News and Events

10/07/2017 New Global Data to be built on cutting edge DEM


When building flood models at the global scale one of the biggest challenges is dealing with uncertain or erroneous terrain models.  The types of extremely precise Digital Elevation Models (DEM) available across some of the developed world are simply not available across most of the developing world, and so for these regions we are forced to rely on less precise data gathered from space.  A great deal of work is required to make terrain data collected from space suitable for high resolution flood modelling.


Last month, in a paper published by colleague from Japan and co-authored by members of our team, the new global ‘Multi Error Removed Improved Terrain’ (MERIT) DEM was presented.  This DEM is based on the stalwart NASA Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) data, the benchmark global terrain dataset that is used across a wide range of industries.  However, the original SRTM data product contains numerous problems for flood modelling, from elevation errors caused by radar reflecting off the tops of trees and buildings to wave-like distortions caused by the pitch and roll of the space shuttle itself.  Our paper describes the work we have done to correct these issues by manipulating SRTM using a range of other datasets.  The result is a large decrease in vertical error, particularly in areas of flatter ground where flood risk is typically highest.


As a result of this, we are happy to announce that the new version of our global flood hazard data will be produced using the MERIT DEM.  Along with other updates currently being completed, including a dynamic approach to estimating flood defence sizes, our new data will represent a significant improvement on our previous offering.  The model is set to begin rolling on our servers next week, and images an analysis of the new dataset to follow over the coming months.

18/05/2017 SSBN data underpins global World Bank tool

We are pleased to announce that the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) has licensed SSBN-Global. GFDRR is a global partnership that helps developing countries better understand and reduce their vulnerabilities to natural hazards and adapt to climate change. Working with over 400 local, national, regional, and international partners, GFDRR provides grant financing, technical assistance, training, and knowledge sharing activities to mainstream disaster and climate risk management in policies and strategies. Managed by the World Bank, GFDRR is supported by 36 countries and 10 international organizations.

Flood risk indexes being calculated for multiple World Bank administrative levels.

Flood risk indexes being calculated for multiple World Bank administrative levels.

One of the tools offered by GFDRR is ThinkHazard! a web based tool that allows non-specialists to consider the impacts of disasters on development projects. It also provides guidance on how to reduce risk. Flooding is an important hazard  covered by ThinkHazard!, the aim of the SSBN data is to provide guidance on levels of flood hazard across all territories and at numerous scales.

To achieve this, SSBN combined SSBN-Global hazard layers with satellite based observations of permanent water features and urban features to create a global picture of flood hazard and exposure.  Bespoke spatial classification schemes were then developed using quantitative methods that employed these data to classify government administrative areas into easily understood hazard classes globally.

The outcome is that the ThinkHazard! platform has a new and improved set of global flood hazard layers for both fluvial (riverine) and urban (riverine and extreme rainfall) flooding.  These layers allow users to quickly identify whether or not flooding is likely to pose an operational challenge during the early stages disaster response or project planning.

“SSBN delivered high-quality and timely analyses to improve the global flood hazard classification in ThinkHazard!, and helped make the data available for disaster risk management activities in developing countries”

Brenden Jongman

Disaster Risk Management Specialist



06/02/2016 Dr Niall Quinn joins SSBN

We are delighted to announce that Dr Niall Quinn has joined the team at SSBN. 

Niall completed a PhD at the University of Southampton, focusing on modelling tide-surge-wave interactions in coastal regions, before moving to the University of Bristol. During his 4 years at the University, Niall was a member of various exciting post-doctoral projects relating to flood risk modelling across local to national scales within the UK and Europe. Niall brings with him a wealth of knowledge, particularly in the field of coastal flood hazard modelling and we are delighted that he was joined us.

“The continued success of SBBN has provided a great opportunity to make the step from academic research to real-world application. I’m excited to get to work with the rest of the team developing new technology and of course helping the company to grow.”



20/06/2016 NASA Flood Response Workshop

Over the past week we were invited to participate in the NASA Flood Response Workshop, in Washington DC. The week was spent discussing how current and future NASA products could be integrated into future flood models, and which data products NASA should prioritize. Capabilities in flood mitigation and response will improve significantly in the near future. We are excited to be working at the forefront of this field.

19/05/2016 SSBN partners with World Bank's GFDRR to produce new hazard reduction tool

SSBN’s Global Flood hazard data has been incorporated into a new World Bank tool, ThinkHazard!. Along with the provision of data, SSBN’s expertise was also used to validate the tool and provide recommendations for end users. The new tool was produced by the World Bank’s Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), and aims to improve disaster risk awareness and response.

ThinkHazard! is a tool that will get natural disaster information into the hands of people who really need to know. It is our duty to equip project leaders and developers with information on what hazards exist, but also with knowledge on how to make their projects resilient to all major natural hazards today and into the future”, says Dr. Alanna Simpson, Senior Disaster Risk Management Specialist and Leader of GFDRR’s Innovation Lab. “This tool, developed alongside our partners over the last two years, provides a one-stop-shop to inform users on the hazards within their geographic area and how to make their project resilient throughout project design and implementation.”

Dr Andrew Smith, COO at SSBN commented: “This tool demonstrates the significant developments that have been made in the provision of flood risk information, particularly in developing regions. Just a few years ago, a tool providing information on hazard levels with near global coverage would have seemed infeasible. We are delighted to be have been a project partner and look to the advancing the capability of these kinds of tools in the future”.

22/04/2016 - Simulations of Houston event undertaken

This week saw exceptional levels of rainfall hit Houston, Texas. Vast areas of the city were quickly inundated, leading to the deaths of at least 7 people and leaving 1200 in need of aid. In response to this event, we obtained event rainfall data from NOAA (see below) and utilized the data to undertaken hydrodynamic simulations of the event itself. We are constantly improving the efficiency with which we can undertake large scale flood modelling, with the aim being to build the capability to turn around simulations in near real time. 

12/02/2016 SSBN - Sompo Canopius Partnership

We are delighted to announce our partnership with Sompo Canopius. Sompo Canopius are licensing our flood data to better understand its international flood exposure.

 Insurance Journal - Article

Marek Shafer, Head of Catastrophe Management, Sompo Canopius said: “Understanding flood risk in some areas of the US can be notoriously difficult. SSBN, which offers a range of modelling tools at the forefront of flood risk research, is an innovative and dynamic organisation with a clear and impressive methodology. This relationship will give us significantly greater clarity about these risks across north America, providing a more robust scientific basis for underwriting existing risks and allowing us to consider new locations and products to offer our brokers and clients.”

Marek Shafer - Head of CAT Sompo Canopius

Marek Shafer - Head of CAT Sompo Canopius

14/09/2015 Global Flood methods published

The methods underpinning our global flood products have been published in a leading scientific journal; the paper is open access and can be viewed here. The paper itself outlines each of the obstacles that must be overcome in order for robust global flood models to be built. It also outlines a thorough validation of the model against national scale hazard maps; to our knowledge this is the first time this has been undertaken. We are committed to making our methods as open and transparent as possible and believe that by opening up our methods to criticism from our peers only results in better science and better products.  

22/04/2015 Africa Flood Hazard Layers

We now have fluvial (river) and pluvial (flash-flood) hazard layers covering the entire continent of Africa, at ~90m resolution. Our data represent a step-change in the quality of data available in data-poor regions. We are working with numerous partners including large NGOs and are looking to collaborate with more organisations. If you are interested in our data, get in touch. 

07/04/2015 Andy and Paul discuss their work

Listen to Andy and Paul discuss their work on global flood modelling with SciDev.Net:

20/02/2015 Positive response to SSBN-ImageCat collaboration

We are pleased to announce our collaboration with ImageCat, integrating our global flood hazards maps into Inhance, their exposure data analysis and visualisation platform. Using Inhance, re/insurers will be able to incorporate our flood hazard data into their own catastrophe underwriting and exposure management processes and automatically produce reports for underwriting, accumulation control and capital management.

Following on from our joint webinar on the 3rd February, we have had a very positive response from the market, as detailed by the articles below (click links):

Commercial Risk Europe

Prevention Web


If you would like to find out more about the offering get in touch.


17/02/2015 SSBN publish paper exploring flood behaviour globally

Our team have published their latest paper, in the world leading journal Water Resources Research, exploring how flood behaviours can be characterised at the global scale. The paper outlines that the characterisation of flood behaviour, anywhere in the world, may not be far away. In fact, using relatively simplistic methods, the study found that in many data-poor regions robust estimates of  flood behaviour are already possible.

01/02/2015 SSBN Runners up at the NERC Impact Awards

SSBN have finished runners-up at the Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC) Impact Awards 2015. The awards evening celebrated all of the NERC funded research that has made a significant impact over the past 50 years. Congratulations to the winners and we look forward to further engagement with NERC in the coming years.


26/01/2015 Flood hazard data for Malawi freely available to use

Widespread flooding across the African state of Malawi over the past few weeks has claimed hundreds of lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of people. A large aid operation is currently underway across the affected regions to deliver much needed drinking water, food and shelter. However, reaching the estimated 370,000 people in need is proving extremely difficult owing to the widespread damage inflicted on the country’s infrastructure.

In response, SSBN have decided to make some of our hazard data for the region freely available to use. The data can be found here. This does not represent a simulation of the current event, instead it is a country wide recurrence interval hazard map that we have judged to best represent the current event in some places. We would very much like to hear if the tool is proving useful to you, or if you are interested in further data.

18/12/2014 SSBN hazard data to be shown on Google Earth Engine at AGU 2014

Head to the the Google Earth Engine video wall at 10:00 am (at the Google booth) for a short presentation on our ongoing work to make global flood hazard data available of Google Earth

17/12/2014 Professor Paul Bates Delivers invited talk at AGU 2014 on validation of global flood models

Professor Paul Bates, co-founder of SSBN, delivered an invited talk at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco in which he discused our ongoing work to validate the performance of global flood models (session: H33M-03 - Validation of a Global Hydrodynamic Flood Inundation Model).

12/12/2014 Filming ahead of the NERC Impact awards

The SSBN team have been filming down in London this week ahead of the NERC impact awards in January. A big thank you to Willis for hosting us, to Impact Media Specialists and of course to NERC. We are looking forward to the awards and to seeing the end product in the New Year!

Paul talking about the recent developments in global flood modelling and their implications

Paul talking about the recent developments in global flood modelling and their implications

17/11/2014  National Environmental Research Council (NERC) Impact awards

The SSBN team have been selected as finalists for the inaugural NERC Impact Award. The shortlisting recognises the significant contribution the team has made to flood risk modelling and management practises both in the UK and internationally.

The awards intend to recognise and reward the contribution of NERC science to the UK's economy, society, wellbeing and internationalreputation. The winners will be announced at a prize-giving ceremony in London on 27th January 2015, kicking-off NERC's 50th anniversary.

The environmental science community's response to the awards has been outstanding, with 82 applications of an exceptional standard submitted across four categories of impact: economic, social, early-career and international. The applications show the excellence of UK science and its impact, as well as demonstrating the breadth of the contribution environmental science - and scientists - make to the UK's prosperity.

A shortlisting panel, made up of experts from academia, business and the third sector, met on 31st October to whittle them down to two finalists in each category, each of which will now be reviewed by a panel of judges.

                                 SSBN team announced as finalists at the 2015 NERC Impact Awards

                                 SSBN team announced as finalists at the 2015 NERC Impact Awards


10/11/2014 SSBN providing flood hazard information to Belize

We are currently working on a World Bank funded project to provide flood hazard data to the Belize government. Our work has involved collaborating with both chief planners and engineers to identify their needs and provide suitable tools We are providing both bespoke flood models and design engineering solutions at the national scale.

18/09/2014 SSBN team are now part of the UN and EU funded Global Flood Partnership

The Global Flood Partnership is a cooperation framework between scientific organisations and flood disaster managers worldwide to develop flood observational and modelling infrastructure, leveraging on existing initiatives for better predicting and managing flood disaster impacts and flood risk globally. GFP is hosted as an Expert Working Group by GDACS. 


30/07/2014 SSBN to collaborate with Google and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

The team at SSBN will be collaborating with the Google Earth Engine team and NASA JPL to produce visualisation algorithms that will facilitate the integration of flood hazard data into cloud-based high resolution platforms such as Google Earth.  .

05/07/2014 IMDE 2014 update

Understanding Risk 2014 proved to be an extremely constructive and engaging event. At the IMDE the SSBN team spent the day engaging with colleagues from the insurance, engineering and NGO sectors. Paul Bates also provided presentations outlining our latest developments. Following on from the event we have had many follow ups with representatives from many institutions, including the World Bank, regarding future collaboration.  Google also presented some collaborative work, showcasing SSBN flood data run on the latest generation elevation datasets in their Earth platform.  

25/06/2014 SSBN To exhibit at IMDE 2014 in the ExCel centre in London on 02/07/2014

23/06/2014 SSBN founder has paper published discussing the challenges of using precipitation data to drive catastrophe models

SSBN founder Chris Sampson, in collaboration with the Willis Research Network, has published a paper in the leading international open access  Hydrology and Earth System Sciences journal that presents an analysis of the adverse effects of precipitation data uncertainty on loss estimates generated using a CAT model.  The study finds the uncertainty caused by choice of precipitation data (gauge / radar / satellite / reanalysis) to have more of an effect on modelled losses than uncertainty in any other component, including the vulnerability module.  At SSBN we minimise our exposure to this problem by using a regionalised flood frequency analysis approach that avoids rainfall data and hydrological models; the method will be published in a leading international journal soon!

06/05/2014 Google presents collaborative work at EGU general meeting in Vienna

SSBN has under taken some collaborative work with Google, integrating flood hazard layers into their Google Earth platform. The resulting flood maps were presented by Google at the EGU general meeting in Vienna last week.

Chris Sampson said: "Increasing the visibility and applicability of flood risk technologies is a key aim of SSBN and a primary reason for the starting the company. Integrating our products into a platform that is as well known as Google Earth is clearly in line with this aim. We are keen to work with different delivery platforms and are excited about where this technology may lead in the near future".

Hazard layer for South East Asia integrated into Google Earth

16/04/2014 SSBN co-founders call for new approach to deal with flood risk

SSBN co-founders Andrew Smith, Paul Bates and Chris Sampson have published a paper exploring the impacts of climate change on flooding in the UK. The study, published in the Journal of Hydrology, used a suite of climate models to drive hydrological and hydraulic models. The results suggest that although extreme flows are likely to increase, there is a large window of uncertainty that renders any decision making very difficult. The results also revealed that there was already a large amount of variability in estimating flood magnitude under current climate conditions.

Andrew Smith said: "Flood risk is predicted to increase as the climate warms, according to the modelling tools we have available.  However the window of uncertainty in flood risk is already extremely wide for today's climate.  Our results show that dealing properly with current uncertainties in flood hazard and managing the risk better will actually confer a lot of the protection we are likely to need for the future."

15/03/2014 SSBN co-founders and NASA call for new global DEM

SSBN co-founders Prof Paul Bates and Dr Jeff Neal have published a joint article in Nature submitting a call for an advanced global DEM to be assembled. Such a DEM would transform the provision and quality of global flood products as current flood capability is largely governed by the quality of the underlying DEM. SSBNs position at the forefront of scientific research affords us access to such cutting-edge technologies that are likely to transform the way we interpret the world around us. Moving forward, we aim to utilize this position to provide our clients with products that are based upon the very latest developments in the flood modelling world.



31/01/2014 Jakarta flooding Jan 2014: model testing

Central Jakarta is particularly vulnerable to flooding, with large areas of the city regularly being affected during the wet season. In 2013 large areas of the city were inundated during a predominantly rainfall-driven flood event.  Over the past couple of weeks much of the city has again been under water, with many areas including North Jakarta and the industrial province of Tangerang being affected by both surface water and riverine flooding.  In order to assess the ability of our Global product in determining flood risk areas across the city, a validation exercise was carried out to establish whether our hazard layers could identify areas and properties inundated in the past week.  Local media sources were used to identify properties and spot locations that have been inundated; these were then checked against a low return period flood map.  This exercise demonstrates the significant skill of the SSBN Global flood product at identifying areas at risk from both surface water and riverine flooding in large urban centres

Adding a Custom Overlay

08/01/2014 Global product release

We are pleased to announce that following a year of research and development, our global flood methodology is now complete. We are now rolling our product out to provide worldwide flood coverage. Our initial offering will constitute flood hazard layers for South East Asia, with hazard layers for many countries now completed. For more details regarding product pricing, availability or technical queries please get in touch.