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Statistical Science

Research case study: simulating weather hazards

Society and infrastructure are vulnerable to weather-related hazards including floods, droughts and wind storms. To protect against such hazards, engineers and policymakers must assess the effectiveness of potential hazard mitigation and management strategies. 

To do this, it is becoming increasingly common to build computer simulators of the systems of interest, and to generate “synthetic weather” sequences to drive these simulators and determine the system response. 

Research in UCL Statistical Science, from the mid-1990s onwards, has led to the development of state-of-the-art tools for generating such synthetic sequences. These tools have been widely adopted, both in the UK and abroad. 

In the UK, they have been and continue to be used for engineering design purposes, for example to inform the design of flood defences; they are also being used to inform climate change adaptation strategies in Australia, with perhaps the biggest impact being an analysis of rainfall trends in southwest Western Australia that directly supported a decision to approve the expansion of a seawater desalination plant at a cost of around AUS$450 million.