Project Highlights


  • Develop a multi-scale and multi-process physically based model for catchment processes
  • Establish a risk assessment framework for intense rainfall induced hazard chains
  • Evaluate future risks under various climate change scenarios


Extreme weather events such as intense rainfall show an increasing impact on society. This is partly the consequence of shorter return periods between high magnitude events driven by climate change and partly as a result of continuing expansions of anthropogenic interventions in the landscape. The hazards caused by intense rainfall events are multi-faceted; for example, as illustrated in figure 1, excessive runoff from intense rainfall causes flooding; infiltration caused by rainfall may trigger landslides; and loose landslide deposit may be mobilised by channel flow, which may cause morphological changes that further compounds downstream flood risk by altering the flow path.

Current practice evaluates the main hazards posed by intense rainfall triggers in segmented approaches using, for example, flood, mass movement or bed-load transport models. However, using separate segmented approaches may underestimate the combined risks of multiple, interacting hazards induced by an intense rainfall event. Therefore, this project will integrate these different types of models to develop a multi-hazard risk assessment framework.

This project is co-developed with Jacobs and MS Amlin and aims to deliver tools that can be used to evaluate risk exposure of critical infrastructure (including transport, utilities and other essential services) using possible future scenarios that reflect progressive changes in climate and society.

To achieve this aim, the following objectives are set for this project:

  1. Further develop the physically-based model HiPIMS (Xia, et al. 2017; Xia and Liang, 2018) to holistically simulate physical processes driven by intense rainfall such as flood waves, mass movements and bedload transport at a catchment scale.
  2. Develop a semi-empirical model to evaluate the damage of flood and landslide to the key engineered structures of the infrastructure network.
  3. Combine the damage model with a vulnerability model to evaluate the risk of natural hazards brought by intense rainfall events.
  4. Validate the risk assessment framework using UK-based case studies (e.g. 2015 Storm Desmond) and evaluate application to non-UK events such as (extra-)tropical cyclones.
  5. Forecast the future risk under different climate and societal change scenarios by changing inputs/boundary conditions of sea levels, maximum rainfall intensities and vulnerability/exposure.


Figure 1 Multiple and interactive hazards from intense rainfall events


The development of the multi-hazard simulation model will be based on the Hi-Performance Integrated Modelling System (HiPIMS; Xia, et al. 2017; Xia and Liang, 2018), which is a high-performance software that contains components for simulating flooding, mass movements and bedload transport. This project will develop a new, improved model by integrating these existing components. The semi-empirical model for infrastructure damage and the development of the risk assessment framework will be progressed with supervision from experts in Jacobs and MS Amlin. The project will evaluate the new capabilities from the newest UK Climate Projections (UKCP18) to model intense rainfall under future climate scenarios, but until this becomes available will work with UKCP09.

Training and Skills

This project requires a student with an aptitude for computer-based process modelling and a good understanding of earth surface processes. For further development of key skills, the student will be able to benefit from in-house courses at Jacobs and MS Amlin, and NERC Advanced Training Short Courses in topics such as numerical modelling in Earth Sciences and understanding uncertainty in environmental modelling.


Year 1: Literature review on relevant areas including physically based modelling of intense rainfall induced catchment process, risk assessment of rainfall induced natural hazards and climate change impacts. Further develop HiPIMS to integrate multiple components for integrated simulation of catchment processes.

Year 2: Develop a semi-empirical relationship between the damage of infrastructure and the outputs from HiPIMS. Combine the semi-empirical relationship with vulnerability information to build a risk assessment framework.

Year 3: Test the risk assessment using various case studies. Forecast the future risk under different climate and societal change scenarios by changing the inputs of sea levels, maximum rainfall intensities and vulnerability maps to the framework. The final 6 months provide a focus to write up the thesis

Partners and collaboration (including CASE)

This research will involve close collaboration of Loughborough University with Jacobs and MS Amlin. The student is expected to spend substantial time at each of the collaborating institutions.


Further Details

For further information, please contact Dr Xilin Xia (x.xia2@lboro.ac.uk) or Dr Tom Dijkstra (t.a.dijkstra@lboro.ac.uk). For enquiries about the application process, please contact Berkeley Young b.k.d.young@lboro.ac.uk, School of Civil and Building Engineering, Loughborough University. Please quote CENTA18-LU12 when completing the application form: http://www.lboro.ac.uk/study/apply/research/.