A breakthrough in combating the risk of flooding in the US

In News by ambrisk

A breakthrough in combating the risk of flooding in the US

Flooding in Port Arthur, Texas on August 31st 2017 as a result of Hurricane Harvey (source: U.S. Air National Guard / Staff Sgt. Daniel J. Martinez)

Ambiental will soon be launching a new state-of-the-art product for the United States of America. The USA FloodMap™ will provide insurance companies and local governments with a unique and sophisticated view of risk for improving planning decisions and enabling more effective disaster risk management.


Flooding in Port Arthur, Texas on August 31st 2017 as a result of Hurricane Harvey (source: U.S. Air National Guard / Staff Sgt. Daniel J. Martinez)

The USA has high exposure to flood risk and recent unprecedented extreme weather events have highlighted the need for better flood mapping. Last year Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria generated a series of major rainfall events which saw rivers rise to previously unimaginable levels and resulted in record breaking losses. There has been a growing recognition that the existing Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood maps are not comprehensive enough to provide a complete picture of flood hazard and where maps are outdated they do not always accurately account for current risk.

Weather and climate-related disasters cost the United States a record $306 billion in 2017, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – making it the costliest year on record. Severe flooding in Houston, Texas in August 2017 and surrounding areas as a result of Hurricane Harvey led to estimated costs of $125bn. The Insurance Council of Texas estimated insured losses for the event to be at least $19 billion, with flooding related claims hitting insurers particularly hard. An unprecedented level of rainfall fell within 7 days with over 50 inches of rain recorded in some locations. This resulted in massive flooding which displaced over 30,000 people, damaged or destroyed over 200,000 homes and businesses, and claimed 107 lives.

New tools to help mitigate flood risk

Ambiental Risk Analytics is currently developing a new flood prediction solution specifically for USA. Built on tried and trusted technology developed in the UK, we will provide a flood hazard map at building-level resolution, allowing users to more accurately analyse flood risk to individual properties . Demonstrable accuracy means this highly granular flood risk dataset will make it easy for insurers, businesses and local government to assess flood risk to individual properties or across their entire portfolio of assets.


USA FloodMap™ from Ambiental is a next generation flood map. This Tidal flood map for Houston, Texas is formed using the latest hydrology data coupled with 5 metre resolution LiDAR topography which enables high precision decision making at a property level.

Our USA FloodMap suite will launch in two key areas on the Southern US coast at high risk of flooding: Houston, Texas and Miami, Florida. Other areas will follow in close succession as part of nationwide roll-out. The flood maps will cover multiple sources of flooding: fluvial (from rivers), pluvial (from rainfall) and tidal (from storm surge). These digital map layers will include a wide range of flood return periods to represent frequent low intensity floods through to infrequent extreme flood events. USA FloodMap will provide an invaluable tool both for mitigating risk, and for addressing flood resilience issues in the United States.

Our flood prediction solution for the United States will be available in the second half of 2018 and can be tested by potential customers against existing flood data tools or against historic claims experiences to evaluate quality. Sample data is available for testing now.


Visual demonstration of our capabilities at determining the risk of flooding at property-level accuracy using Flowroute™ for a 100-year fluvial event (Green – negligible risk / Yellow – low risk / Orange – medium risk / red – high risk).

A new direction

Ambiental has established partnerships with industry-leading data providers and US government agencies to source the most accurate data and statistics needed to run our modelling algorithms. Unique data and advanced analysis techniques enable the provision of detailed risk quantification information which cover a variety of different exposures.

The efficiency of flood prediction data for local government, businesses and insurers is enhanced by three key factors: accuracy, insight and ease of use. Improved accuracy can be attained by using the very best data from a variety of available sources. Further to this innovations in the hydraulic modelling process, such as how reservoirs are modelled, will overcome the complexities of the highly engineered hydrological systems prevalent in the USA.

However, sometimes a map is not enough, so data needs to be interpreted to deliver insights which can be integrated into the workflow of end users. Ambiental enables easier interpretation of risk through our USA FloodScore™ data aggregation product which links flood hazard to sophisticated exposure datasets to enable powerful insights and easy integration with insurance applications in underwriting and portfolio management. Further to this, our detailed flood hazard data will underpin the development of a USA FloodCat™ flood catastrophe model, scheduled for release in the future.

To find out more about Ambiental flood products or to discuss any problems around current flood risk strategies in the US or anywhere else please get in touch, and one of our team will be happy to help.


Flooding in Houston, Texas as witnessed by the International Space Station on the 31st August 2017 (source: NASA)