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Modelling and Mapping Flood Hazards in Data Poor Environments: the case of Nepal

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, May 31, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

A 3.5-year PhD research project in the Department of Geography and the Institute for Hazard Risk and Resilience at Durham University. Supervised by Dr. Sim M. Reaney, Prof. Richard Hardy and Dr Isabella Bovolo

Scientific context:

Flood hazards in Nepal have resulted in significant regional impacts in recent years. Nepalese floods in August 2017 affected over 1.7 million people; 461,000 people were displaced, 159 people died and 65,000 houses were destroyed (UN RC 2017) making the event one of the worse in recent years. One widely employed method of risk transfer is the use of insurance to cover the losses incurred during flood events. The normal approach is to determine the probability of a flood event occurring at a location through hydraulic modelling and the associated damages from a depth-damage curves developed for that specific location. However, in data poor regions (such as Nepal), there has not been the information required to develop and test these models. Recent innovations in remote sensing and simulation modelling have enabled existing quantitative approaches to be rolled out more widely. The results have the potential to be coupled with new approaches to flood insurance to enable the sale of risk transfer insurance products to new communities at affordable prices. To operationalize this aspect of the research, there are still several challenges associated with determining the flood hazard and the potential for errors which can significantly affect people’s lives.

Aims and objectives The aim of this PhD research project is to determine flood hazard patterns in Nepal using remote sensing and simulation modelling. This research aim will be addressed with the following objectives: O1: To undertake spatial flood water source mapping and identification of vulnerable communities to determine case study catchments. O2: To determine temporal changes in flood hazard magnitude and frequency for a set of case study catchments. O3: To produce spatial patterns of flood risk determined by various terrain datasets and performance assessment approaches. The project will take a wide view across the different catchments in Nepal to determine the spatial pattern of flood water generation at the national scale. Findings from this research will feed into new technologies for financing disasters with colleagues in Durham University Business School.

Research outcomes At the end of the research project, there will be the understanding and evidence to recommend a spatial flood hazard mapping method for Nepal. This approach will include recommendations as to how to make the best use of the available data and which additional datasets would have the greatest improvement on the hazard mapping. The climate change work will allow for an understanding of the potential changes in flood hazards over the 21st century. This information will be integrated into future work on providing flood insurance to the at-risk communities in Nepal and beyond.

The Studentship

This studentship will cover the UK / EU tuition fees at Durham University, a stipend of £14,777 per year and a Research Training and Support Grant (RTSG) to cover field work in Nepal, data costs and attendance at conferences including an international event, such as the American Geophysical Union meeting.

The Department of Geography was ranked 1st in the United Kingdom based on Research Power (REF 2014) and has a large and vibrant postgraduate community, with regular departmental seminars and paper discussion groups. Durham is a wonderful historical city, within easy reach of regions of outstanding natural beauty including the Lake District, North York Moors and Northumberland National Parks.

To apply:

Please send the following documentation by email to with the reference “NepalFloodsIHRR2”, by the deadline of 31st May, 2019 (5pm BST): 1) A current CV; 2) A cover letter (2 pages A4 max) which describes your motivation for applying for the project and your previous research experience; 3) Letters from two references (to be sent directly to by referees); 4) Transcripts of your previous qualifications. This opportunity covers the UK or EU fees.

More details: If you have any questions about the project, please contact Dr. Sim Reaney (

Funding Notes

This opportunity covers the UK or EU fees.

How good is research at Durham University in Geography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 62.90

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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