Project highlights

  • The project will develop multi-scale and multi-process modelling of intense rainfall induced landslide hazard chains
  • The project will establish a novel risk assessment framework to evaluate future multi-hazard risks for transport infrastructure under various climate change scenarios
  • The candidate will work closely with project partners Jacobs and BGS, and benefit from applying theoretical knowledge in real contexts to develop outputs shaped to inform innovative solutions for real-world engineering problems
  • The candidate will develop highly sought-after skillsets of numerical modelling and data analytics.


This project provides an exciting opportunity to develop quantitative analytical methods targeting urgent and important challenges for the infrastructure sector in the face of climate change. Addressing these challenges is key to ensuring the sustainability of UK infrastructure for the coming decades.

One of the major impacts from climate change is the increasing frequency of extreme weather events such as intense rainfall. These events often result in multiple types of hazards, such as flooding, landslides, and failure of earthworks and structures. This can cause significant disruption to operations, accidents and damage to infrastructure. For railways alone, the annual economic loss surpasses £100 million. Recent examples include landslide impacts on the A83 Rest and be Thankful, and a derailment near Carmont, Scotland that resulted in three fatalities. We need to better understand the risks to further develop the knowledge base for the formulation of appropriate management and mitigation strategies.

Current practices to evaluate the main hazards posed by intense rainfall triggers mainly focuses on segmented approaches and involves the separate modelling of different types of hazards. However, this could overlook the combined risks of multiple types of hazards induced by an intense rainfall event. This project aims to integrate multiple types of models to develop a new multi-hazard risk assessment framework that is much needed by industry and can be used to:

(i) support dynamic early warning of multi-hazard risks and

(ii) evaluate risk exposure of critical infrastructure under scenarios of possible future conditions that reflect changes in climate, environment and society.

Two photographs showing a train derailed following a landslip, and a road blocked due to a landslip.

Figure 1: examples of rainfall induced natural slope processes affecting railway (top) and road (bottom) transport infrastructure (credit: Jacobs)

CENTA Flagship

This is a CENTA Flagship Project

Case funding

This project is suitable for CASE funding


Loughborough University


  • Climate and Environmental Sustainability
  • Dynamic Earth


Project investigator

Dr Tom Dijkstra, Loughborough University ([email protected])


How to apply


The modelling of multi-hazard chains will apply and integrate models of different scales and processes, including the Hi-Performance Integrated Modelling System (HiPIMS), which is a high-performance software that has components for simulating flooding, mass movements and bedload transport. This project will further develop the capabilities of HiPIMS by integrating these existing components and consider interactions with buildings and infrastructure. The model for infrastructure damage will be developed with supervision from experts at Jacobs UK Ltd and the British Geological Survey (BGS). Data for vulnerability from network operators (e.g. Network Rail, Transport Scotland) will be obtained to develop the risk assessment framework. The project will evaluate the use of UKCP18 to model intense rainfall under future climate scenarios and provides opportunities to interact with other researchers from the Natural Hazards Partnership.

Training and skills

Students will be awarded CENTA2 Training Credits (CTCs) for participation in CENTA2-provided and ‘free choice’ external training. One CTC equates to 1⁄2 day session and students must accrue 100 CTCs across the three years of their PhD.

This project requires a student with a background in mathematics, physical sciences or engineering, and a strong interest in computer-based modelling of earth surface processes. For further development of key skills, the student will be able to benefit from in-house courses at Jacobs, the BGS and NERC Advanced Training Short Courses. The student will be supervised by a multi-institutional team that will support the writing of peer-reviewed journal papers and attending academic conferences. The skills developed will be beneficial for multiple career pathways, including both academia and industry.

Partners and collaboration

This research will involve close collaboration of Loughborough University with Jacobs (CASE partner), a leading global consultancy in the infrastructure sector, and the BGS, a leading global geoscience research organisation. The student is expected to spend substantial time at each of the collaborating institutions.

Further details

For further information about this project, please contact Dr Tom Dijkstra ([email protected]) or Dr Ali Smith ([email protected]). For general information about CENTA and the application process, please visit the CENTA website: For enquiries about the application process, please contact Berkeley Young ([email protected]), School of Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering, Loughborough University.

If you wish to apply to the project, applications should include:

  • A CV with the names of at least two referees (preferably three and who can comment on your academic abilities)

Applications to be received by the end of the day on Wednesday 11th January 2023. 

Possible timeline

Year 1

  • Literature review on relevant areas including physically based modelling of intense rainfall induced catchment process, risk assessment of rainfall induced natural hazards and climate change impacts
  • Taking a region in the UK as a case study to develop an engineering geomorphological approach for the assessment of the evolution of slope dynamics in a context of climate change and progressive weathering
  • Further develop the physically based model HiPIMS and holistically simulate physical processes driven by intense rainfall such as flood waves, mass movements and bedload transport at a catchment scale.

Year 2

  • Apply or develop a model to evaluate the damage of flood and landslides (including debris flows and washouts) to key engineered structures of the infrastructure network
  • Combine the damage model with a spatial vulnerability model to evaluate the consequences and risk of natural hazards brought by intense rainfall events.

Year 3

  • Validate the risk assessment framework using UK-based case studies (e.g. 2015 Storm Desmond and longer weather event sequences such as a dry summer followed by wet autumn) and evaluate application to international events such as (extra-)tropical cyclones
  • Estimate the future risk under different climate, geomorphological and societal change scenarios by changing the inputs of slope materials, weather parameters and vulnerability maps to the framework.

The final 6 months provide a focused time to write up the thesis.

Further reading

  • Dijkstra, T., Dixon, N., Crosby, C., Frost, M. W., Gunn, D., Fleming, P., Wilks, J. H., (2014) ‘Forecasting infrastructure resilience to climate change’, Proceedings of the ICE – Transport, 167 (5), pp.269-280.
  • Moore, R. et. al. (2006) Recent landslide impacts on the UK Scottish road network: investigation into the mechanisms, causes and management of landslide risk. Proceedings of the International Conference on Slopes, Malaysia, p223-238.
  • Xia, X., Liang, Q., Ming, X., Hou, J. (2017). ‘An efficient and stable hydrodynamic model with novel source term discretisation schemes for overland flow and flood simulations’, Water Resources Research, 53, pp. 3730-3759
  • Xia, X., & Liang, Q. (2018). ‘A new depth-averaged model for flow-like landslides over complex terrains with curvatures and steep slopes’, Engineering Geology, 234, pp. 174-191


This research will involve close collaboration of Loughborough University with Jacobs, a leading global consultancy in the infrastructure sector, and the BGS, a leading global geoscience research organisation. The student is expected to spend substantial time at each of the collaborating institutions.