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Implications of using Global Digital Elevation Models for Flood Risk Analysis in Cities
  • Fergus McCleanOrcid,
  • Richard DawsonOrcid,
  • Chris Kilsby
Fergus McClean
Orcid
School of Engineering, Newcastle University
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Richard Dawson
Orcid
School of Engineering, Newcastle University
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Chris Kilsby
School of Engineering, Newcastle University
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Abstract

As urban populations grow, it is increasingly important to accurately characterise flood risk in cities and built up areas. Global Digital Elevation Models (GDEMs) have recently enabled flood risk analysis at broad scale and worldwide, but their accuracy and its impact on modelled flood risk in cities has not been fully investigated. We compare flood extents, hydrographs, depths and impacts between hydrodynamic simulations, using  five spaceborne GDEM products and an airborne LIDAR product. Benchmark observations of an historical flood event in Carlisle (UK) were used to assess the accuracy of each simulation.  GDEM simulations are shown to perform significantly less accurately than the airborne LIDAR-based simulations.  No DEM outperforms the others across all metrics; the MERIT DEM is the best predictor of flood extent but TanDEM-X performs best for discharge.  However, the impacts of flooding from GDEM simulations are consistently overestimated; 2 to 3 times higher than those from LIDAR simulations. Until a high resolution,  accurate, global DEM is available, multiple products should be used concurrently to enable the full uncertainty range to be quantified and communicated, to ensure flood risk management decisions are not misinformed.