An interactive simulation and visualization tool for flood analysis usable for practitioners

Johannes G. Leskens, Christian Kehl, Tim Tutenel, Timothy Kol, Gerwin de Haan, Guus Stelling, Elmar Eisemann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)
133 Downloads (Pure)


Developing strategies to mitigate or to adapt to the threats of floods is an important topic in the context of climate changes. Many of the world’s cities are endangered due to rising ocean levels and changing precipitation patterns. It is therefore crucial to develop analytical tools that allow us to evaluate the threats of floods and to investigate the influence of mitigation and adaptation measures, such as stronger dikes, adaptive spatial planning, and flood disaster plans. Up until the present, analytical tools have only been accessible to domain experts, as the involved simulation processes are complex and rely on computational and data-intensive models. Outputs of these analytical tools are presented to practitioners (i.e., policy analysts and political decision-makers) on maps or in graphical user interfaces. In practice, this output is only used in limited measure because practitioners often have different information requirements or do not trust the direct outcome. Nonetheless, literature indicates that a closer collaboration between domain experts and practitioners can ensure that the information requirements of practitioners are better aligned with the opportunities and limitations of analytical tools. The objective of our work is to present a step forward in the effort to make analytical tools in flood management accessible for practitioners to support this collaboration between domain experts and practitioners. Our system allows the user to interactively control the simulation process (addition of water sources or influence of rainfall), while a realistic visualization allows the user to mentally map the results onto the real world. We have developed several novel algorithms to present and interact with flood data. We explain the technologies, discuss their necessity alongside test cases, and introduce a user study to analyze the reactions of practitioners to our system. We conclude that, despite the complexity of flood simulation models and the size of the involved data sets, our system is accessible for practitioners of flood management so that they can carry out flood simulations together with domain experts in interactive work sessions. Therefore, this work has the potential to significantly change the decision-making process and may become an important asset in choosing sustainable flood mitigations and adaptation strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-324
Number of pages18
JournalMitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Flood
  • Visualization
  • Decision-making
  • Large-scale rendering


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