EGU21-13386, updated on 03 Apr 2024
EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Building bridges between disciplines: A generalized mathematical framework for climate change impact assessment

Anneli Guthke1, Amin E. Bakhshipour2, Felipe P.J. de Barros3, Holger Class4, James E. Daniell5, Ulrich Dittmer2, Markus Friedrich6, Jannik Haas1, Cordula Kropp7, Bruno Merz8,9, Sergey Oladyshkin1, Andreas Schäfer5, Michael Sinsbeck1, Daniel Straub10, Kristina Terheiden11, Silke Wieprecht11, and Wolfgang Nowak1
Anneli Guthke et al.
  • 1University of Stuttgart, Institute for Modelling Hydraulic and Environmental Systems, Department of Stochastic Simulation and Safety Research for Hydrosystems, Stuttgart, Germany (
  • 2Institute for Urban Water Management, TU Kaiserslautern, Germany
  • 3Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA
  • 4Department of Hydromechanics and Modelling of Hydrosystems, University of Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Germany
  • 5Geophysical Institute, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Karlsruhe, Germany
  • 6Department of Transport Planning and Traffic Engineering, University of Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Germany
  • 7Department of Environmental Sociology and Technology Assessment, University of Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Germany
  • 8GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Section Hydrology, Potsdam, Germany
  • 9Institute for Environmental Sciences and Geography, University Potsdam, Germany
  • 10Engineering Risk Analysis Group, Technische Universität München, Germany
  • 11Department of Hydraulic Engineering and Water Resources Management, University of Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Germany

Climate change impact and risk assessment is per definition a highly interdisciplinary task. Collaboration across disciplines is, unfortunately, often complicated by different perspectives, approaches, and terminology. To help building bridges, we propose a generalized mathematical framework for impact and risk assessment.

In an unprecedented community effort, we have derived a generally applicable risk equation for spatially-distributed and dynamic systems. We start off with a general framing and then refine individual parts of the equation as much as needed. We will show how the individual terms of our unified risk equation explicitly relate to concepts of frequency, intensity, duration, exposure, vulnerability and asset worth. The rigorous mathematical treatment allows investigating the importance of risk factors and serves as a basis for risk management and reduction. Yet, the actual quantification of risk is not our primary goal – rather, the proposed framework forces us to be very precise in definitions and terminology. Thereby, it effectively improves communication and collaboration across disciplines. Indeed, we even learn greatly in cases where we identify limitations that seem to spoil such a mathematically rigorous treatment.

We have successfully applied the framework to various disciplines of civil and environmental engineering, such as flood risk assessment, seismic risk assessment and reliability analysis of critical infrastructure. Users of the equation praise the structured common ground for discussion and highly recommend at least hypothetically applying this framework to gain a more unified understanding of the problem at hand. In this presentation, we discuss the potential of our proposed framework for risk assessment under climate change. Our transparent and rigorous approach is ideally suited to inform stakeholders and policymakers. Further, we are confident that our approach will serve as a catalyst for interdisciplinary advances toward effective adaptation and mitigation strategies.

How to cite: Guthke, A., Bakhshipour, A. E., de Barros, F. P. J., Class, H., Daniell, J. E., Dittmer, U., Friedrich, M., Haas, J., Kropp, C., Merz, B., Oladyshkin, S., Schäfer, A., Sinsbeck, M., Straub, D., Terheiden, K., Wieprecht, S., and Nowak, W.: Building bridges between disciplines: A generalized mathematical framework for climate change impact assessment, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-13386,, 2021.


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