In recent years Australia has been severely impacted by natural catastrophes. Flooding, cyclones, hailstorms, bushfires, and droughts have all taken their toll, impacting lives and property, whilst also wreaking havoc on the natural environment. The impacts are already amongst the worst in the world and climate change is predicted to further increase severity.
Governments, the financial sector, as well as utilities and infrastructure providers are turning to Ambiental for solutions which identify and help manage environmental risks. This article discusses the flood risk challenges in Australia and how the latest updates to Ambiental’s products are supporting improvements to risk management activities.
Flooding disasters are Australia’s costliest natural hazard. Western Sydney is one of Australia's most flood prone areas where steep terrain means that in heavy rains water quickly drains through catchments which are constrained by narrow valleys.
Repeated flooding across Australia in recent years
The Eastern Australia floods between 23rd February – 9th March 2022 was one of Australia’s worst flood disasters and claimed 22 lives. It comprised a series of floods occurring in South East Queensland, Wide Bay–Burnett and parts of coastal New South Wales (NSW) in eastern Australia. Brisbane experienced major flooding, receiving a record breaking 676.8 millimetres of rain in three days. The town of Lismore in NSW experienced the worst flood in its history. Floods also occurred in the cities of Maryborough, Gympie, the Sunshine Coast, Caboolture, Toowoomba, Ipswich, Logan City, the Gold Coast, Murwillumbah, Grafton, the Central Coast, and parts of Sydney.
Link referenced 10 March 2022
Launched in 2014, Australia FloodMap is the most detailed and complete view of flood hazards available for Australia. Covering the entire 7.7 million km2 nation it identifies flood hazards from fluvial (riverine), pluvial (flash flood) and coastal (tidal and storm surge) sources. Modelled using high precision LiDAR topography where available and using best practice techniques to incorporate the latest input hydrological data it is tried, tested, and being relied upon by most Australian insurance companies for rating and pricing flood risk. Australia FloodMap is verified and calibrated against recent flood events.
Flood Event Verification - Milton, Brisbane (Queensland), 27th February 2022
- The left image shows land around Suncorp Stadium (source: 9NewsQueensland).
- The right image shows Ambiental’s FloodMap™ Fluvial Urban Model at 1 in 200 year return period in blue.
- The Ambiental flood data predicts the risk to this location, and suggests that the flood at this location was between a 1 in 100 and a 1 in 200 years annual return period.
Supporting governments in planning decisions around flood risk
The Government of South Australia (Attorney Generals Department) is now using Ambiental FloodMap data as a tool for improving land use planning functions. Flood risk outside of urban areas was previously not well understood across Southern Australia where the government did not hold flood maps. The Ambiental data is now allowing the planning authorities to flag development applications where flooding is likely to be a concern. The availability of flood information via an online portal will help to grow flood risk awareness across the population, as well as enabling better preparation for flooding emergencies.
In addition to visualising hazards with FloodMap, the government also uses Australia FloodScore to quickly search out and analyse flood risk characteristics for individual properties and analyse property risk at a range of geographic scales. Ambiental has also been commissioned to produce several animations of flood scenarios within key catchments in order to better understand flood evolution processes.
Our commitment to ongoing flood product development
Ambiental products are available for purchase through annual recurring licenses, so that our customers have ongoing access to Ambiental’s dedicated support staff and technical experts for their assistance with understanding the models and handling queries from the user community. The recurring license model means that customers always benefit from the latest product updates as soon as they are released. This year sees the launch of Version 4 of Australia FloodMap.
Ambiental’s annual update process considers any major events which have occurred, as well as any customer feedback received, and adjustments have been made where necessary to improve the predictive accuracy of the model. This year has also seen hydrological and hydraulic reviews of multiple important high-risk locations. There has been further upgrade of locations previously covered by our 30m Rural modelling methodology through expansion of the coverage of our higher resolution 5m Urban LiDAR models. Furthermore, additional research has been undertaken into the many flood defence schemes which are in operation across Australia.
Assessing multiple hazards now and into the future
Flooding in Australia is often associated with tropical cyclones, which bring with them other dangers such as wind and hail. Australia has now moved into a La Niña weather system and faces a higher risk of severe storms over the next few years. Separating the cyclone component from the normal flood signal is complex and it has presented a challenge for insurers in defining policies and pricing risk. To support the demand for solutions to this problem Ambiental has developed a cyclonic risk indexing methodology which is now being adopted by some major insurers.
This year will also see the roll out of additional hazard and risk indexing products which go beyond flood and support our customers with holistic multi-peril assessments which consider risks from factors such as volcanoes, earthquakes, drought, heat stress, lightning wildfire, and wind. Ambiental is also applying its FloodScore Climate methodology in Australia to quantify how climatological risk will change in the future.
Contact Ted Bartholomeusz for more information about these new opportunities to understand the range of risks faced by Australia and other countries globally.
T: +44 (0)1273 006904
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