Articles | Volume 16, issue 6
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 16, 1401–1411, 2016
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 16, 1401–1411, 2016

Research article 16 Jun 2016

Research article | 16 Jun 2016

Modelling the socio-economic impact of river floods in Europe

Lorenzo Alfieri1, Luc Feyen1, Peter Salamon1, Jutta Thielen1, Alessandra Bianchi1, Francesco Dottori1, and Peter Burek1,2 Lorenzo Alfieri et al.
  • 1Institute for Environment and Sustainability, European Commission – Joint Research Centre, 21027 Ispra, Italy
  • 2International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), 2361 Laxenburg, Austria

Abstract. River floods generate a large share of the socio-economic impact of weather-driven hazards worldwide. Accurate assessment of their impact is a key priority for governments, international organization, reinsurance companies and emergency responders. Yet, available databases of flood losses over large domains are often affected by gaps and inconsistencies in reported figures. In this work, a framework to reconstruct the economic damage and population affected by river floods at continental scale is applied. Pan-European river flow simulations are coupled with a high-resolution impact assessment framework based on 2-D inundation modelling. Two complementary methods are compared in their ability to estimate the climatological average flood impact and the impact of each flood event in Europe between 1990 and 2013. The event-based method reveals key features, such as the ability to include changes in time of all three components of risk, namely hazard, exposure and vulnerability. Furthermore, it skilfully reproduces the socio-economic impact of major flood events in the past two decades, including the severe flooding hitting central Europe in June 2013. On the other hand, the integral method is capable of reproducing the average flood losses which occurred in Europe between 1998 and 2009. Strengths and limitations of the proposed model are discussed to stress the large potential for filling in the gaps of current datasets of flood impact.

Short summary
This work couples recent advances in large scale flood hazard mapping into a pan-European flood risk model to estimate the impact of river floods in a seamless simulation, covering more than two decades. Results of this research are an important contribution in the reconstruction of a complete dataset of flood impact data. Also, it has direct implications in the area of flood early warning with regard to the rapid risk assessment of flood impacts.
Final-revised paper