Supporting University Students for the Advancement of Flood Science

August 2, 20160 Comments

Supporting academic institutions and students in scientific flood research

Ambiental has developed strong partnerships with many academic institutions over the years. The inception of the company was made possible through commercial application of innovative research in flood modelling pioneered at Cambridge University by the Ambiental’s founder and Managing Director Dr Justin Butler PhD.

Ambiental is headquartered within the Innovation Centre on the University of Sussex campus. This has enabled close collaborations through collaborative PhD placements, guest lectures and student apprenticeships. This work has included the disciplines of earth sciences, mathematics and high performance computing. Work placements have also been possible and include ongoing collaborations with the University of Brighton under the Green Growth Platform.

Ambiental has also undertaken frequent collaborations with universities on ground-breaking research and development projects. Partners have included the University of Reading, Portsmouth and more recently with Cranfield, Loughborough, Leicester and Imperial College Universities on projects such as the use of UAVs in flood disaster response.

Ambiental has a history of working with university students to develop novel project ideas which utilise Ambiental’s proprietary data products and expertise of the company. This work can often support the business through validation checks on data accuracy and through applying flood modelling and risk modelling techniques in other parts of the world.

If you are currently a student, or if you represent a University and you are interested in collaborations with Ambiental then we would be delighted to hear from you. We invite you to click here for information on how to contact us.

What follows is a selection of three academic thesis project abstracts for which Ambiental has mentored students and contributed data and knowledge. Ambiental is delighted to support students in their academic pursuits to help them apply flood science and also to enable them to develop a successful career in the flood risk industry.

Analysis of properties at risk of marine flooding on the south east coast of England for a 1-in-100-year return period flood in 2015 and in 2100

Georgia Donati Clarke – University of Sussex – BSc Geography Thesis – 2016

Abstract: This study models tidal flooding on the south east coast of England for a 100-year return period flood. It looks at changes between the same event in 2015 and 2100 using a comparative analysis of depth data and flood maps produced during the modelling. The study aims to identify flood risk areas, compare changes in flood extent and depth and measure changes in the number of properties at risk. It finds that a change between 2015 and 2100 flood depth and extent is highly likely and that there is a clear upwards trend in sea level rise, which will result in more properties being affected by tidal flooding. In particular, New Romney/Romney Marsh is a high risk area and Eastbourne shows a significant increase in the number of properties at risk. Uncertainties are inevitable when using one model to estimate the future climate scenarios. Uncertainty will remain in regards to GHGs emissions, changing event frequency-magnitude distribution, changing storm surge conditions, number of inhabitants, property values and combinations of these and other variables.

Ambiental Comment: Climate change will affect the tidal flood risk threat to the UK. This study looked to quantify this change for the South East and indicated that based on current estimates the number of properties at risk will increase significantly in some locations. This project represents a small part of an ever more complex puzzle as Ambiental looks to model future flood scenarios in the UK and internationally.

Flood Research for Thesis


A Critical Appraisal of Data-Rich versus Data-Poor Locations for the Validation of Historic Catastrophic Flood Events Using Catastrophe Models

Josephine Ann Baulch – University of Portsmouth – MSC Geological and Environmental Hazards – 2015

Abstract: Australia FloodCat™ is a probabilistic catastrophe model recently developed by Ambiental to accurately predict flood risk across the entirety of Australia and Tasmania. During the development process, it is crucial that the accuracy of the model is analysed and validated and the focus of this study was to assess the impact of data quality on the uncertainty of the model. Prior to the catastrophe model being run, two versions of the flood risk model, Australia FloodMap™, were run and the outputs compared to historic flood events at two different locations; the urban version at a data-rich location (Brisbane, Queensland), and the rural version at a data-poor location (Katherine, Northern Territory). These results were then combined with building exposure data within the catastrophe model to provide an economic loss damage report. The Australia FloodMap™ (Urban) outputs correlated very closely to the 2011 Brisbane flood event with very little uncertainty, whereas the Australia FloodMap™ (Rural) outputs showed lesser accuracy to the known losses of the 1998 Katherine flood event with a higher level of uncertainty present. The use of a confusion matrix indicated that there was a significant difference in uncertainty between the two model versions; the similarities in the processes of both versions of Australia FloodMap™ implies that the difference in the quality of the data inputs must be the primary cause of such significant uncertainty variance.

Ambiental comment: This project supported our work of monitoring flood model performance against actual events. The study quantified variations and subsequently informed a part of our continued product improvement programme as we refined our rural model until its predictive accuracy was at a high level. The improved model has since been deployed in FloodCat™ for Australia and has been highly praised by Aon Benfield Impact Forecasting for its highly accurate scenario loss estimates.

Flood risk academic research


A Flood Risk Assessment of England and the Evaluation of the Figures Published in Defra’s Impact Assessment Ia Defra1446: Flood Re

Daniel Packman – University of Portsmouth – MSC Geological and Environmental Hazards 2014

Abstract: As of July 2013 the Statement of Principles, a voluntary agreement between the ABI and the government to ensure the provision of flood insurance for at risk homes in the UK, expired and is now currently still in effect until a viable replacement can be agreed upon. With the increased implementation of flood risk based insurance premiums in the UK the new system needs to allow for a smooth transition from the current state of affairs towards a risk based approach to protect the insurance industry, the housing market and home owners from financial issues. To determine the best course of action Defra published an Impact Assessment comparing four options against a do nothing baseline approach that would allow for a free market to form. The assessment used figures published by the Environment Agency’s National Flood Risk Assessment for the numbers of homes at risk in their calculations. From these calculations and assessments Option 2: Flood Re has been selected as the most viable approach. This thesis has attempted to reproduce a flood risk assessment for England using data supplied by the Environment Agency and the Ordnance Survey to determine the validity of the numbers used within the Impact Assessment. The results obtained through this study do in fact differ from figures quoted by the government by a substantial amount, raising questions about the methodology used by the government to obtain their own figures. This thesis also breaks down the national figure of homes at risk into varying regional levels so a clear picture of the flood risk in England at different resolutions can be observed as well as the effects of flood defences at a regional and local scale.

Ambiental comment: Flood Re represented an important change in how flood insurance operates in the UK. This study was intended to apply alternative techniques to appraise the estimates of properties at risk of flooding prior to the launch of the scheme and utilised data available to Ambiental to validate the claims and suggest alternative approaches to calculating total flood risk in the UK.

Flood mapping academia research

Please contact us for any more information on collaborating with Ambiental.


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About the Author ()

Paul Drury is the GIS Data Manager at Ambiental. His role includes project management of production operations and reporting back to stakeholders. He also oversees the preparation, integration and quality assurance checking of data assets. Paul is an expert in GIS and data analysis with a developed understanding of the environmental data industry and underlying technical concepts. He has a BSc (hons) in Environmental Sciences from the University of Brighton.

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