Flooding from Intense Rainfall

Flooded town

The Flooding from Intense Rainfall programme is a planned NERC-led five-year programme which will contribute to our understanding of the risks associated with flooding from high-intensity convective storms.

The objective of the Flooding from Intense Rainfall programme is:

To reduce the risks of damage and loss of life caused by surface water and flash floods through improved identification, characterisation and prediction of interacting meteorological, hydrological and hydro-morphological processes that contribute to flooding associated with high-intensity rainfall events.

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Intense rainfall events commonly last for a few hours, or even a few minutes, but present flood forecasters and flood risk managers with major problems.

These groups have great difficulty predicting when, where, and how much precipitation will occur, as well as managing the large volumes of overland flow - mainly because of exceedance of the capacity of the surface for infiltration, enlargement of areas of saturated ground, or overwhelming of the drainage capacity of channel networks, coupled with rapid and unusual hydrological and geomorphic responses to rainfall and runoff.

Our knowledge of processes associated with such extremes is poor and we cannot predict associated flood risks with confidence, particularly as these are commonly exacerbated by changes in flood routing, dynamic adjustments to river channels, the widespread mobilisation of sediment and organic debris, as well as the occurrence of blockages - as seen during the flash floods at Lynmouth (1952), Boscastle (2004), Helmsley (2005), Cumbria (2009) and Cornwall (2010).

There is a widespread recognition that the occurrence of high-intensity rainfall is likely to increase as a result of climate change, and government, providers and users of research have prioritised topics that will increase our knowledge of such events.

Both the Pitt Review (2008) and the LWEC UK Flood & Coastal Erosion Risk Management (FCERM) Research Strategy identified the need for increased knowledge and understanding of the risks associated with pluvial (surface water) flooding, including prediction of the summer (convective) storms which cause such events; catchment susceptibility and the use of land management to minimise discharge.

Arising from this is an urgent need to develop new science with respect to intense rainfall events that appropriately informs:

  1. risk mitigation and adaptation options
  2. improved planning and operational maintenance of catchments, channels and flood-defence infrastructure; and flood-incident management (real time forecasting, flood-fighting and evacuation strategies).

The NERC led Flooding from Intense Rainfall programme is a collaborative Living With Environmental Change (LWEC) activity. It will address both the NERC strategy through the natural hazards theme priority 'To increase understanding of coupled hydro-meteorological processes and how these will alter with climate change' and the LWEC UK Flood & Coastal Erosion Risk Management (FCERM) Research Strategy.

The programme's research will be UK-focused and will address the following scientific goals:

  1. Improve the length and accuracy of forecasts of the occurrence and intensity of rainfall associated with convective storms.
  2. Identify the susceptibility to high-intensity rainfall of different catchment types, based on characterisation of the properties that govern the dynamic, non-linear, hydrological and hydro-morphological processes which initiate, extend and intensify associated flood risks.
  3. Enhance flood risk-management through the development of both flood risk estimation and real-time forecasts of floods associated with high-intensity rainfall, integrating multiple meteorological and hydro-morphological processes occurring before, during and after intense precipitation events.


2012 - 2019

Can I apply for a grant?

No, the funding round has closed.


This programme has a budget of £5·2 million.

Programme Awards

For a list of awards made within the programme please visit Grants on the Web:

View details of funded applications - external link


Programme Executive Board (PEB)

The Flooding from Intense Rainfall Research Program me will be managed by NERC Swindon Office in close coordination with the Met Office and the Environment Agency. The PEB will be chaired by NERC and membership includes:

  • Professor Brian Golding, Met Office
  • Doug Whitfield, Environment Agency

The following documents and links are related to or give more information about this programme.

Natural hazards theme action plan (PDF, 205KB)