Probabilistic flood forecasting and decision-making: An innovative risk-based approach

Murray Dale, Jon Wicks*, Ken Mylne, Florian Pappenberger, Stefan Laeger, Steve Taylor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

59 Citations (Scopus)


Flood forecasting is becoming increasingly important across the world. The exposure of people and property to flooding is increasing and society is demanding improved management of flood risk. At the same time, technological and data advances are enabling improvements in forecasting capabilities. One area where flood forecasting is seeing technical developments is in the use of probabilistic forecasts-these provide a range of possible forecast outcomes that indicate the probability or chance of a flood occurring. While probabilistic forecasts have some distinct benefits, they pose an additional decision-making challenge to those that use them: with a range of forecasts to pick from, which one is right? (or rather, which one(s) can enable me to make the correct decision?). This paper describes an innovative and transferable approach for aiding decision-making with probabilistic forecasts. The proposed risk-based decision-support framework has been tested in a range of flood risk environments: from coastal surge to fluvial catchments to urban storm water scales. The outputs have been designed to be practical and proportionate to the level of flood risk at any location and to be easy to apply in an operational flood forecasting and warning context. The benefits of employing a benefit-cost inspired decision-support framework are that flood forecasting decision-making can be undertaken objectively, with confidence and an understanding of uncertainty, and can save unnecessary effort on flood incident actions. The method described is flexible such that it can be used for a wide range of flood environments with multiple flood incident management actions. It uses a risk-based approach taking into account both the probability and the level of impact of a flood event. A key feature of the framework is that it is based on a full assessment of the flood-related risk, taking into account both the probability and the level of impact of a flood event. A recommendation for action may be triggered by either a higher probability of a lower impact flood or a low probability of a very severe flood. Hence, it is highly innovative as it is the first application of such a risk-based method for flood forecasting and warning purposes. A final benefit is that it is considered to be transferrable to other countries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-172
Number of pages14
JournalNatural Hazards
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Benefit-cost
  • Decision-support
  • Flood forecasting


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