AbstractsGeography &GIS

Coastal floods inview of sea level rise

by Markus Böttle

Institution: Universität Potsdam
Year: 2016
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2122090
Full text PDF: https://publishup.uni-potsdam.de/opus4-ubp/frontdoor/index/index/docId/9107


The sea level rise induced intensification of coastal floods is a serious threat to many regions in proximity to the ocean. Although severe flood events are rare they can entail enormous damage costs, especially when built-up areas are inundated. Fortunately, the mean sea level advances slowly and there is enough time for society to adapt to the changing environment. Most commonly, this is achieved by the construction or reinforcement of flood defence measures such as dykes or sea walls but also land use and disaster management are widely discussed options. Overall, albeit the projection of sea level rise impacts and the elaboration of adequate response strategies is amongst the most prominent topics in climate impact research, global damage estimates are vague and mostly rely on the same assessment models. The thesis at hand contributes to this issue by presenting a distinctive approach which facilitates large scale assessments as well as the comparability of results across regions. Moreover, we aim to improve the general understanding of the interplay between mean sea level rise, adaptation, and coastal flood damage. Our undertaking is based on two basic building blocks. Firstly, we make use of macroscopic flood-damage functions, i.e. damage functions that provide the total monetary damage within a delineated region (e.g. a city) caused by a flood of certain magnitude. After introducing a systematic methodology for the automatised derivation of such functions, we apply it to a total of 140 European cities and obtain a large set of damage curves utilisable for individual as well as comparative damage assessments. By scrutinising the resulting curves, we are further able to characterise the slope of the damage functions by means of a functional model. The proposed function has in general a sigmoidal shape but exhibits a power law increase for the relevant range of flood levels and we detect an average exponent of 3.4 for the considered cities. This finding represents an essential input for subsequent elaborations on the general interrelations of involved quantities. The second basic element of this work is extreme value theory which is employed to characterise the occurrence of flood events and in conjunction with a damage function provides the probability distribution of the annual damage in the area under study. The resulting approach is highly flexible as it assumes non-stationarity in all relevant parameters and can be easily applied to arbitrary regions, sea level, and adaptation scenarios. For instance, we find a doubling of expected flood damage in the city of Copenhagen for a rise in mean sea levels of only 11 cm. By following more general considerations, we succeed in deducing surprisingly simple functional expressions to describe the damage behaviour in a given region for varying mean sea levels, changing storm intensities, and supposed protection levels. We are thus able to project future flood damage by means of a reduced set of parameters, namely the aforementioned damage function exponent and the… Advisors/Committee Members: Kropp, Jürgen P. (advisor).