Laurence Hawker


Project: Flood inundation modelling in data sparse deltas

Supervisors: Professor Paul Bates and Dr Jeff Neal


Mega deltas are one the most susceptible to flood hazards due to their flat, low lying topography coupled with an immediate proximity to the coast, making them prone to both riverine and coastal flooding. Additional contributing factors stem from relative sea level rise, subsidence and reduced sediment delivery. Currently, an estimated 7% of global population live in these regions, with an increasing number in rapidly expanding mega cities. Yet, deltas remain important areas for agricultural productivity. Future losses from flooding in deltaic cities are estimated to increase markedly, as a result of an expected increase in frequency and magnitude of hurricanes and cyclones, population increase and subsidence. Flood risk in these regions is growing rapidly in less developed countries as gross domestic product-enabled infrastructure and defences cannot be implemented to the same levels as wealthier countries. Yet, the rapid development of mega deltas presents an opportunity for stakeholders to plan and implement policies to reduce the flood risk.

The overall aim of this project is to improve the high resolution flood modelling of deltas, before estimating future flood scenarios by considering expected changes in sea level, precipitation and subsidence. Initial work has focussed on using and adapting the LISFLOOD-FP hydrodynamic model to simulate flood inundation in the Mekong Delta. Functionality that captures the characteristics of deltas, such as bifurcating channels and tidal influences, are to be added alongside developing a method to estimate deltaic river bed elevation. Simulations will be run on a range of mega deltas, before considering future scenarios. Metrics of future changes will include sea level rise, subsidence and sediment delivery supply, all of which are strongly linked to anthropogenic activities. It is envisaged by adding exposure and vulnerability data, a risk profile can be generated. By considering a portfolio of future scenarios across a range of time scales, stakeholders will be able to use this work to development sustainable flood risk reduction strategies from the sub-national to regional scales.

Laurence holds a First Class BSc (Hons) Geography from Lancaster University and achieved a First Class grade from the Water Informatics Postgraduate School at the University of Exeter.
Please contact Laurence if you have any more questions or seek to collaborate.

Laurence’s Research Poster

Correspondence: Laurence Hawker, School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, BS8 1SS, UK. (

Keywords: Mega Deltas; Hydrodynamic modelling; LISFLOOD; Flood; Floodplain Inundation; Sea level Rise; Subsidence; Sediment Delivery; Bifurcations