you're not 'meeting and beating' your emissions targets

Renewables keep crunching Australia’s electricity emissions – no thanks to federal policy

A rare natural phenomenon brings severe drought to Australia. Climate change is making it more common

What Could Warming Mean for Pathogens like Coronavirus?

UK’s CO2 emissions have fallen 29% over the past decade

Coronavirus should give us hope that we are able to tackle the climate crisis

It’s official: the last five years were the warmest ever recorded

WMO Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2019

A solution to cut extreme heat by up to 6 degrees is in our own backyards

New Circular Economy Action Plan shows the way to a climate-neutral, competitive economy of empowered consumers

Planet is 'way off track' in dealing with climate change, U.N. says

The climate crisis is disrupting life for millions, a report finds

Climate change: The state of our atmosphere

Apocalypse never: why climate catastrophe won’t make us change

Major Greenland glacier collapse 90 years ago linked to climate change

Polar ice caps melting six times faster than in 1990s

Our World, Our Say: Australia’s largest youth survey on climate change

It's time to win climate wars, NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean says

Coronavirus 'Really Not the Way You Want To Decrease Emissions'

Studies show climate change becoming increasingly bipartisan

Disaster risk reduction

Economic impact of Australia’s bushfires

'A terrible summer': New data reveals economic cost of smoke, fire and hail

The world’s best fire management system is in northern Australia, and it’s led by Indigenous land managers

Urban trees and people’s yards mitigate extreme heat in western Adelaide: final summary report

Environment Agency warns of 'difficult decisions' ahead on Broads flooding

What’s the difference between pandemic, epidemic and outbreak?

Is Coronavirus the Beginning of the End of Offices?

How will country-based mitigation measures influence the course of the COVID-19 epidemic?

How a groundbreaking new £1.3 million park will help prevent flooding in one corner of Manchester

Emergency risk assessment handbook published

Special Issue: Securing future of heritage by reducing risks and building resilience

'Fossil earthquakes' offer new insight into seismic activity deep below Earth's surface

Separations between earthquakes reveal clear patterns

Building blocks for life on Earth arrived much later than we thought, billion-year-old rocks show

Water Ways: How the Dutch are building coastal protection for less — with nature’s help

Chancellor announces spending on flooding will be doubled

Emergency management

Coronavirus may force Americans to avoid crowds and cancel cruises, health official warns

Grocery stores can be anchors of resilience during disasters

Coronavirus: Israel to bring in 14-day quarantine for all arrivals

'Traitor': Boris Johnson heckled as he visits flood-hit area of Worcestershire

Wollongong to host public thank you day for firies and emergency services

Prefectures in Japan face lack of volunteer interpreters for disasters

Data tracks diversity on International Women's Day 2020's-day-2020

NSW bushfire clean-up at last brings some consolation to Conjola Park

Disaster education, communications and engagement

What Is the Death Rate from Coronavirus?

#Action4Floods: National Flood Forum Conference – York March 2020

People 'should work from home' to tackle coronavirus spread

Earthquake Safety at Home Guide

Coronavirus is a huge story, so journalists must apply the highest ethical standards in how they tell it

Household items salvaged from the ashes are being turned into artworks that tell a story of recovery

Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now

Psychology and Disasters

Why don’t we treat the climate crisis with the same urgency as coronavirus?

Coronavirus should give us hope that we are able to tackle the climate crisis

Coronavirus is stressful. Here are some ways to cope with the anxiety

Sociology and disasters

In the Hands of a Few: Disaster Recovery Committee Networks

'Best of Wales': floods bring communities together to recover

The coronavirus pandemic is forcing us to ask some very hard questions. But are we ready for the answers?


Get disaster resilience updates at

Get climate change updates at

If you have any links you wish to share please send them to:

 Neil Dufty

Principal, Molino Stewart Pty Ltd

E-mail: [email protected]


Follow us on Twitter @molinostewart

Find out more about The International Emergency Management Society (TIEMS) at

Support for this initiative provided by Molino Stewart Pty Ltd If you wish to subscribe or unsubsribe please send an email to [email protected]

Subscribe to Molino Stewart’s free monthly newsletter ‘Floodplain Manager’ by registering your interest at [email protected]

This Week in Disaster Resilience 6th March 2020

Dear colleague,

Please find links below to some aspects of disaster resilience that were in the news this week…

Recent emergencies/disaster

Italy reports a 50% increase in confirmed coronavirus cases

Coronavirus outbreak: US confirms cases in Chicago and Rhode Island

Updated coronavirus stats

Close to tears in flood-hit Wales as Storm Jorge’s rains sweep in

Peru – Hundreds of Families Affected by Floods in Moquegua

Iran – Widespread Flooding After Rivers Overflow in Lorestan Province

Brazil – Heavy Rain Triggers Deadly Flooding and Landslides in Rio De Janeiro

Winter Flooding in Mississippi and Louisiana

Tennessee Tornado Death Toll Jumps to 22; Widespread Damage in Nashville, Middle Tennessee

Shocking footage shows East Yorkshire homes almost completely submerged under water in the wake of Storm Jorge

Indonesia – 1 Missing, 900 Displaced After Floods Destroy Homes in Central Sulawesi

Brazil – Deadly Floods and Landslides in São Paulo After 280mm of Rain in 12 Hours

Honduras – 800 Displaced by Floods and Landslides

Vietnam – Storms Leave 2 Dead, Hundreds of Homes Destroyed

Tanzania – Bridge Destroyed and Roads Blocked After Heavy Rains

Volcanic activity worldwide 5 Mar 2020: Fuego volcano, Klyuchevskoy, Popocatépetl, Semeru, Dukono

Extreme Weather and Climate Change

Australia’s electricity market must be 100% renewables by 2035 to achieve net zero by 2050 – study

New report from Australia Institute says trend will bring with it longer and hotter bushfires, more heatwaves and crop damage

Climate change will force up premiums: Swiss Re

Thousands of kilometres of Australia's beaches at risk from rising seas

Australia is heating more rapidly than the global average, with a rise of 4C expected by 2100, Bureau of Meteorology says

Moscow Winter 'Warmest Since Records Began'

Does Information About Climate Risk Affect Property Values?

UK carbon emissions fall 29 per cent in a decade, new data shows

Hackathon Speeds Progress Toward Climate Model Collaboration

An uncharted island off Antarctica’s western coast could reveal how climate change is altering the continent

The world's top meteorological experts issued the warning as cities and countries around the world reported record-breaking warm winters

Most California cities refuse to retreat from rising seas—one town wants to show how it's done

Meet Thailand's secret weapon in climate change battle

Probability of Fire Weather Index reaching levels of 2019-20 summer increases 30% due to climate change, researchers say

Tasmania sets world-leading target of 200 per cent renewables by 2040

Europe experiences exceptionally warm winter

Analysis shows climate finance not reaching most vulnerable

Disaster risk reduction

Snaith has been devastated by flooding - but there are plans for 800 more homes

Sandy coastlines under threat of erosion

Putting a price on the protective power of wetlands

Why Some COVID-19 Cases Are Worse than Others

When will Taupo's next 'super-eruption' happen?

Americans Are Paying $34 Billion Too Much for Houses in Flood Plains

Iowa flood victims need money for levees, buyouts

Probabilistic Seismic Hazard Analysis at Regional and National Scale: State of the Art and Future Challenges

Mass data processing of time series Landsat imagery: pixels to data products for forest monitoring

Australian scientists are developing a satellite that can better identify where bushfires might start

Race to understand fire lessons as another 'significant' season looms

A new algorithm can forecast the flow of floodwater in almost real-time, a new study shows

Australia's dedicated bushfire research centre on the brink of closure despite deadly summer fires

How Computer Modeling Of COVID-19's Spread Could Help Fight The Virus

UK Government's approach to managing flood risk inquiry launched

Tasman fires: New Zealand's new norm?'s-new-norm

A low-cost flood alert and water monitoring system in African cities

Almost real-time flood prediction tool may boost emergency response during hurricanes

Latest edition of Molino Stewart’s “Floodplain Manager newsletter

San Diego At Risk For Devastating Earthquake Damage, New Report Says

Emergency management

Coronavirus tracked: The latest figures as the outbreak spreads

UK flooding: residents in east Yorkshire struggle to recover

Australian bushfires finally extinguished

Reflecting on a Tumultuous Amazon Fire Season

Coronavirus: New European cases soar as China infections and deaths drop

Fla. Communities Get More Than $2B In Hurricane Recovery, Mitigation Funds

Bushfires likely to have killed about 5,000 koalas in NSW, report finds

Before and after images highlight the severity of tornado destruction in Nashville

AFAC NRSC numbers from Australia's largest deployment's-largest-deployment

NSW Memorial Service honours lives lost

Disaster education, communications and engagement

The California Photographer Who Has Shot More Than 100 Wildfires

Resilient Australia Awards open

Google and Facebook are using their platforms and working with government agencies and other emergency services partners to deliver real-time assistance and warnings to disaster prone communities

Latest Fire Australia magazine online

Psychology and Disasters

Managing traumatic stress: After a tornado

The Panic Myth: What Does the Research Say and What Can Practitioners Do?

Risk judgments and social norms: Do they relate to preparedness after the Kaikōura earthquake?

Sociology and disasters

How Natural Hazards Impact the Social Environment for Vulnerable Groups: An Empirical Investigation in Japan

Sociology and the Climate Crisis


Get disaster resilience updates at

Get climate change updates at

If you have any links you wish to share please send them to:

 Neil Dufty

Principal, Molino Stewart Pty Ltd

E-mail: [email protected]


Follow us on Twitter @molinostewart

Find out more about The International Emergency Management Society (TIEMS) at

Support for this initiative provided by Molino Stewart Pty Ltd If you wish to subscribe or unsubsribe please send an email to [email protected].au

Subscribe to Molino Stewart’s free monthly newsletter ‘Floodplain Manager’ by registering your interest at [email protected]

Floodplain Manager February 2020


Several articles and resources this month report on the factors behind the increasing number of homes exposed to flooding in the UK including climate change, failing flood defences and, most tellingly, new development in highly flood prone areas.  It seems staggering that with the knowledge we have about flooding today that land is being rezoned for residential purposes in areas with a high probability of flooding.

I hope that in Australia we have moved on from that.  Where I believe we need to be focusing our attention is what to do with land which was developed for housing and other urban development before the local flood risks were properly understood or current flood standards adopted.  We also need to think beyond the “designated flood” or “planning level flood” and take into account in our decision-making the consequences of less frequent flood events.

I am therefore pleased to report that Toowoomba Regional Council has adopted amendments to its Regional Planning Scheme which has resulted in the “back zoning” of thousands of properties which are not suitable for urban development because of their risk of frequent flooding.  This follows years of flood investigations and community engagement across the region as part of its award-winning Toowoomba Region Flood Management – Safer Stronger, More Resilient Region which it implemented after being devastated by flooding in 2011.  Taking such as step is politically brave and not without its risks.  I am proud of the small contribution that Molino Stewart made to that project.

We also share with you this month links to a book and a podcast about the relocation of Grantham following the 2011 floods.  This is an example of taking into account the consequences of flooding beyond the “designated flood” to decide that the town needed to be built in a different location.  Tragically, it was only after many people lost their lives in the 2011 floods that the consequences of the more extreme floods were properly understood and even then, as the book and podcast reveal, relocating the town was not straightforward or universally accepted. Often we make the consequences of extreme floods worse by the mitigation measures we provide against frequent floods.  An example of this is the “levee paradox” where the construction of a levee can lead to over development and complacency behind the levee such that when the levee is overtopped the consequences are catastrophic.  Interestingly, we report on some research that has been able to quantify that effect in a case study.

And then there is the question of whether rather than “back zone” it is better to “up zone” and encourage urban renewal to replace frequently flooded bungalows with rarely flooded apartments.  This then raises the vexed question of isolation by floodwaters and whether sheltering in a building during a flood is desirable or practical.  This was the subject of a presentation I made to the Gold Coast Regional Group of Engineers Australia in February and is something I believe as a profession we need to wrestle with further.

Steven Molino

Articles related to February 2020

Related - Floodplain Manager February 2020

Floods Extinguish the Fires: NSW

The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) reported 391.6 mm of rain for Sydney between 7 and 10 February, which set the record for the highest average rainfall for February and the city’s wettest period since 1990.

Read more
The NSW State Emergency Service (NSW SES) received 1,393 calls for help and undertook 15 flood rescues as flash floods caused damage to homes and left thousands without power across NSW. Authorities issued evacuation orders on 9 February for towns along the Hawkesbury River including Pitt Town Bottoms and Richmond Lowlands.  Evacuation orders were also issued for Moorebank, Chipping Norton and Milperra along the Georges River on 11 February. The rainfall was good news for dam inflow as Warragamba Dam received almost 100 mm in the 32 hours to 7 February after months of water restrictions. Meanwhile, the rail network was severely affected by rains which triggered a landslide at Leura in the Blue Mountains causing damage that could take months to rectify (Read here, here and here).

Floods Extinguish the Fires: Queensland

Several areas of Queensland’s Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast were exposed to heavy rain and flooding in early February.

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According to the BoM, Marcoola recorded 231.8 mm, Nambour 200.8 mm and Southport 177 mm of rain in a 24-hour period to 13 February. Flood warnings were issued for communities near the Coomera River at Oxenford, where river levels rose to over three metres, well above the major flood level (2.5 metres). One person died after being swept away by floodwaters in Conondale, whilst another woman was reported missing on 12 February in the Tallebudgera Valley and was found alive and well five days later close to where she was last seen. Queensland State Emergency Service undertook 19 swift water rescues and responded to over 300 callouts. Meanwhile in the Sunshine Coast town of Coolum, forty residents of an aged care facility were evacuated as flash flooding threatened to inundate parts of the building. Widespread power outages were experienced across the state with approximately 2,000 customers affected (Read here, here and here).

Port Lincoln Goes Under

The Port Lincoln region in South Australia is facing large damage bills following a deluge on 1 February.

Read more
The weather station at the marina recorded 76.2 mm of rain in just 40 minutes and approximately 27 megalitres of water was pumped from the city’s three pumping stations. Floodwaters carried away cars, damaged over 75 homes, and soiled the cities foreshore. Port Lincoln Council has responded by trucking in clean sand from clean beaches to reduce the risk of contamination from the flood waters (Read here).

BoM Tailors Flood Warnings for Graziers

In the wake of the Queensland floods which killed more than 500,000 cattle, the BoM has responded to feedback collected from the livestock industry in order to tailor flood warnings.

Read more
The Northern Australia Climate Program has analysed feedback from the livestock industry on the warnings the BoM put out during the 2019 floods. The response from graziers was that they wanted more warning that cold weather was coming so they could stock up on fodder and supplements for their cattle. The BoM has taken this on board and has also included river heights related to those experienced during previous floods in order to better inform and relate to local graziers (Read here, here).

Argument over who has access to Floodwaters

Following a meeting between NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey and the irrigation industry for the Barwon-Darling River, a three week embargo on floodplain harvesting was announced to give the river system the full benefit of the recent rainfall.

Read more
However, the embargo has been shrouded in controversy as it was temporarily lifted for upstream irrigators after more than 250 mm of rain fell over the Gwydir and Namoi valleys causing flash flooding. The temporary lift enabled farmers to harvest and redistribute floodplain waters to reduce damage to farm infrastructure such as gates, pumps, levees or banks. Whereas downstream irrigators expressed frustration at the decision to lift the embargo as Australian Floodplain Association chairman Justin McClure said “…there was no such consultation with downstream users about the benefits of not lifting the embargo”. McClure continued that by “giving some farmers authority to direct floodwaters into their private storages, the government had failed to maximise the first flush of the river” (Read here ).

Flood Amendments to Toowoomba Planning Scheme Adopted

Toowoomba Regional Council’s Planning and Development Committee recommended adopting amendment number 17 to the Toowoomba Region Planning Scheme which relates to region-wide management of flood risk.

Read more
The amendment is the culmination of numerous flood studies and extensive community consultation in the region over the past five years. The proposed amendment ensures that measures such as building design standards are in place to control future development in flood-affected areas, to minimise risk to people and property and prevent worsening flooding. The committee recommended that Council uses provisions in the Planning Act 2016 that exempts Council from potential claims for compensation in relation to the new development controls. The exemption is likely to relate to 2,366 properties in seven high flood risk towns, although these properties are mostly community facilities and public zones thus unlikely to be affected by reduced property values, higher insurance prices and reduced saleability. The Real Estate Institute of Queensland has advised that flood related impacts on property value and sales relate more to flood events rather than the designation of flood risk by Council (Read more here).

Who Bears the Cost of Climate-related Disasters?

As more frequent climate extremes are set to occur in the future, the question arises as to how government and insurers will continue to meet costs and who is ultimately responsible.

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The financial costs associated with disasters includes tangible damages such as buildings, contents and infrastructure but also many intangible costs such as loss of life and health impacts, social impacts and loss of ecosystem services . For example, the Australian Business Roundtable in 2016 found that for the 2011 Queensland Floods (FM 2011) the social impacts outweighed the direct financial impacts by $3.9 billion to $3.1 billion.  While much of the direct financial impacts may be covered by insurance payments and federal government assistance to replace or repair damaged infrastructure, the  Government’s 13-week Disaster Recovery Allowance for loss of employment or other income  and support from not-for-profits falls well short of what is needed to cover the indirect costs. With insurers increasing premiums to cover expected losses in high risk areas (FM December 2019 – January 2020) and other natural disasters depleting Government coffers, it will fall increasingly upon individuals to carry their own individual losses from floods. This is only likely to worsen with climate change (Read more here ).

Insurers Flooded with Claims

The Insurance Council of Australia has declared a catastrophe for property loss after receiving 21,000 claims associated with the February east coast floods with damage costs estimated to be approximately $100 million.

Read more
Additionally, Suncorp Group announced that it had received 10 times as many claims for wet weather events like floods and storms than it did for bushfires in the period between July 2019 and January 2020. Insurance analysts predict that with more than two months left of the 2020 cyclone season, the number of claims is expected to increase (Read more here and here).

Man Rescued from Floodwaters After Clinging to a Tree for Ten Hours

The Bega Valley SES rescued a man from the Brogo River near Bega, NSW after he had been clinging to a tree for 10 hours.

Read more
The SES responded to a callout early in the morning of 10 February, as a passer-by had spotted the man clinging to a tree in the heavily flooded river. It is unclear why the man had entered the floodwaters, with local SES Commander Michelle De Frisbom stating that: “He was suffering the effects of hypothermia”(Read more here) .

Tailoring LTFRI to Better Explain Flood Risk

The UK’s Environment Agency has used public feedback to modify its Long Term Flood Risk Information (LTFRI) service to improve its value in terms of raising public awareness and understanding of surface water flooding.

Read more

Feedback provided during the trial phase of the LTFRI in 2016 revealed that users found it difficult to locate their property using the postcode function, and largely disagreed with the flood risk assigned to their property. The former was rectified by a newer government database using address over postcode. The reasons that users disagreed with the LTFRI classification of their property were: there was a lack of flood history at the property, they were not located close to a waterbody, they lacked understanding of flood terminology, and they were frustrated that the LTFRI could increase insurance premiums and deter potential buyers. The team behind LTFRI responded by making explicit statements about the severity of risk at the property, which agency was responsible for management, and used more relatable terms such as flash flooding. The output for each property was also updated to include recommendations of how to prepare for flooding, how people can protect their properties, and how to find out about insurance and moving house (Read more here ).

First Ever Red Weather Warning Issued in New Zealand Amid Toxic Floodwater Fears

New Zealand’s Met Service issued its first ever red weather warning after a deluge in parts of the South Island cut off roads and forced the evacuation of 2,000 people.

Read more
Police led evacuations across the region, including the entire towns of Mataura and Wyndham, and much of the town of Gore which saw 700 mm of rain in 24 hours. There was serious concern for a paper mill in Mataura where stored chemicals could have released toxic ammonia gas if it came into contact with water. In Milford Sound, 200 tourists were evacuated by helicopter from the township after flood waters cut-off main access roads following 1,000 mm of rain which fell in a 60 hour period (Read more here).

Flooding Class Action in Jakarta Delayed as Complainant Representatives Fail to Show

On 13 January, 243 residents filed a class action against Jakartan Governor Annies (FM December 2019/January 2020), however the first hearing was delayed as three of the five complainant representatives failed to show.

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Further to this, the flood case is likely to be drawn out and complicated and is unlikely to be able to prove civil liability. Legal experts believe that the case will be judged based on article 1365 of the Civil Code which states that “any person who causes damage and/or loss to another party by means of an unlawful act must, because of his or her fault in causing the loss, compensate for that loss”. The difficulty could be proving that the Governor acted in an unlawful manner with regard to the victims of the recent floods. The complainants have two weeks to replace the missing representatives in time for the formal examination set to occur late in February (Read more here ).

Widespread Criticism as Flood Defences Fail Across the UK

In the wake of widespread flooding across the UK, many have criticised the lack of control over floodplain development and a shortage of floodplain management funding.

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Flooding in the wake of recent Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis in the UK damaged over 550 homes and cut rail and road routes across the transport network. On 16 February the Environment Agency had issued a record 594 flood warnings or alerts. In light of this, only 1% of government infrastructure spending in England is set to go towards flood defences, and this is disproportionality allocated to London and the South East of England, and not to the worse hit areas in the north of the country. Further exacerbating the number of people exposed to flooding is the fact that one in ten homes built since 2013 are built on land at the highest risk of flooding. It is likely that the increased demand for housing has resulted in the relaxation of planning laws which permits building in higher risk areas. It is estimated that 84,000 homes are already at risk following the government’s promise to build 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s(Read more here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

New Flood Prevention Technology Testing Facility Opens in UK

The Green Infrastructure Facility, which is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), allows engineers to test new technologies that can slow flooding in the event of extreme rainfall.

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The ten hectare area located in Newcastle, England will host a range of natural engineering systems including green roofs, rain gardens, and a full-scale swale fitted with a series of ‘leaky barriers’ designed to hold back floodwaters. The systems will be monitored by a network of sensors and cameras designed to detect water levels, soil moisture levels, precipitation and other meteorological conditions. The data collected will be analysed by Newcastle University’s Urban Observatory, to inform future flood management decisions. Naturally engineered schemes tested at this facility are hoped to supplement and alleviate pressure on physical flood defences by dispersing excess water from extreme rainfall and reducing flood risk (Read more here ).

Wildlife Flood Evacuation Corridor

Since 2016, the Yolo County Resource Conservation District in California has been leading a project to improve flood escape for wildlife, implement agriculture-compatible restoration, and engage the public.

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The Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area (YBWA) in Sacramento Valley, California is frequently affected by winter flooding which regularly isolates deer, migratory water birds, and ground nesting bird species. The project aims to create eight kilometres of cover corridors through farmland to protect wildlife escaping flood events. The corridors are also hoped to enhance year-round habitat for migratory birds, pollinators and other wildlife, provide a public-access demonstration planting, and increase awareness and appreciation of the YBWA and its ecological values and functions (Read more here ).

Planting Perennials into Flood-Prone Areas

An article published in the American Institute of Biological Sciences has proposed planting perennial crops in flood-prone areas as a more economically sustainable alternative to annuals.

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Modern farming techniques such as wetland draining has decreased the water storage capacity of floodplains across the USA leading to a predicted decrease in annual row crop yields by up to 46%. The researchers suggest that by integrating perennials into wetter portions of the agricultural landscape, it may be possible to add water storage by removing drains from lowlands, reconnecting rivers to their floodplains, and restoring oxbows. Planting perennials may also provide farmers with a more reliable economic alternative as they are hardier in terms of flood tolerance, have a higher probability of achieving higher yield in a more frequently flooded landscape, and are beneficial in retaining soil integrity and nutrients (Read more here ).

The Levee Paradox Quantified

An article published in the Journal of Regional Climate Change has demonstrated the unintended consequences of structural flood protection in terms of increasing complacency and flood mortality.

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he researchers used the Jamuna River floodplain in Bangladesh as a case study to investigate what is commonly referred to as the “Levee Paradox”. The river has a levee which is only constructed and maintained on the right bank thus the researchers could compare the differences across a variety of factors according to which side of the river the population was sampled from. The study included a comparative analysis of rural areas with and without flood protection in terms of variables such as population density, human settlements, and flood fatalities. Results showed that population density and human settlements exposed to flooding were higher in areas of greater flood protection. Similarly, it was found that areas with better flood protection had higher rates of flood mortalities following the 2017 floods than areas with lower levels of flood protection. The findings suggest that some flood risk management approaches may unintentionally increase the risk to human life as a result of increasing complacency and instilling a false sense of security (Read more here ).

Typology of Community Flood Resilience Capacity

An article published in the Journal of Regional Climate Change sets out a typology of community flood resilience capacity to better understand the co-benefits of investments in disaster resilience.

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The researchers conducted an analysis of community characteristics and five capitals (human, financial, natural, physical, and social) to investigate the relationship between flood resilience and development conditions. The results showed that highest flood resilience capacity was found in communities with a well-balanced household income distribution. The researchers also found that stronger interactions between community capacities could help to facilitate multiple co-benefits when investing in flood resilience. The study highlighted the diversity of community types that need investment in enhancing their flood resilience, while considering the community-specific constraints in terms of human, financial, natural, physical, and social capitals (Read more here ).

Army Corps Not Liable for Downstream Flooding

In stark contrast to the court ruling of last December (FM December 2019/January 2020), the Army Corps of Engineers cannot be held responsible for flooding that occurred downstream of Texas reservoirs during Hurricane Harvey.

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Senior Judge Loren Smith has rejected landowners’ claims that the government should have ensured the protection of their Houston homes following Hurricane Harvey on the grounds that the event was “an Act of God”. The fact that the gates of the dams had been closed to ensure the protection of their homes and that “mitigation failed because the impounded storm waters exceeded the Reservoirs’ controllable capacity, and that the Harvey was the sole and proximate cause of the floodwaters” was grounds to reject their claims. The downstream landowners plan to appeal this decision on grounds that it conflicts with the ruling made for homeowners upstream of the dam in the same event (Read more here).

Comparing Top-Down and Bottom-Up Paradigms for Global Flood Hazard Mapping

The prevalence of using global floodplain maps for the identification of flood risk hotspots or the mapping of flood-prone areas is increasing, thus a recent paper has compared the most frequently used paradigms.

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The top-down paradigm is based on a definition of the floodplain as the area falling within the extent of a given flood event. These synthetic events with given probability of occurrence or return period are typically estimated via hydrological modelling or statistical analysis of flood data. Alternatively, the bottom-up paradigm floodplains are identified directly from the topography and are assumed to have been shaped by past flooding events. The researchers identify the pros and cons of both paradigms in terms of global flood hazard mapping. For example, whilst top-down paradigms have the scope to provides additional variables, such as maximum flow depth, velocity and volume they are sensitive to data scarcity, unlike bottom-up approaches, which may make them less favourable in poor-data areas. The researchers identify the opposing positive and negatives of the two paradigms and suggest a unified approach to hazard mapping to provide a more complete view of flood risk hotspots worldwide (Read more here).

International Floods

There were 22 international floods reported across 21 countries throughout February 2020. At least 77 people died and over 32,000 were displaced.

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Internationally significant floods included:


At least 40 people died and were 15,000 displaced following flooding in the Lindi Mwanza, Morogoro and Manyara regions, Tanzania. Flooding that began in late January destroyed 1,746 houses. Many of the affected areas are only accessible by boat with authorities fearing that the risk of waterborne disease could increase due to contaminated water sources. Elsewhere, the Nyumba ya Mungu dam located in the Mwanga District in the northern Kilimanjaro Region has overflown prompting the evacuation of 25,000 residents. (Read more here, here, and here).


Storms and heavy rain starting in early February have triggered flooding and landslides in the country’s capital, Kigali. At least 13 people have died and 15 homes have been completely destroyed. Emergency service boats have rescued countless people stranded due to flood water in the city and surrounding areas. (Read more here ).


The flood situation in Burundi continued (FM Dec/Jan 2020) as 11,000 people are thought to have been displaced in several provinces including Bujumbura Mairie, Bujumbura Rural and Bubanza. Almost 10,000 of that total are in Mutimbuzi commune in Bujumbura Rural Province, where the overflowing Rusizi River has damaged or destroyed over 3,000 homes. (Read more here ).


Submissions Now Open for the Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience (AIDR) Resilient Australia Awards
Submissions close 18 May 2020
For more information visit here

Monte Carlo Design Flood Estimation Using RORB Workshop Event
Where: Perth, Western Australia
When: 24 March, 2020
For more information visit here

FRIAR 2020 International Conference on Flood and Urban Water Management
Where: Valencia, Spain
When: 11-13 May 2020
For more information visit here

2020 Floodplain Management Australia Conference
Where: Empire Theatre, Toowoomba, QLD
When: 19-22 May, 2020
For more information visit here

2020 Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM) Annual National Conference
Where: Fort Worth, Texas, USA
When: 7-12 June 2020
For more information visit here

2020 International Conference on Flood Management
Where: The University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, USA
When: 17-19 August, 2020
For more information visit here

FLOODrisk 2020 European Conference on Flood Risk Management
Where: Budapest, Hungary
When: 31 August – 4 September 2020
For more information visit here


Podcast and Book Discuss the Relocation of Gratham, Qld Post-Flood

An ABC conversations podcast has recently released its second instalment of the story of Grantham, Qld following the devastating floods in 2011. Part two of the podcast details the steps taken to achieve the promise made by Mayor Steve Jones to relocate Grantham to higher ground with the help of Jamie Simmons. Jamie has published a book documenting the momentous effort taken to motivate and lead a community fractured by tragedy and loss to achieve a seemingly insurmountable and extraordinary task. Listen to the ABC Conversations Podcast here. A copy of Jamie’s book can be purchased here.

Flood Planning for Disaster Resilience Handbook

The Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience (AIDR) is developing the new Flood Planning for Disaster Resilience Handbook which should be available April 2020. The handbook will provide guidance on national principles and practices in flood planning for disaster resilience in Australia and replace the four flood manuals previously published in 2009:  Flood Preparedness; Flood Warning; Flood Response; and Emergency Management for Planning for Floods Affected by Dams. (Click here).

Townsville Workshop Presentations Available Online

Floodplain Management Australia (FMA) has announced that the workshop presentations from the regional meeting in Townsville, Qld in November 2019 are now available online. The presentations relate to information regarding the devastating 2019 February monsoon floods. (Click here).

Report Examines How Cimate Change is Impacting UK Homes

The Climate Coalition report, backed by research from Priestley International Centre for Climate Change, finds that extreme rainfall has increased by 40%, and the number of people in the UK facing floods during the winter is more than the population of Birmingham and Manchester combined. The report provides information to homeowners to make their houses more energy-efficient and improve flood defences in vulnerable areas.(Click here).

Retrofitting Buildings to be More Flood Resilient

A recently published retrofitting guide offers advice on the nature of flood risk, and a visual demonstration for adapting built and natural environments to better cope with increasing flood risk. The guide includes illustrations demonstrating retrofitting options to make a home more flood resistant and recoverable. (Click here)

Floods Maps of Europe Predict Areas Likely to Become Flood-Prone Under Climate Change

A series of detailed maps based on different greenhouse gas emissions scenarios and climate models have been published by the European Environmental Agency. The maps show the future effects of key climate hazards such as floods and sea level rise around Europe and beyond. (Click here).