Researchers discuss natural hazards and uncertainty at Oxford workshop

A workshop on Decision Analysis for Natural Hazards was held at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University on 10-11 March 2015.

Professor Jim Hall, Director of the Environmental Change Institute, chaired the two-day series of seminars, tutorials and discussion on decision support methods for natural hazards, including floods, droughts and earthquakes, and their consequences in the UK and globally.

Natural hazards decisions are typically made on the basis of data with significant uncertainty and much of the workshop explored decision techniques for unquantifiable or ‘deep’ uncertainty. Professor Yakov Ben-Haim of Technion – Israel Institute of Technology illustrated this concept with examples from other fields such as economics and biology, as well as from natural hazards such as the North Sea flood in 1953 and the 2011 Tohoku earthquake in Japan. Professor Ben-Haim demonstrated the Info-Gap methodology which identifies robust responses across possible future states.

Professor Hall gave examples of environmental challenges that have been practically addressed with decision analysis methods in infrastructure planning for flood prevention. A series of short presentations by participants outlined the broad range of cases in which decisions are made under uncertain conditions, such as landslide prediction, wind storm insurance and water resource management.

Professor Ben-Haim led the group with some practical exercises using Info-Gap to identify robust solutions in the context of uncertainty. Participants then developed their own analyses of relevant decision problems with help from Professors Hall and Ben-Haim, with several ideas for further research collaboration emerging.

The workshop was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council funded programme CREDIBLE (Consortium on Risk in the Environment: Diagnostics, Integration, Benchmarking, Learning and Elicitation), which researches new approaches to natural hazard modelling. Within the consortium, Oxford University researchers Jim Hall, Mike Simpson, Neil Massey and Edoardo Borgomeo focus on decision analysis, drought and water scarcity.