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Ronan McNamee

PhD Researcher
Dept. of Civil, Structural & Environmental Engineering



Towards the development of new analysis methods to improve the safety and resilience of Ireland’s flood defence infrastructure in the face of climate change

Keywords: Flood Defences, Climate Change, Resilience, Slope Stability, Geotechnical Engineering.


The impact of flooding in Europe has increased over the past 50 years, which is directly attributed to climate change. Due to its geographical position and features, Ireland is especially vulnerable to extreme flooding caused by global warming. The probability of occurrence of these extreme events is increasing and climate disruption will add to the magnitude of such events. Across Britain and Ireland, the magnitudes have been increasing at a rate of approximately five per cent per decade since the 1960s.

Flood defence infrastructure built during the 1960s in Ireland is no longer sufficiently resilient to withstand the magnitude of flooding now predicted for vulnerable areas. As a result, there is an urgent need for identifying upgrades for existing flood defence infrastructure in addition to the development of new infrastructure. Typically flood defence infrastructure consist primarily of earth embankments, cuttings, dams, dykes and retaining walls, which are underpinned by Geotechnical Engineering (the branch of civil engineering concerned with the engineering behaviour of earth materials, i.e. soils and rock). Increases in the intensity of rainfall events in recent years have led to a rise in the number of slope failures and many areas benefitting from flood defence infrastructure are at risk from climate change induced flooding. It is therefore essential to efficiently identify and allocate resources to the infrastructure which are at highest risk of failure.

The proposed research aims to back-analyse industry geotechnical data to better understand the design efficiency, safety and resilience of our flood defence infrastructure in the face of climate change. In order to determine the appropriate riskreduction measures and cost-effectiveness, the project aims to develop a risk framework to quantify the costs of climate change impact and will include the development of a decision support tool for upgrading and maintenance of Ireland’s flood defence infrastructure.

The research is funded under the IRC employment-based postgraduate program. Direct inputs and support from Gavin and Doherty Geosolutions are acknowledged.

Project Supervisor: Asst. Prof. David Igoe