Geosimulation Techniques for Improving Community Resilience in Floods under a Changing Climate

Mona Hemmati, Columbia University, USA


Flood risk is on the rise worldwide due to climate change and socioeconomic development. Urbanization is a direct result of population and economic growth, which are expected to increase in the future. Based on a report by the United Nations, 68% of the world population expected to live in urban areas by 2050 compared to 50% in 2020. Accessibility to recreational facilities and agricultural development have made floodplains and coastal areas desirable places to live. The nature of the risk brought about by urbanization and climate change in flood-prone areas must be thoroughly understood to develop effective policies for mitigating risk in rapidly growing flood-prone communities. This presentation focuses on understanding the effect of urbanization on future flood risk and how policymakers can integrate nonstructural flood mitigation measures, in terms of urban planning policies and socioeconomic incentives, in the urban development plans to help future communities moving toward resilience.
To do so, we develop a geosimulation technique to assess the effect of urbanization and climate change on future flood risk. The objectives of this study are to 1) establish a framework for flood risk assessment to account for the impact of urbanization on the exposure component of flood risk; 2) develop a spatially explicit model for simulating the growth of a community over time, considering geographical, physical, social, and economic factors associated with urbanization; and 3) evaluate the role of land-use policies and socioeconomic incentives, such as acquisition, zoning, and taxation in mitigating flood consequences.
Moreover, as human behavior is influential in shaping urbanization and consequently future flood risk, in this step, we demonstrate how small changes in human behavior affect urbanization and flood risk. To do so, we evaluate human behavior impacts urbanization by modeling the principal agents and their interactions resulting in changes in the urban expansion of a community over time. Then, this can be used in evaluating how the risk perception of households affects their decision on where to locate. Using these analyses, we investigate the driving factors and incentives in the human decision on locational choices and how these incentives can be used by local authorities and policymakers as nonstructural flood mitigation measures to shape urbanization achieving sustainable development and resilient cities and communities in a flooding event.


Dr. Mona Hemmati is a Postdoctoral Research Scientist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Earth Institute, Columbia University. She works on tropical cyclone risk assessment to evaluate how communities are vulnerable to these destructive disasters and how policymakers and stakeholders should consider different mitigation strategies to build resilient communities in such hazards. Before Columbia University, she was a Ph.D. candidate at Colorado State University as part of a Center for Risk-Based Community Resilience Planning. In this center, Dr. Hemmati focused on investigating the role of urbanization on flood risk and how we can build resilient communities resilient to floods. She received her Ph.D. in Civil Engineering in August 2021. Her research interests are risk analysis, natural hazards, resilience, and urbanization. She enjoys discussions about future research opportunities and welcome scientific collaborations.