Projecting Flood Risk Dynamics for Effective Long-Term Adaptation

Lukas Schoppa*, Marlies H. Barendrecht, Dominik Paprotny, Nivedita Sairam, Tobias Sieg, Heidi Kreibich

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Flood losses have steadily increased in the past and are expected to grow even further owing to climate and socioeconomic change. The reduction of flood vulnerability, for example, through adaptation, plays a key role in the mitigation of future flood risk. However, lacking knowledge about vulnerability dynamics, which arise from the interaction between floods and the ensuing response by society, limits the scope of current risk projections. We present a socio-hydrological method for flood risk assessment that simulates the interaction between society and flooding continuously, including changes in vulnerability through collective (structural) and private (non structural) measures. Our probabilistic approach quantifies uncertainties and exploits empirical data to chart risk dynamics including how society copes with flooding. In a case study for the commercial sector in Dresden, Germany, we show that increased adaptation is necessary to counteract the expected four-fold growth in flood risk due to transient hydroclimatic and socioeconomic boundary conditions. We further use our holistic approach to identify solutions for effective long-term adaptation, demonstrating that integrated adaptation strategies (i.e., combined structural and non structural measures) can reduce the average risk by up to 60% at the study site. Ultimately, our case study highlights the benefit of the model for robust flood risk assessment as it can capture unintended, adverse feedbacks of adaptation measures such as the levee effect. Consequently, our socio-hydrological method contributes to a more systemic and reliable flood risk assessment that can inform adaptation planning by exploring the possible system evolutions comprehensively including unlikely futures.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2022EF003258
JournalEarth's Future
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 13 Mar 2024


  • adaptation
  • dynamics
  • flood
  • projection
  • risk
  • vulnerability


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