As climate change continues to cause unpredictable and extreme weather events around the world, Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University researchers are calling for engineers to rethink how they design for flood prevention.

2021-06-03_01Flood

In a recently published paper in the Journal of Hydrology, PhD student Mengzhu Chen and Dean of XJTLU’s Design School, Dr Konstantinos Papadikis, analysed historical flood series and meteorological data from 158 catchment areas across the UK.

They found that flood series in most areas do not follow historical patterns. This finding directly challenges the use of a type of analysis that focuses on how often floods occurred in an area in the past. Flood frequency analysis has been the cornerstone of flood risk control, hydraulic structure design, and water resource management.

“Conventional methods for flood frequency analysis fail to take into account the volatile nature of floods caused by climate change, human intervention, and land-use changes,” Chen says.

“This is because the method uses the ‘stationary assumption’ – an assumption that relies on historical data to predict the frequency of floods and assumes that floods will occur within an unchanging range.

“In recent years, we have seen increased frequency of extreme weather, which has made the stationary assumption questionable. Our study demonstrates that in many parts of the UK, floods series are no longer following historical patterns, making it more unpredictable.”

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