Advances in probabilistic forecasting, notably based on ensemble prediction systems, are transforming flood risk management. Four trends shaping the assimilation of probabilistic flood forecasting into flood risk management are longer forecasting lead times, advances in decision-making aids, inclusion of probabilistic forecasting in hazard mitigation and collaboration between researchers and managers. Confronting how to use probabilistic flood forecasts to make binary management decisions for reducing flood losses requires developing institutional capacity while acknowledging flood risk estimation is one component of decision making under uncertainty in an evolving policy landscape.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.


Barsugli, J. J., Vogel, J. M., Kaatz, L., Smith, J. B., Waage, M., & Anderson, C. J. (2012). Two faces of uncertainty: Climate science and water utility planning methods. Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management, 138(5), 389–395. doi:10.1061/(ASCE)WR.1943-5452.0000188
Bowler, N. E., Arribas, A., Mylne, K. R., Robertson, K. B., & Beare, S. E. (2008). The MOGREPS short-range ensemble prediction system. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 134(632), 703–722. doi:10.1002/qj.234
Buizza, R., Asensio, H., Balint, G., Bartholmes, J., Bliefernicht, J., Bogner, K., … Vincendon, B. (2007). EURORISK/PREVIEW report on the technical quality, functional quality and forecast value of meteorological and hydrological forecasts. Shinfield Park, Reading, UK: European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts. Retrieved from http://old.ecmwf.int/publications/library/ecpublications/_pdf/tm/501-600/tm516.pdf
Casman, E. A., Morgan, M. G., & Dowlatabadi, H. (1999). Mixed levels of uncertainty in complex policy models. Risk Analysis, 19(1), 33–42. doi:10.1111/j.1539-6924.1999.tb00384.x
Cloke, H. L., & Pappenberger, F. (2009). Ensemble flood forecasting: A review. Journal of Hydrology, 375(3–4), 613–626. doi:10.1016/j.jhydrol.2009.06.005
Cloke, H. L., Pappenberger, F., van Andel, S. J., Schaake, J., Thielen, J., & Ramos, M.-H. (Eds.). (2013). Hydrological ensemble prediction systems: Preface. Hydrological Processes, 27(1), 1–4. doi:10.1002/hyp.9679
Collins, M. (2007). Ensembles and probabilities: A new era in the prediction of climate change. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 365(1857), 1957–1970. doi:10.1098/rsta.2007.2068
Corner, A., Whitmarsh, L., & Xenias, D. (2012). Uncertainty, scepticism and attitudes towards climate change: Biased assimilation and attitude polarisation. Climatic Change, 114(3–4), 463–478. doi:10.1007/s10584-012-0424-6
Curry, J. A., & Webster, P. J. (2011). Climate science and the uncertainty monster. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 92(12), 1667–1682. doi:10.1175/2011BAMS3139.1
Dale, M., Wicks, J., Mylne, K., Pappenberger, F., Laeger, S., & Taylor, S. (2014). Probabilistic flood forecasting and decision-making: An innovative risk-based approach. Natural Hazards, 70(1), 159–172. doi:10.1007/s11069-012-0483-z
De Franco, C., & Meyer, C. O. (2011). Introduction: The challenges of prevention. In C. O. Meyer (Ed.), Forecasting, warning and responding to transnational risks (pp. 1–19). Basingstoke, Hampshire, UK: Palgrave MacMillan.
Dedieu, F. (2010). Alerts and catastrophes: The case of the 1999 storm in France, a treacherous risk. Sociologie Du Travail, 52(
Supplement 1
), e1–e21. doi:10.1016/j.soctra.2010.06.001
Demeritt, D., & Nobert, S. (2011). Responding to early flood warnings in the European Union. In C. O. Meyer & C. de Franco (Eds.), Forecasting, warning and responding to transnational risks (pp. 127–147). Basingstoke, Hampshire, UK: Palgrave MacMillan.
Demeritt, D., Nobert, S., Cloke, H., & Pappenberger, F. (2010). Challenges in communicating and using ensembles in operational flood forecasting. Meteorological Applications, 17(2), 209–222. doi:10.1002/met.194
Demeritt, D., Nobert, S., Cloke, H. L., & Pappenberger, F. (2013). The European flood alert system and the communication, perception, and use of ensemble predictions for operational flood risk management. Hydrological Processes, 27(1), 147–157. doi:10.1002/hyp.9419
Dietrich, J., Denhard, M., & Schumann, A. H. (2009). Can ensemble forecasts improve the reliability of flood alerts? Journal of Flood Risk Management, 2(4), 232–242. doi:10.1111/j.1753-318X.2009.01039.x
Faulkner, H., Parker, D., Green, C., & Beven, K. (2007). Developing a translational discourse to communicate uncertainty in flood risk between science and the practitioner. AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment, 36(8), 692–704. doi:10.1579/0044-7447(2007)36[692:DATDTC] 2.0.CO;2
Frick, J., & Hegg, C. (2011). Can end-users' flood management decision making be improved by information about forecast uncertainty? Atmospheric Research, 100(2–3), 296–303. doi:10.1016/j.atmosres.2010.12.006
Gopalakrishnan, C. (2013). Water and disasters: A review and analysis of policy aspects. International Journal of Water Resources Development, 29(2), 250–271. doi:10.1080/07900627.2012.756133
Handmer, J., & Proudley, B. (2007). Communicating uncertainty via probabilities: The case of weather forecasts. Environmental Hazards, 7(2), 79–87. doi:10.1016/j.envhaz.2007.05.002
Joslyn, S., & Savelli, S. (2010). Communicating forecast uncertainty: Public perception of weather forecast uncertainty. Meteorological Applications, 17(2), 180–195. doi:10.1002/met.190
Joslyn, S. L., & LeClerc, J. E. (2012). Uncertainty forecasts improve weather-related decisions and attenuate the effects of forecast error. Journal of Experimental Psychology: applied, 18(1), 126–140. doi:10.1037/a0025185
Joslyn, S., Savelli, S., & Nadav-Greenberg, L. (2011). Reducing probabilistic weather forecasts to the worst-case scenario: Anchoring effects. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 17 (4), 342–353. doi:10.1037/a0025901
Juston, J. M., Kauffeldt, A., Montano, B. Q., Seibert, J., Beven, K. J., & Westerberg, I. K. (2013). Smiling in the rain: Seven reasons to be positive about uncertainty in hydrological modelling. Hydrological Processes, 27(7), 1117–1122. doi:10.1002/hyp.9625
Lumbroso, D., & von Christierson, B. (2009). Communication and dissemination of probabilistic flood warnings: Literature review of international material. Bristol, UK: Environment Agency.
Marimo, P., Kaplan, T. R., Mylne, K., & Sharpe, M. (2012). Communication of uncertainty in weather forecasts. Retrieved from http://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/38287/
Marx, S. M., Weber, E. U., Orlove, B. S., Leiserowitz, A., Krantz, D. H., Roncoli, C., & Phillips, J. (2007). Communication and mental processes: Experiential and analytic processing of uncertain climate information. Global Environmental Change, 17(1), 47–58. doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2006.10.004
Massey, A., & Rentoul, J. (2007). Innovative, flexible and creative policy making. In H. Bochel & S. Duncan (Eds.), Making policy in theory and practice (pp. 65–85). Bristol, UK: The Policy Press.
McCarthy, S., Tunstall, S., Parker, D., Faulkner, H., & Howe, J. (2007). Risk communication in emergency response to a simulated extreme flood. Environmental Hazards, 7(3), 179–192. doi:10.1016/j.envhaz.2007.06.003
Meyer, C. O., & de Franco, C. (2011). Conclusion: New perspectives for theorising and addressing transnational risks. In C. O. Meyer & C. de Franco (Eds.), Forecasting, warning and responding to transnational risks (pp. 241–257). Basingstoke, Hampshire, UK: Palgrave MacMillan.
Michaels, S., & Tyre, A. J. (2012). How indeterminism shapes ecologists' contributions to managing socio-ecological systems. Conservation Letters, 5(4), 289–295. doi:10.1111/j.1755-263X.2012.00241.x
Morgan, M. G. (1998). Uncertainty analysis in risk assessment. Human and Ecological Risk Assessment, 4(1), 25–39.
Morss, R. E., Lazo, J. K., & Demuth, J. L. (2010). Examining the use of weather forecasts in decision scenarios: Results from a US survey with implications for uncertainty communication. Meteorological Applications, 17(2), 149–162. doi:10.1002/met.196
Moss, R. H. (2007). Improving information for managing an uncertain future climate. Global Environmental Change, 17(1), 4–7. doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2006.12.002
Murphy, A. H. (1993). What is a good forecast? An essay on the nature of goodness in weather forecasting. Weather and Forecasting, 8, 281–293. doi:10.1175/1520-0434(1993)008<0281:WIAGFA>2.0.CO;2
National Research Council. (2006). Completing the forecast: Characterizing and communicating uncertainty for better decisions using weather and climate forecasts. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
Nobert, S., Demeritt, D., & Cloke, H. (2010). Informing operational flood management with ensemble predictions: Lessons from Sweden. Journal of Flood Risk Management, 3(1), 72–79. doi:10.1111/j.1753-318X.2009.01056.x
Pagano, T. C., Shrestha, D. L., Wang, Q. J., Robertson, D., & Hapuarachchi, P. (2013). Ensemble dressing for hydrological applications. Hydrological Processes, 27(1), 106–116. doi:10.1002/hyp.9313
Pappenberger, F., & Beven, K. J. (2006). Ignorance is bliss: Or seven reasons not to use uncertainty analysis. Water Resources Research, 42(5), W05302. doi:10.1029/2005WR004820
Pappenberger, F., & Brown, J. D. (2013). HP today: On the pursuit of (im)perfection in flood forecasting. Hydrological Processes, 27(1), 162–163. doi:10.1002/hyp.9465
Pappenberger, F., Cloke, H. L., Persson, A., & Demeritt, D. (2011). On forecast (in)consistency in a hydro-meteorological chain: Curse or blessing? Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 15(7), 2391–2400. doi:10.5194/hess-15-2391-2011
Pappenberger, F., Stephens, E., Thielen, J., Salamon, P., Demeritt, D., van Andel, S. J., & Alfieri, L. (2013). Visualizing probabilistic flood forecast information: Expert preferences and perceptions of best practice in uncertainty communication. Hydrological Processes, 27(1), 132–146. doi:10.1002/hyp.9253
Pappenberger, F., Thielen, J., & Del Medico, M. (2011). The impact of weather forecast improvements on large scale hydrology: Analysing a decade of forecasts of the european flood alert system. Hydrological Processes, 25(7), 1091–1113. doi:10.1002/hyp.7772
Penning-Rowsell, E. C., Tunstall, S. M., Tapsell, S. M., & Parker, D. J. (2000). The benefits of flood warnings: Real but elusive, and politically significant. Water and Environment Journal, 14(1), 7–14. doi:10.1111/j.1747-6593.2000.tb00219.x
Pidgeon, N., & Fischhoff, B. (2011). The role of social and decision sciences in communicating uncertain climate risks. Nature Climate Change, 1(1), 35–41. doi:10.1038/nclimate1080
Ramos, M.-H., Mathevet, T., Thielen, J., & Pappenberger, F. (2010). Communicating uncertainty in hydro-meteorological forecasts: Mission impossible? Meteorological Applications, 17(2), 223–235. doi:10.1002/met.202
Ramos, M. H., van Andel, S. J., & Pappenberger, F. (2013). Do probabilistic forecasts lead To Better decisions? Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 17(6), 2219–2232. doi:10.5194/hess-17-2219-2013
Richardson, D. S. (2000). Skill and relative economic value of the ECMWF ensemble prediction system. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 126(563), 649–667. doi:10.1002/qj.49712656313
Rothstein, H., & Downer, J. (2012). Renewing DEFRA': Exploring the emergence of risk-based policymaking in UK central government. Public Administration, 90(3), 781–799. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9299.2011.01999.x
Roulin, E. (2007). Skill and relative economic value of medium-range hydrological ensemble predictions. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences Discussions, 11(2), 725–737. doi:10.5194/hess-11-725-2007
Roulston, M. S., & Kaplan, T. R. (2009). A laboratory-based study of understanding of uncertainty in 5-day site-specific temperature forecasts. Meteorological Applications, 16(2), 237–244. doi:10.1002/met.113
Schumann, A. H., Wang, Y., & Dietrich, J. (2011). Framing uncertainties in flood forecasting with ensembles. In A. H. Schumann (Ed.), Flood risk assessment and management (pp. 53–76). Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer.
Stephens, E., & Cloke, H. (2014). Improving flood forecasts for better flood preparedness in the UK (and beyond). The Geographical Journal, doi: 10.1111/geoj.12103
United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction. (2012). A resilient future: UNISDR statement on zero draft of the outcome document of the UN conference on sustainable development (Rio + 20) “The future we want.” Geneva, Switzerland: United Nations. Retrieved from http://www.unisdr.org/files/24941_20120124unisdrstatement.pdf
Werner, M., Cranston, M., Harrison, T., Whitfield, D., & Schellekens, J. (2009). Recent developments in operational flood forecasting in England, Wales and Scotland. Meteorological Applications, 16(1), 13–22. doi:10.1002/met.124
Wilks, D. S. (1997). Forecast value: Prescriptive decision studies. In R. W. Katz & A. H. Murphy (Eds.), Economic value of weather and climate forecasts (pp. 109–145). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Zappa, M., Fundel, F., & Jaun, S. (2013). A ‘peak-box’ approach for supporting interpretation and verification of operational ensemble peak-flow forecasts: Supporting ensemble peak-flow forecasts. Hydrological Processes, 27(1), 117–131. doi:10.1002/hyp.9521
Zhu, Y., Toth, Z., Wobus, R., Richardson, D., & Mylne, K. (2002). The economic value of ensemble-based weather forecasts. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 83, 73–83. doi:10.1175/1520-0477(2002)083<0073:TEVOEB>2.3.CO;2