Cities and Coasts

Our programme on building resilience and decreasing the vulnerability of people and places, with particular reference to cities and coasts, aims to bring greater integration to our work on coastal communities, cities and adaptation. Given the widespread consequences of climate change on ecosystems throughout society, adaptation represents a major challenge to future sustainability. More than half of the world’s population live in cities and approximately forty percent live on or near the coast, with 14 of the 17 world’s mega-cities located on coasts. Urban populations, which are growing most rapidly in developing countries, are facing risks such as heat stress, flooding and damage to infrastructure; coastal regions are particularly vulnerable to climate change and consequent increases in sea level and storminess.

Significant coastal impacts throughout the twenty-first century and beyond are inevitable without appropriate adaptation. The challenge for researchers is to identify resilient adaptation options that increase ability to withstand climate shocks, help individuals and institutions identify and implement adaptation strategies based on knowledge and resources, and enable learning and adaptation in a timely fashion, without undermining mitigation efforts by inducing energy-intensive adaptations such as air conditioning, pumped drainage or desalination.

Theme Co-ordinators: Richard Dawson, Robert Nicholls and Jim Hall

ARCADIA: Adaptation and Resilience in Cities: Analysis and Decision making using Integrated Assessment

London’s climate risks reduced

Urban research led by Jim Hall at the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford has developed a new system for analysing climate risks to cities. The ARCADIA project assesses choices for adapting City infrastructure to the impacts of climate change, using London as its case-study city.

ARCADIA (Adaptation and Resilience in Cities – Analysis and Decision-making using Integrated Assessments) is an evolution of the approaches pioneered for the Tyndall Urban Integrated Assessment System for incorporating data from different models and working alongside decision makers, such as the Greater London Authority, to ensure that the research outputs are useful to stakeholder’s needs.

Cities and urban areas are vulnerable to climate change because of their high concentrations of people and economic assets. “ARCADIA helps decisions about climate risks to the city economy, built environment, urban land-use and infrastructure” says Jim Hall.

“Cities globally are developing strategies for reducing the risks of climate change but they often lack the evidence that they need for informed decisions about what is likely to happen and where. ARCADIA provides a whole system approach for assessing adaptation strategies.”

A sister project, the Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium (ITRC) is also led by Oxford. It analyses the impact of risks, including climate, on urban infrastructure networks such as energy, transport and IT.

ARCADIA incorporates the Tyndall partners at Oxford, Newcastle and Southampton for its climate, flood and sea-level models, and Cambridge for the economic analysis, joined with University College London for its modeling of the built environment and land-use change. It integrates these different models and data together in a framework for a whole system understanding of how they interact now and in the future.

Further information


Adaptation and Resilience in Cities: Analysis and Decision making using Integrated Assessment (ARCADIA)

Urban areas are particularly vulnerable to economic and social impacts of climate change, such as floods, droughts and excessive heat, due to their high concentrations of people and assets. Moreover, the increasing temperatures due to global warming are exacerbated in cities due to the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect.  In recent years cities globally have been developing strategies for responding to the risks of climate change. However, they often lack the evidence needed to make the case for and prioritise adaptation actions. Consequently, the development of adaptation strategies for urban areas requires integrative thinking to understand and model relationships between the built environment, land-use, infrastructure systems, the urban economy and climate.

The ARCADIA project has developed a new system of models for analysing climate risks and assessing the performance of options for adapting to climate change. We have used London as a case study and worked with stakeholders to ensure that the analysis is relevant to the climate risks that they face. The models developed have been integrated within the Urban Integrated Assessment Framework (UIAF) (Figure 1). The UIAF incorporates future scenarios of climate, economic, demographic, and land use change, and starts to incorporate important feedbacks between these models. The framework enables the exploration of a range of climate and socio-economic scenarios and their implications, providing a whole-system approach to assessing adaptation strategies to enhance future urban sustainability.


Figure 1: Overview of the Urban Integrated Assessment Framework


The analysis is novel in a number of important respects including:

  • A Spatial Weather Generator provides time-series of fields of weather variables at a 5 km and daily and hourly resolution, and includes spatial correlation of heat and rainfall.  Temperature fields take some account of the Urban Heat Island effect, and allow the potential effects of different proportions of urban land cover and emissions of waste heat on urban climate to be explored. The Weather Generator is compatible with, and a valuable addition to, the UKCP09 climate scenarios.


  • A probabilistic methodology has been used to generate risk estimates that incorporate the effects of uncertainties in climate and vulnerability. Whilst most urban studies have focussed upon climate impacts, we are now able to generate genuine probabilistic estimates of climate risks. This methodology has been used to assess the direct impacts of extreme heat and flooding on people, buildings and infrastructure.


  • A novel input-output representation has been used to represent the effects of climate related disasters on the economy, and subsequent economic recovery from those disasters. The model represents the effects of disruption to supply chains and consumer demand that would result from a very severe event such as a widespread flood.


  • A new model of future land use change, extending to the edge of the commuter belt around London, has been used to assess potential changes in vulnerability to climate change. Driven by changes in population and employment, the land use model provides an indication of the spatial distribution of future employment (by industrial sector) and population (by socio-economic class) within London, which in turn allows estimates to be made on the future land occupancy required by these competing groups.


  • A complete model of the urban transport network has been used to estimate the potential disruptive effect of climate impacts on transport infrastructure, for example due to rail buckling in excessive heat. The transport model covers public and private transport modes.

A dynamic model of demand, service quality and switching between transport modes has been implemented to simulate the effects of transport disruptions on passenger flows.


  • During the research programme we have held meetings and workshop with decision-makers in London to promote uptake of the research. Further interactions with stakeholders and researchers in related EPSRC projects have been facilitated by the Adaptation and Resilience to a Changing Climate Coordination Network


In summary the ARCADIA project has developed:

1.   An analysis of the governance arrangements for adaptation. Understanding of the rapidly evolving governance context for adaptation helped to set the scene for the ARCADIA work on urban climate impacts and adaptation

2.   A qualitative systems description of the direct and indirect impacts of climate change on urban areas, economy and society. London’s adaptation and other policies have been analysed with respect to their coverage of the direct and indirect impacts of a changing climate.

3.   A spatial weather generator for urban areas. A new UKCP09-compliant weather generator includes spatial correlation of heat and rainfall and allows exploration of the potential effects of different proportions of urban land cover and emissions of waste heat on urban climate. The final version of this tool has been tested and a Graphical User Interface developed.

4.   Analysis of the indirect effects of climate events on the urban economy. A small set of illustrative scenarios demonstrate how for large disruptive events the indirect economic impacts can exceed the direct impacts, although for smaller events the direct impacts dominate. The magnitude of damage is shown to depend critically on how post-event recovery resources are allocated.

5.   Analysis of the potential effects of disruption on the transport network: a multi-model transport model has been developed which can simulate the effects of transport disruptions. This has been used to calculate the risks of heat-related disruption.

6.    Analysis of adaptation options. The new capability for analysing urban heat and flood risks has been used to quantify the benefits of potential adaptation strategies, including thermal design of buildings and improved resilience of transport networks.

7.  Provides a methodological approach for urban integrated assessment and climate risk analysis. The methodological approach integrates new and updated model components within an Urban Integrated Assessment Framework (UIAF) to facilitate the analysis of multiple climate risks and adaptation options for urban systems.


Duration: July 2009 - June 2012


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CLIMSAVE - Climate Change Integrated Assessment Methodology for Cross-Sectoral Adaptation and Vulnerability in Europe

‘Climsave’ is a pan-European project developing a user-friendly tool for an integrated climate change impact and vulnerability assessment across a range of sectors.

The overall aim of the CLIMSAVE project is to deliver an integrated methodology to assess cross-sectoral climate change impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. The outputs from this project will inform many policy processes ensuring that decisions on how best to adapt to climate change are based on solid scientific analysis. 

Duration: January 2010 - June 2013


DIVA model - Dynamic Interactive Vulnerability Assessment

DIVA (Dynamic Interactive Vulnerability Assessment) is a global scale sea-level rise impacts model.

It considers impacts due to extreme water levels caused by sea-level rise over the 21st century at global and regional scales. DIVA allows the user to insert future sea-level rise scenarios to project future impacts on a global scale. Metrics include: number of people potentially flooded due to extreme water levels, amount of land loss extreme water levels, wetland loss due to extreme water levels, total cost of damages due to floods, potential costs of adaptation to reduce flood risks.   

DIVA has been used in a wide range of projects funded by NERC, DEFRA, DECC, DFID amongst others. Recent projects have included;


World Bank’s  ‘Economics of Adaptation to Climate Change’

Foreign and Commonwealth Office/Met Office’s ’Impacts of climate change in a 4°C world’ 

Impacts of sea-level rise in Africa as part of UNEP’s Climate Change Adaptation programme

Global port cities

In conjunction with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the AVOID programme, a series of projects have been looking at the exposure of the world’s large port cities to extreme water level events and how global mitigation and local adaptation can affect both exposure and risk.

ITRC Infrastructure transition project

This Tyndall project aims to develop a new generation of system simulation models and methods to inform analysis, planning and design of national infrastructure in the energy, transport, water, waste and telecoms sectors.

The UK Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium will inform the analysis, planning and design of national infrastructure, through the development and demonstration of new decision support tools, and working with partners in government and industry.

The research will deal at a national scale with: Energy, Transport, Water, Waste, and Information and communication technologies (ICT) systems.

For these systems, the programme will: Develop new methods for analysing performance, risks and interdependencies. Provide a virtual environment in which to test strategies for long term investment understand how alternative strategies perform with respect to policy constraints such as: reliability and security of supply, cost, carbon emissions, and adaptability to demographic and climate change.


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Duration: January 2011 - December 2015



RAMSES (Reconciling Adaptation, Mitigation and Sustainable Development for Cities) is a €5m FP7 research programme that aims to develop methods, tools and case studies to design strategies, quantify costs and evaluate the impacts of adaptation to climate change in cities.

The Newcastle University team, led by Professor Richard Dawson, have received €520k to (i) develop a high level climate risk assessment for European cities, (ii) extend existing urban integrated assessment modelling to include pluvial flooding, evaluation of impacts on the urban economy of extreme events, and air quality and health issues, (iii) apply (and adapt) our integrated assessment facility for new city case studies – including one international location, and (iv) test a range of adaptation strategies to identify how best to reduce risks in cities and inform the design of transitions to more sustainable urban environments.

The consortium is funded by the EU FP7 and led by PIK (Potsdam Institute for Climate Research) and includes the LSE (UK), Vlaamse Instelling voor Technologisch Onderzoek (VITO, Belgium), Institut du développement durable et des relations internationales (IDDRI, France), Fundación Tecnalia Research & Innovation (TECNALIA, Spain), Norges teknisk-naturvitenskapelige universitet (NTNU, Norway), World Health Organisation Europe, T6 Ecosystems (Italy), ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability, The Climate Centre (Belgium), Climate Media Factory (Germany) and Institut Veolia Environnement (France).

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RESNET: Resilient Electricity Networks for Great Britain

Aim: To develop and demonstrate a comprehensive approach to analyse, at a national scale, climate-related changes in the reliability of the UK’s electricity system, and to develop tools for quantifying the value of adaptations that would enhance its resilience.


To develop a weather generator for producing scenarios of spatially coincident weather extremes in future climates at a national scale.

To apply a weather typing approach to the Regional Climate Models used by UKCP09 to produce a wind storm component for the weather generator.

To generate spatially and temporally explicit scenarios of future electricity demand and supply, with and without different scales of decentralisation.

To develop models relating changes in the severity of weather related events to failure rate of individual network components.

To quantify the potential impacts of future climate upon the operational resilience and the infrastructure resilience of the overall GB power system.

To explore the societal implications and identify potential barriers to adaptation measures.

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Duration: September 2011 - August 2015

THESEUS: Innovative technologies for safer European coasts in a changing climate

The EU funded project THESEUS aims to investigate mitigation and adaptation technologies and include them in a systematic approach to assessing the impact of flood events for both human and natural environments during the current century.

The methodology is based on a Source-Pathway-Receptor analysis of flood events which can be rerun taking into account innovative coastal management techniques, socio-economic developments and climate change.  It also considers public perception of risk and the value of the natural environment beyond its role in coastal management.

Duration: December 2009 - November 2013


The global-scale impacts of climate change: QUEST-GSI (project completed)

Climate change impacts studies to date typically consider particular regions and sectors and use a wide range of socio-economic and climate scenarios.

This makes it difficult to assess impacts at the global scale and to compare impacts for different socio-economic and climate futures. Furthermore it makes it difficult to assess the effectiveness of proposed policy measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and so reduce the impacts of climate change.

The key aim of QUEST-GSI is to better quantify the impacts of climate change in a consistent way across the entire globe, and for a range of sectors such as: water resources, flooding, crops and human health.