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Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhessd-3-7333-2015
© Author(s) 2015. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Review article
07 Dec 2015
Review status
This discussion paper has been under review for the journal Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences (NHESS). A final paper in NHESS is not foreseen.
Epistemic uncertainties and natural hazard risk assessment – Part 1: A review of the issues
K. J. Beven1,2, W. P. Aspinall4, P. D. Bates5, E. Borgomeo7, K. Goda3, J. W. Hall7, T. Page1, J. C. Phillips4, J. T. Rougier6, M. Simpson7, D. B. Stephenson8, P. J. Smith1, T. Wagener3,9, and M. Watson4 1Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK
2Department of Earth Sciences, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden
3Department of Civil Engineering, Bristol University, Bristol, UK
4School of Earth Sciences, Bristol University, Bristol, UK
5School of Geographical Sciences, Bristol University, Bristol, UK
6School of Mathematics, Bristol University, Bristol, UK
7Environmental Change Institute, Oxford University, Oxford , UK
8Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, Exeter University, Exeter, UK
9Cabot Institute, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
Abstract. Uncertainties in natural hazard risk assessment are generally dominated by the sources arising from lack of knowledge or understanding of the processes involved. There is a lack of knowledge about frequencies, process representations, parameters, present and future boundary conditions, consequences and impacts, and the meaning of observations in evaluating simulation models. These are the epistemic uncertainties that can be difficult to constrain, especially in terms of event or scenario probabilities, even as elicited probabilities rationalized on the basis of expert judgements. This paper reviews the issues raised by trying to quantify the effects of epistemic uncertainties. Such scientific uncertainties might have significant influence on decisions that are made for risk management, so it is important to communicate the meaning of an uncertainty estimate and to provide an audit trail of the assumptions on which it is based. Some suggestions for good practice in doing so are made.

Citation: Beven, K. J., Aspinall, W. P., Bates, P. D., Borgomeo, E., Goda, K., Hall, J. W., Page, T., Phillips, J. C., Rougier, J. T., Simpson, M., Stephenson, D. B., Smith, P. J., Wagener, T., and Watson, M.: Epistemic uncertainties and natural hazard risk assessment – Part 1: A review of the issues, Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss., 3, 7333-7377, https://doi.org/10.5194/nhessd-3-7333-2015, 2015.
K. J. Beven et al.
K. J. Beven et al.

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Uncertainties in natural hazard risk assessment are generally dominated by the sources arising from lack of knowledge or understanding of the processes involved. This is Part 1 of 2 papers reviewing these epistemic uncertainties that can be difficult to constrain, especially in terms of event or scenario probabilities. It is based on the work of the CREDIBLE research consortium on Risk and Uncertainty in Natural Hazards.
Uncertainties in natural hazard risk assessment are generally dominated by the sources arising...
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