A Bayesian hindcasting method of levee failures applied to the Breitenhagen slope failure

J. J. Kool*, W. Kanning, C. Jommi, S. N. Jonkman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
34 Downloads (Pure)


Hindcasting of past levee failures enhances insights in the performance and vulnerability of levees. The scarcity of field evidence makes identifying the cause(s) of failure difficult. Under these circumstances, multiple scenarios and model choices are possible to characterise and to model the failure. This paper shows how probabilistic Bayesian techniques advance the procedure of hindcasting of levee failures. In the developed approach, a-priori levee information, and failure observations are systematically taken into account to determine the most likely scenario and the most representative model choices to characterise the failure most accurately. Observations, such as the slip surface, are taken into account in the probability estimates. The levee failure near Breitenhagen, Germany (2013) is used as a case study. The levee failed during river floods due the instability of the landside slope. The levee failure was most likely triggered by locally weak soil conditions and unexpected high water pressures due a connection between a pond on the riverside of the levee and the aquifer. These conditions were likely caused by the occurrence of a previous breach at this location. The approach developed in this paper is expected to support a more systematic and objective method of analysis of other levee failures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-316
Number of pages18
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Bayesian updating
  • flood defences
  • forensic analysis
  • Hindcasting
  • levee failure
  • slope stability


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