Maria Pregnolato

‌‌Maria Pregnolato -


PhD Title:

Urban Infrastructure Dynamics during Flood Events


PhD Project Details:

Critical infrastructures, such as transportation systems, are at risk of natural hazards worldwide, in particular in urban areas.  A changing climate and a strong urbanization is posing under pressure communities, assets, and built environment.  As infrastructures can be considered the backbone of cities, network resilience has become a necessary component of any structured development.


This research addresses the challenges by focusing on the development of probabilistic methodology for managing risk by modelling urban transport networks within the context of flooding events, through a combination of climate simulations and spatial representations.  By overlaying spatial data on hazard thresholds from a flood model and a flood safety function, different levels of disruption to commuting journeys on road networks are evaluated as indirect tangible damage (Jenkins et al. 2012).  To calculate the disruptive effect of flooding on transport networks, a function relating water depth to safe driving car speed has been developed by combining data from experimental reports, safety literature, analysis of videos of cars driving through floodwater, and expert judgement (Pregnolato et al. 2015a).


The first stage includes a preliminary impact analysis in Tyne & Wear (in North-East England) region, assessing the disruptions for commuter journeys due to flooding.  This step involves flood risk estimation of events with different severity and frequency, and the consequent evaluation of indirect damage due to rerouting and time lost.  The second stage investigates potential urban adaptation measures through a cost-benefit analysis, for an optimal employment of resources and a cost-effective risk management.  A portfolio of potential risk reduction options is considered, alongside the quantification and comparison of benefits and cost of the different options selected (Pregnolato et al. 2015b).



M. Pregnolato, A. Ford, R. Dawson (2015a) ‘Analysis of the Risk of Transport Infrastructure Disruption from Extreme Rainfall’, 12th International Conference on Applications of Statistics and Probability in Civil Engineering (ICASP), Vancouver, Canada, 12th-15th, July 2015.


M. Pregnolato, A. Ford, R. Dawson (2015b) ‘Climate and Change: Simulating Flooding Impacts on Urban Transport Network, Geophysical Research Abstracts, Vol. 17, European Geoscience Union (EGU) General Assembly 2015, Wien, Austria, 12th-17th April 2015.


Jenkins, K., Glenis, V., Ford, A., and Hall, J. (2012). ‘A Probabilistic Risk-Based Approach to Addressing Impacts of Climate Change on Cities: The Tyndall Centre’s Urban Integrated Assessment Framework’, UGEC Viewpoints, Connecting Past and Present Lessons in Urbanization and the Environment (8).


(Image - Hazard assessment (left) of floodwater height and impact assessment (right) in terms of free flow speed reduction, for Newcastle (UK) transport network)



Professor Richard Dawson

Dr Sean Wilkinson

Alistair Ford

Dr Carmine Galasso