Articles | Volume 23, issue 2
Research article
 | Highlight paper
07 Mar 2023
Research article | Highlight paper |  | 07 Mar 2023

A climate-conditioned catastrophe risk model for UK flooding

Paul D. Bates, James Savage, Oliver Wing, Niall Quinn, Christopher Sampson, Jeffrey Neal, and Andrew Smith


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The NHESS paper “A climate-conditioned catastrophe risk model for UK flooding” by Bates and colleagues presents and validates a new flood model for the UK that simulates pluvial, fluvial and coastal flood risks at a resolution of 20 to 25 metres. The authors then use their scheme to estimate the probability-loss distribution for UK flooding under various future climate and policy scenarios. Their paper provides the most detailed and realistic analysis to date of current and future flood risk in the UK. The key findings of their work are: (1) Previous UK flood losses based on government data and used in national climate change risk assessments are overestimated by a factor of about 3. (2) Official UK estimates lie well outside the paper's modelled loss distribution, which is plausibly centred on the observations. (3) The UK 1% annual probability flood losses were only about 6% greater in the average climate conditions of 2020 than for the period of historical river flow and rainfall observations (centred approximately on 1995). (4) Increases in risk can be kept to around ~8% if all COP26 2030 carbon emission reduction pledges and ‘net zero’ commitments are implemented in full. (5) Implementing only the COP26 pledges increases UK 1% annual probability flood losses by ~23% above recent historical values, and potentially ~37% if climate sensitivity turns out to be higher than currently thought.
Short summary
We present and validate a model that simulates current and future flood risk for the UK at high resolution (~ 20–25 m). We show that UK flood losses were ~ 6 % greater in the climate of 2020 compared to recent historical values. The UK can keep any future increase to ~ 8 % if all countries implement their COP26 pledges and net-zero ambitions in full. However, if only the COP26 pledges are fulfilled, then UK flood losses increase by ~ 23 %; and potentially by ~ 37 % in a worst-case scenario.
Final-revised paper