Articles | Volume 9, issue 5
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 9, 1679–1692, 2009

Special issue: Risk management of extreme flood events

Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 9, 1679–1692, 2009

  14 Oct 2009

14 Oct 2009

Is flow velocity a significant parameter in flood damage modelling?

H. Kreibich1, K. Piroth2, I. Seifert1, H. Maiwald3, U. Kunert4, J. Schwarz3, B. Merz1, and A. H. Thieken5 H. Kreibich et al.
  • 1Helmholtz Centre Potsdam German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ), Hydrology Section, Potsdam, Germany
  • 2ARCADIS Consult GmbH, Karlsruhe, Germany
  • 3Earthquake Damage Analysis Center (EDAC), Institute of Structural Engineering, Bauhaus-University Weimar, Weimar, Germany
  • 4Deutsches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung (DIW Berlin), Berlin, Germany
  • 5alpS – Centre for Natural Hazard and Risk Management GmbH and Leopold-Franzens-University Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria

Abstract. Flow velocity is generally presumed to influence flood damage. However, this influence is hardly quantified and virtually no damage models take it into account. Therefore, the influences of flow velocity, water depth and combinations of these two impact parameters on various types of flood damage were investigated in five communities affected by the Elbe catchment flood in Germany in 2002. 2-D hydraulic models with high to medium spatial resolutions were used to calculate the impact parameters at the sites in which damage occurred. A significant influence of flow velocity on structural damage, particularly on roads, could be shown in contrast to a minor influence on monetary losses and business interruption. Forecasts of structural damage to road infrastructure should be based on flow velocity alone. The energy head is suggested as a suitable flood impact parameter for reliable forecasting of structural damage to residential buildings above a critical impact level of 2 m of energy head or water depth. However, general consideration of flow velocity in flood damage modelling, particularly for estimating monetary loss, cannot be recommended.