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Understanding defence failures and coastal flood events: a case study approach

Understanding defence failures and coastal flood events: a case study approach
Understanding defence failures and coastal flood events: a case study approach
Extreme sea level events are a current global threat, whilst sea-level rise (SLR) and climate change over the 21st century will increase the frequency and severity of flooding in most coastal regions. Numerical model simulations can help to understand and predict coastal floods (e.g. flood mapping and forecasting) but in comparison to flood sources (waves and water levels) coastal flood pathways (defence failures and inundation) are presently less integrated within these models. This thesis develops and demonstrates a methodology to rapidly simulate and understand the consequences of coastal flood events, with an emphasis upon regions where the risks of flooding are not well understood and could change quickly with SLR. The Solent on the south coast of England is the case study, and is prone to frequent flooding. This region is currently differentiated from the UK east and west coasts by experiencing smaller storm surges, and is characterised by undefended sections of shoreline and small floodplains. Within the Solent is Portsmouth, a city of national flood significance (only London and Hull contain more people considered at risk of coastal flooding in the UK). However, life threatening floods have not occurred in living memory. An integrated modelling approach is developed, coupling loads and defence failures with two-dimensional simulations of floodplain inundation. Observations collated from a real storm surge and flood event are shown to generate a validation data set, which indicates that this model can predict floodplain water levels to a good level of accuracy, whilst highlighting implications of such data collection. Solent-wide analysis includes simulations of hypothetical coastal flood events based upon scenarios that cover the full range of coastal loadings (realistic waves and water levels) and defence failures (overflow, outflanking, overtopping and breaching). More detailed case-studies are also applied at two sites within the region (including Portsmouth). This analysis generates peak flood water depths and an overview of impacts across this spectrum of possible floods.
This research improves the existing knowledge of coastal flooding in the case study, and highlights a number of generic concepts that should be applied to others. For example the combination of flood simulation methods with real flood event analysis is essential for optimising the interpretation of model outputs whilst supporting inferences about flood consequences associated with extreme loading events (including how these may change with SLR). Simple methods estimated that >24,000 properties are within a 1 in 200 year flood event outline; and incorporating defence failures, flood dynamics, validation and detailed case studies substantially refine the assessment of places likely to experience damages. Breach defence failures generate the worst flood impacts, although in the Solent this failure mechanism is presently less of a threat than outflanking, overflow and wave overtopping. The modelling system includes easily interpreted outputs, whilst being computationally fast; therefore with potential applications including supporting land-use and defence planning, and real-time flood forecasting and warning.
Wadey, Matthew P.
e712b840-f36b-41aa-ae28-d4d81de31831
Wadey, Matthew P.
e712b840-f36b-41aa-ae28-d4d81de31831
Nicholls, Robert
4ce1e355-cc5d-4702-8124-820932c57076

(2013) Understanding defence failures and coastal flood events: a case study approach. University of Southampton, Faculty of Engineering and the Environment, Doctoral Thesis, 235pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

Extreme sea level events are a current global threat, whilst sea-level rise (SLR) and climate change over the 21st century will increase the frequency and severity of flooding in most coastal regions. Numerical model simulations can help to understand and predict coastal floods (e.g. flood mapping and forecasting) but in comparison to flood sources (waves and water levels) coastal flood pathways (defence failures and inundation) are presently less integrated within these models. This thesis develops and demonstrates a methodology to rapidly simulate and understand the consequences of coastal flood events, with an emphasis upon regions where the risks of flooding are not well understood and could change quickly with SLR. The Solent on the south coast of England is the case study, and is prone to frequent flooding. This region is currently differentiated from the UK east and west coasts by experiencing smaller storm surges, and is characterised by undefended sections of shoreline and small floodplains. Within the Solent is Portsmouth, a city of national flood significance (only London and Hull contain more people considered at risk of coastal flooding in the UK). However, life threatening floods have not occurred in living memory. An integrated modelling approach is developed, coupling loads and defence failures with two-dimensional simulations of floodplain inundation. Observations collated from a real storm surge and flood event are shown to generate a validation data set, which indicates that this model can predict floodplain water levels to a good level of accuracy, whilst highlighting implications of such data collection. Solent-wide analysis includes simulations of hypothetical coastal flood events based upon scenarios that cover the full range of coastal loadings (realistic waves and water levels) and defence failures (overflow, outflanking, overtopping and breaching). More detailed case-studies are also applied at two sites within the region (including Portsmouth). This analysis generates peak flood water depths and an overview of impacts across this spectrum of possible floods.
This research improves the existing knowledge of coastal flooding in the case study, and highlights a number of generic concepts that should be applied to others. For example the combination of flood simulation methods with real flood event analysis is essential for optimising the interpretation of model outputs whilst supporting inferences about flood consequences associated with extreme loading events (including how these may change with SLR). Simple methods estimated that >24,000 properties are within a 1 in 200 year flood event outline; and incorporating defence failures, flood dynamics, validation and detailed case studies substantially refine the assessment of places likely to experience damages. Breach defence failures generate the worst flood impacts, although in the Solent this failure mechanism is presently less of a threat than outflanking, overflow and wave overtopping. The modelling system includes easily interpreted outputs, whilst being computationally fast; therefore with potential applications including supporting land-use and defence planning, and real-time flood forecasting and warning.

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More information

Published date: 1 October 2013
Organisations: University of Southampton, Centre for Environmental Science

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 359740
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/359740
PURE UUID: d51f198f-771e-4d68-9ffc-629bdb04a29d
ORCID for Robert Nicholls: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-9715-1109

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 17 Dec 2013 16:26
Last modified: 06 Jun 2018 12:44

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Contributors

Author: Matthew P. Wadey
Thesis advisor: Robert Nicholls ORCID iD

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