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Institute of Advanced Study

Water: Resource or Hazard? Workshop

25-26 March 2010

Water is simultaneously essential for human life and a threat to human existence. It frequently becomes the driving force behind many natural hazards including flooding, landslides and collapse features (sinkholes). Such hazards lead to significant damage and, not infrequently, loss of life. Similarly, periods of drought can also have significant impact, from both humanitarian and engineering perspectives. Since 1998, floods across Europe have caused some 700 fatalities, the displacement of about half a million people and at least €25bn in insured economic losses. In Germany, extreme weather events in the decade 1996-2006 caused damage amounting to €16.5bn. The insured economic losses related to drought in France in the period 1989-2002 reached €3.3bn.

Climate changes, as predicted by global circulation models, are likely to result in an increase in hazards owing to more extreme weather conditions. The more extreme climatic events that have occurred within Europe over the last 5-10 years have already led to increased flooding and landslide activity.

This two day workshop will focus on the impact of climate change on hazards and the development of engineering solutions to these humanitarian problems, and in particular, the need to develop improved capabilities for modelling the interaction between the climate and the ground to enable realistic predictions of future hazards.  These issues will be addressed by bringing together a multi-disciplinary group of participants comprising climate scientists, hydrologists, geotechnical engineers, engineering geologists and geographers from across Europe.

Speakers will include Professor Yu-Jun Cui from Université Paris-Est who leads the French National Project on the Impacts of Drought, Professor Christos Vrettos, Director of the Division of Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering at the Technische Universität Kaiserlautern who is a member of the International Technical Committees relating to Hazards and Eurocodes, and Dr Jelle Buma from Deltares, the Dutch National Research Institute who leads research into water-related issues including climate change impacts.

To register for this event or for more information please contact Dr David Toll (d.g.toll@durham.ac.uk).