Global Water and Climate Risk

An understanding of water and climate risk at the global scale is essential for governments, development agencies, disaster planning and preparedness institutes, and the reinsurance industry. Our department is at forefront of the development of methods and tools to quantify global scale water and climate risks. This research program is led by Dr. Philip Ward.

Recent highlights


GLOFRIS and Aqueduct Gloobal Flood Analyzer
Dr. Philip Ward is a lead developer of the state-of-the-art global scale river flood risk model, GLOFRIS. GLOFRIS is constantly updated and improved, incorporating the newest scientific knowledge on natural hazards, exposure, and vulnerability, generated by our research group and collaborating partners. We focus on current risk, future risk under scenarios of climate change and socioeconomic development, and also temporal shifts in risk due to interannual climate variability. Using results from GLOFRIS, we recently developed and launched the Aqueduct Global Flood Analyzer, together with the World Resources Institute.

Philip Ward and king WA
Dr. Ward demonstrates the Aqueduct Global Flood Analyzer to His Majesty King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands

GLOFRIS and Aqueduct have been used in a large range projects with users and stakeholders, to develop risk-based information for use in policy and practice related studies. For example, we have worked with World Bank to assess risk hotspots in Nigeria and future risk trends and adaptation possibilities in Eastern Europe and Central Asia; with the Global Dialogue Project of OECD and GWP to map future trends in flood risk and assess risk reduction strategies; and in a project for a group of reinsurers (via the Risk Prediction Initiative 2.0) to assess interannual changes in flood risk.

Global Drought and Water Resources Modelling
By using global models and data, both available in-house and with partner institutes and universities, we developed and applied several techniques to asses drought and water scarcity at the global scale, disentangling the impact of driving forces such as long-term climate and socioeconomic changes, and climate variability. Using our expertise on risk assessments, we are now developing a risk-based framework for the assessment of global water scarcity risks. Such risk-based framework will offer water managers and policy makers a promising perspective to achieve higher water security under current and future conditions in a well-informed and adaptive manner. Current work is entitled to finalize this risk-based approach for the assessment of drought and water scarcity by the incorporation of economic exposure and vulnerability within the framework, and to allow for the evaluation of different adaptation options. We are using our global drought modelling framework together with several stakeholder, for example to assess the influence of climate change on poverty with the World Bank.

 Methodological framework
Methodological framework for the assessment of water scarcity risks

Global Tide and Storm Surge Modelling
We are developing the first global dynamically derived dataset of storm surges and extreme sea levels for the entire's world coastline. In collaboration with Deltares, we applied are applying the Global Tide and Surge Model (GTSM), a state-of-the-art hydrodynamic model, to derive timeseries of tides, surge and extreme sea levels for 1979-2014. Potential applications of the extreme sea levels are in coastal flood risk assessments and climate change adaptation.

Extreme sea levels
Extreme sea levels with a return period of 1 in 100 years for the entire world's coastline

Nature Climate Change Publication on the Usefulness of Limitations of Global Flood Risk Models
In 2015, Philip Ward, Brenden Jongman, and Sanne Muis, and colleagues from several international institutes, authored a paper in Nature Climate Change entitled Usefulness of Limitations of Global Flood Risk Models. The paper provides perspectives on this issue drawing from practical applications of global river flood risk models; demonstrates both the accomplishments in these examples, as well as limitations and gaps between user 'wish lists' and model capabilities; and presents a research agenda to address these issues and reduce the gaps. The paper is a result of a series of workshops at the Global Flood Partnership, Understanding Risk conferences, and the General Assembly of the European Geosciences Union.

GFP Boulder 2015