Articles | Volume 16, issue 5
Research article
25 May 2016
Research article |  | 25 May 2016

Damage functions for climate-related hazards: unification and uncertainty analysis

Boris F. Prahl, Diego Rybski, Markus Boettle, and Jürgen P. Kropp

Abstract. Most climate change impacts manifest in the form of natural hazards. Damage assessment typically relies on damage functions that translate the magnitude of extreme events to a quantifiable damage. In practice, the availability of damage functions is limited due to a lack of data sources and a lack of understanding of damage processes. The study of the characteristics of damage functions for different hazards could strengthen the theoretical foundation of damage functions and support their development and validation. Accordingly, we investigate analogies of damage functions for coastal flooding and for wind storms and identify a unified approach. This approach has general applicability for granular portfolios and may also be applied, for example, to heat-related mortality. Moreover, the unification enables the transfer of methodology between hazards and a consistent treatment of uncertainty. This is demonstrated by a sensitivity analysis on the basis of two simple case studies (for coastal flood and storm damage). The analysis reveals the relevance of the various uncertainty sources at varying hazard magnitude and on both the microscale and the macroscale level. Main findings are the dominance of uncertainty from the hazard magnitude and the persistent behaviour of intrinsic uncertainties on both scale levels. Our results shed light on the general role of uncertainties and provide useful insight for the application of the unified approach.

Short summary
Damage functions are an essential tool for vulnerability assessment and the quantification of disaster loss. They are often tailored to specific hazards and regions, which complicates knowledge transfer between different hazards and places. In our work, we unify approaches for climate-related hazards, e.g. for storms and coastal floods. A unified damage function is embedded in an uncertainty framework, where we identify the dominating sources of uncertainty on local and regional scales.
Final-revised paper