On the importance of analyzing flood defense failures

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Flood defense failures are rare events but when they do occur lead to significant amounts of damage. The defenses are usually designed for rather low-frequency hydraulic loading and as such typically at least high enough to prevent overflow. When they fail, flood defenses like levees built with modern design codes usually either fail due to wave overtopping or geotechnical failure mechanisms such as instability or internal erosion. Subsequently geotechnical failures could trigger an overflow leading for the breach to grow in size Not only the conditions relevant for these failure mechanisms are highly uncertain, also the model uncertainty in geomechanical, internal erosion models, or breach models are high compared to other structural models. Hence, there is a need for better validation and calibration of models or, in other words, better insight in model uncertainty. As scale effects typically play an important role and full-scale testing is challenging and costly, historic flood defense failures can be used to provide insights into the real failure processes and conditions. The recently initiated SAFElevee project at Delft University of Technology aims to exploit this source of information by performing back analysis of levee failures at different level of detail. Besides detailed process based analyses, the project aims to investigate spatial and temporal patterns in deformation as a function of the hydrodynamic loading using satellite radar interferometry (i.e. PS-InSAR) in order to examine its relation with levee failure mechanisms. The project aims to combine probabilistic approaches with the mechanics of the various relevant failure mechanisms to reduce model uncertainty and propose improvements to assessment and design models. This paper describes the approach of the study to levee breach analysis and the use of satellites for breach initiation analysis, both adopted within the SAFElevee project.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFlood Risk 2016
Subtitle of host publication3rd European Conference on Flood Risk Management, Lyon, France. Lyon, France, October 17-21, 2016
EditorsM. Lang, F. Klijn, P. Samuels
PublisherEDP Science
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Event3rd European Conference on Flood Risk Management, FLOODrisk 2016 - Lyon Convention Centre, Lyon, France
Duration: 17 Oct 201621 Oct 2016
Conference number: 3

Publication series

NameE3S Web of Conferences
PublisherEDP Science
ISSN (Print)2267-1242


Conference3rd European Conference on Flood Risk Management, FLOODrisk 2016
Abbreviated titleFLOODrisk 2016
Internet address


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