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The numerical algorithms, datasets and outputs of the LISFLOOD-FP flood inundation model developed by the University of Bristol’s Hydrology Research Group have been adopted to protect assets worth >USD1.35 trillion and the infrastructure used by billions of people.



Flood inundation modelling for larger domains, or for regions outside the handful of developed countries with good local data, has effectively been prevented by: the computational cost; low suitability of global terrain data sets; the lack of suitable data detailing global river widths; the absence of methods to calculate extreme flood magnitudes for all global rivers; and the need to automate the model building process.



Bristol researchers published a set of highly efficient numerical solutions derived from shallow water theory that could be used by flood inundation models. This numerical solution was between 100 and 1000 times faster than the code it replaced.

The team also developed code to automatically create and conduct wide area, high-resolution simulations using only globally available datasets. They also developed a global terrain dataset expressly designed for flood inundation modeling, new methods to predict the probability distribution of extreme river flow, open-source databases for river width and hydrography, and an automated model build and execution framework.

Fathom, a new business created in November 2013, has drawn on this research to produce flood risk analytics for organisations around the world.



US, UK and Asian insurers, including Aon, Canopius, Chaucer, Sompo International, Hiscox and Trans Re use Fathom’s data directly in the pricing of flood risk for millions of assets.

The World Bank Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) licenses Fathom’s global data to provide the default global source of flood hazard information for the entire Bank. First Street Foundation use the data to calculate the past, present, and future flood risk of every home and property in the United States and make these data freely available to the public and researchers. 

The researchers provided flood risk assessment to the (then) UK Department of International Development that informed the planning and humanitarian response during cyclones Idai and Kenneth which affected Southern and East Africa in 2019. 


More information: 

Institution: University of Bristol

Researchers: Professor Paul Bates CBE, Dr Jeff Neal

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Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) (2023) Pioneering computer models have transformed global flood risk management. Available at  Last accessed on: <date>