COASTAL CHALLENGESEnhancing Coastal Cities' Flood Resilience Through Smart City Technologies

Published 27 December 2023

In the face of climate change, a suite of advanced technologies can be integrated into urban design to reduce the flood risk posed by rising sea levels, more intense rainfall events, and more powerful storm surges.

Over the rest of this century due to global warming, coastal populations are likely to face increased risk of flooding. A team of researchers has proposed how the integration of Internet of Things, 5G mobile telephony, big data and machine learning into ‘smart-cities’ can be harnessed to enhance urban flood resilience.

Their paper surveying the state of urban flood resilience studies and the prospects for smart-city technologies and platforms was published on November 13 in Ocean-Land-Atmosphere Research.

As the global climate warms, one of the most immediate risks humanity faces is the growing threat of coastal flooding, at a time when human civilization is increasingly urban and living in coastal areas. By 2030, roughly half of the world’s population will be living along the shoreline. At the same time, the pace of infrastructure construction has not kept pace with these steadily increasing coastal, urban populations, leading to inadequate flood prevention systems and leaving densely populated areas at high risk.

Climate change ramps up the flood threat in three key ways: rising sea levels, more intense rainfall events, and storm surges. The incidence of these coming together at the same time, what researchers call ‘compound flooding,’ is also increasing.

In the face of the growing danger from flooding, a paradigm of adaptation to the threat has in recent years been replaced with one of resilience. Adaptation describes those actions that are taken to adjust to new conditions, while resilience understands that there may be no permanent set of new conditions, and so society instead has to develop the capacity to anticipate novel external shocks, cope with them as they happen, and then spring back from them after the shock has passed.

In the case of urban flood resilience, the societal approach has thus evolved from just attempting to prevent floods to also being able to cope with them when they do inevitably happen, and recover from the effects of flood damage in a timely and effective manner.

However, while the discourse has moved on from a prevention-only paradigm, and both researchers and policy-makers have developed concepts and frameworks for resilience, there remain major gaps in a consistent approach to rigorous quantification of the resilience concept.