Toward economic flood loss characterization via hazard simulation

Jeffrey Czajkowski, Luciana K. Cunha, Erwann Michel-Kerjan, James A. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Among all natural disasters, floods have historically been the primary cause of human and economic losses around the world. Improving flood risk management requires a multi-scale characterization of the hazard and associated losses - the flood loss footprint. But this is typically not available in a precise and timely manner, yet. To overcome this challenge, we propose a novel and multidisciplinary approach which relies on a computationally efficient hydrological model that simulates streamflow for scales ranging from small creeks to large rivers. We adopt a normalized index, the flood peak ratio (FPR), to characterize flood magnitude across multiple spatial scales. The simulated FPR is then shown to be a key statistical driver for associated economic flood losses represented by the number of insurance claims. Importantly, because it is based on a simulation procedure that utilizes generally readily available physically-based data, our flood simulation approach has the potential to be broadly utilized, even for ungauged and poorly gauged basins, thus providing the necessary information for public and private sector actors to effectively reduce flood losses and save lives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number084006
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 4 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Environmental Science
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


  • Delaware River Basin
  • insured losses
  • simulated streamflow
  • tropical cylcone inland flood
  • ungauged flood basin


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