PhD in Geography/Earth Science

Extending the flood record: Assessing the uncertainty and viability of Palaeo flood data. Fully Funded NERC PhD project.

University of Hull and School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol.

The analysis of storm return periods from observed gauged river records is the traditional way to establish what magnitude of floods we might expect in the present and for possible futures. However, this method is only as good as the historical record quality and quantity, and often gauged records of rivers last only a few decades. This makes the quantification of higher return periods and more extreme events difficult to estimate. One solution is to extend such records using historical and palaeo records of floods. Examples of historical data includes documented evidence, marks on buildings or bridges of flood limits, and palaeo records may include flood sediments deposited that may be attributed to a flood via dating methods.

Therefore the use of historical and palaeo methods may have some significant limitations for extending the flood record. For example; (i) if we use Carbon or Luminescence dating for flood deposits, these contain significant error bounds (14C +-50-100 years, TL/OSL +-100-200 years) making it impossible to precisely date events; (ii) The context of sedimentary records – where they lie in a catchment – is highly important and (iii) fluvial records are palimpsest – in that they can be overwritten by subsequent events. To address this, some researchers have used histograms of multiple dated flood deposits and later PDF’s based on the error bars of the dates. However, important methodological shortcomings in such approaches have been identified by other researchers. This raises key research questions: is palaeo data reliable enough to help extend flood records? How do the inherent uncertainties propagate through this process and what might this mean for our approaches to simulating floods of certain return periods? This PhD will, for the first time, aim to characterise the potential uncertainty associated with palaeo-flood records and to assess the robustness of this method for augmenting flood recurrence data. We shall explore different techniques to uncertainty quantification to understand differences in expected return periods and how this relates to model simulations.

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This PhD is part of the UK wide SINATRA research consortium. An interdisciplinary, multi institute NERC funded research project to investigate the impacts of Flooding from Intense Rainfall (FFIR). Flooding from Intense Rainfall (FFIR) has caused widespread disruption and damage right across Britain over recent years.

Applicants must have at least a 2:1 degree in background in Physical Geography, Earth Science (or other science related subjects) and be comfortable with numerical operations on large data sets. The PhD candidate would be registered and based at the University of Hull, but would be expected to spend a portion of the studentship working in Bristol. The studentship is supported for 3 years and includes full Home/EU tuition fees plus a stipend of £13,726 per annum. The studentship will only fully fund those applicants who are eligible for Home/EU fees with relevant qualifications.

For more information please contact Tom Coulthard ([email protected]) or Jim Freer ([email protected])

For more details of The Department of Geography, Environment and Earth Science at the University of Hull see

Closing date is Friday 19th July 2013.

To apply click on the ‘Apply’ button below.

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      Extending the flood record: Assessing the uncertainty and viability of Palaeo flood data. Fully Funded NERC PhD project. University of Hu
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