A framework for global river flood risk assessments

Winsemius, H. C., Van Beek, L. P. H., Jongman, B., Ward, P. J., & Bouwman, A. (2013). A framework for global river flood risk assessments. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 17(5), 1871-1892.


There is an increasing need for strategic global assessments of flood risks in current and future conditions. In this paper, we propose a framework for global flood risk assessment for river floods, which can be applied in current conditions, as well as in future conditions due to climate and socio-economic changes. The framework’s goal is to establish flood hazard and impact estimates at a high enough resolution to allow for their combination into a risk estimate. The framework estimates hazard at high resolution (~1 km2) using global forcing datasets of the current (or in scenario mode, future) climate, a global hydrological model, a global flood routing model, and importantly, a flood extent downscaling routine. The second component of the framework combines hazard with flood impact models at the same resolution (e.g. damage, affected GDP, and affected population) to establish indicators for flood risk (e.g. annual expected damage, affected GDP, and affected population). The framework has been applied using the global hydrological model PCR-GLOBWB, which includes an optional global flood routing model DynRout, combined with scenarios from the Integrated Model to Assess the Global Environment (IMAGE). We performed downscaling of the hazard probability distributions to 1 km2 resolution with a new downscaling algorithm, applied on Bangladesh as a first case-study application area. We demonstrate the risk assessment approach in Bangladesh based on GDP per capita data, population, and land use maps for 2010 and 2050. Validation of the hazard and damage estimates has been performed using the Dartmouth Flood Observatory database and damage estimates from the EM-DAT database and World Bank sources. We discuss and show sensitivities of the estimated risks with regard to the use of different climate input sets, decisions made in the downscaling algorithm, and different approaches to establish impact models.