Project highlights

  • Multi-scale and multi-process modelling of intense rainfall induced landslide hazard chains
  • Establish a risk assessment framework for intense rainfall induced landslide hazard and vulnerability chains
  • Evaluate future multi-hazard risks under various climate change scenarios


It is evident that climate change results in extreme weather events such as intense rainfall. In turn, this affects the stability of natural landscapes. When these are driven out of their natural equilibrium increasingly frequently, natural hazards are generated that can have a significant impact on lives and livelihoods. The hazards caused by intense rainfall events are multi-faceted. Excessive runoff from intense rainfall causes flooding; infiltration affects the stability of slope materials; and concentrated channel flow can cause mobilisation of valley-based deposits. These hazards are posing great threats to critical infrastructure, including transport, utilities and other essential services. 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 evaluate the main hazards posed by intense rainfall triggers in segmented approaches by using flood models, mass movement models or bed-load transport models. However, this could underestimate the combined risks of multiple types of hazards induced by an intense rainfall event. This project aims to integrate these three different types of models to develop a multi-hazard risk assessment framework that can be used to (i) support early warning of multi-hazard risks and (ii) evaluate risk exposure of critical infrastructure under scenarios of possible futures that reflect changes in climate, slopes and society.

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. Xilin Xia, Loughborough University



  •   Prof Qiuhua Liang, Loughborough University,
  •   Dr. Tom Dijkstra, Loughborough University
  •   Prof. Roger Moore, Jacobs
  •   Dr Colm Jordan, BGS

How to apply


The modelling of multi-hazard chains will be based on 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 semi-empirical model for infrastructure damage will be developed with supervision from experts in Jacobs. Data for vulnerability from network operators e.g. Network Rail, Transport Scotland, will be essential for developing the risk assessment framework. The project will evaluate the use of UKCP18 to model intense rainfall under future climate scenarios.

Training and skills

This project requires a student with an aptitude for computer-based process modelling and a good understanding of earth surface processes. For further development of key skills, the student will be able to benefit from in-house courses at Jacobs, the British Geological Survey (BGS) and NERC Advanced Training Short Courses such as ‘Numerical Earth Science Modelling’ short course (University of Durham) and ‘Understanding Uncertainty in Environmental Modelling’ (the Royal Society, London).

Partners and collaboration

This research will involve close collaboration of Loughborough University with Jacobs and the BGS. The student is expected to spend substantial time at each of the collaborating institutions.

Further details

For further information, please contact Dr Xilin Xia ( or Dr Tom Dijkstra ( For enquiries about the application process, please contact the School of Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering ( Please quote CENTA when completing the application form:

Please visit the Loughborough Universities website for application guidance:


This is a CENTA Flagship Project

These have been selected because the project meets specific characteristics such as CASE support, collaboration with our CENTA high-level end-users, diversity of the supervisory team, career development of the supervisory team, collaboration with one of our Research Centre Partners (BGS, CEH, NCEO, NCAS) or student co-designed project. These characteristics are a CENTA priority. Studentships associated with Flagship projects will be provided exactly the same level of support as all other studentships.


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 HiPIMS to integrate multiple components for integrated simulation of catchment processes.

Year 2

  • Holistically simulate physical processes driven by intense rainfall such as flood waves, mass movements and bedload transport at a catchment scale.
  • Develop a semi-empirical 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 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.

Further reading

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

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.


As the timeline of activities below indicate, much of the project can be conducted on-line if the Covid-19 situation demands this. Using appropriate physical distancing and other guidelines it is envisaged that visits to the BGS and Jacobs can be managed, but if this is not the case, we now have sufficient experience in working online with these organisations to ensure substantial benefits from these collaborations for the research. Therefore, even if the situation arises that everything needs to be conducted online, it is still possible to carry out this research with a high standard.