Preparing for bigger floods: Advancing modelling and risk assessment for extreme flood events


   Department of Civil Engineering

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  Prof Nigel Wright, Dr Xilin Xia  Applications accepted all year round  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Description of the project

The world has seen devastating flood events in the last two years, for example, in Central Europe in 2021 and in Pakistan in 2022. These events have set new records of hydrometric measurements and economic loss. There is increasing evidence that the likelihood of such events will increase due to climate change. For example, recent studies suggest that summer storms reaching Europe from the Atlantic tend to be trapped and stalled due to warmer air, bringing intense rainfall over a long period of time. To better prepare for extreme flood events in the future, there is an urgent need to improve the current practice of flood modelling and risk assessment. There are two challenges that need to be addressed: 1) Better understanding the joint probabilities of factors contributing to flooding: sea level, rainfall, river discharge and groundwater level. 2) Better model the cascading effects of floods such as mobilisation and deposition of debris, a distinct feature of extreme flood events, in both rural and urban environments. This project will combine cutting-edge hydrodynamic modelling, machine learning and statistical analysis to address these challenges and deliver a framework and improved models for risk assessment of extreme flood events. The outcome of the project will enhance the understanding and predicting capability of the risks from future extreme flood events, and therefore facilitate better climate change adaptation.

Training and potential career paths

The project will be supervised by Prof Nigel Wright and Dr Xilin Xia. The supervisory team has substantial experience in flood modelling and risk management. The supervisory team will support the candidate to develop a solid knowledge base and skillset required for this project. Training will be provided in skills relating to flood modelling, data management, statistical analysis, and stakeholder engagement. The skills developed will equip the candidate with the skills to follow multiple career pathways in academia or industry, including consultancy, (re)insurance firms, government agencies and charities. The student will be supported in publishing in peer-reviewed journals and attending academic conferences both nationally and internationally.

Entry requirement

We are seeking an enthusiastic and highly student with good interpersonal skills and a keen interest in research. The applicant must have, or expect to achieve, at least a 2:1 honours degree or a distinction or high merit at MSc level (or international equivalent) in civil engineering, physical geography, environmental or earth sciences, mathematics, or a related subject. Preference will be given to candidates with relevant research experience. Experience in general coding/programming is essential.

How to apply

Applicants are encouraged to contact Prof Nigel Wright ([Email Address Removed]) or Dr Xilin Xia ([Email Address Removed]) for informal discussions before they make a formal application.

Computer Science (8) Engineering (12) Environmental Sciences (13) Geography (17) Mathematics (25)

Funding Notes

Successful applicant will be put forward for one of the scholarships provided by the School of Engineering of the University of Birmingham. The scholarship is for 3.5 years and is intended to start by October 2024. The studentship provides a tax-free stipend at UKRI rate for the duration of the studentship plus tuition fees at the UK rate. A small number of fee waivers are also available for international students.

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