How reliable are projections of future flood damage

P. Bubeck, H. de Moel, L.M. Bouwer, J.C.J.H. Aerts

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Flood damage modelling is an important component in flood risk management, and several studies have investigated the possible range of flood damage in the coming decades. Generally, flood damage assessments are still characterized by considerable uncertainties in stage-damage functions and methodological differences in estimating exposed asset values. The high variance that is commonly associated with absolute flood damage assessments is the reason for the present study that investigates the reliability of estimates of relative changes in the development of potential flood damage. While studies that estimate (relative) changes in flood damage over time usually address uncertainties resulting from different projections (e.g. land-use characteristics), the influence of different flood damage modelling approaches on estimates of relative changes in the development of flood damage is largely unknown. In this paper, we evaluate the reliability of estimates of relative changes in flood damage along the river Rhine between 1990 and 2030 in terms of different flood-damage modelling approaches. The results show that relative estimates of flood damage developments differ by a factor of 1.4. These variations, which result from the application of different modelling approaches, are considerably smaller than differences between the approaches in terms of absolute damage estimates (by a factor of 3.5 to 3.8), or than differences resulting from land-use projections (by a factor of 3). The differences that exist when estimating relative changes principally depend on the differences in damage functions. In order to improve the reliability of relative estimates of changes in the development of potential flood damage, future research should focus on reducing the uncertainties related to damage functions. © Author(s) 2011.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3293-3306
JournalNatural Hazards and Earth System Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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