Original Paper

Natural Hazards

, Volume 64, Issue 1, pp 73-105

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

A flood vulnerability index for coastal cities and its use in assessing climate change impacts

  • S. F. BalicaAffiliated withUNESCO-IHE, Institute for Water EducationDelft University of Technology Email author 
  • , N. G. WrightAffiliated withUNESCO-IHE, Institute for Water EducationSchool of Civil Engineering, University of LeedsDelft University of Technology
  • , F. van der MeulenAffiliated withUNESCO-IHE, Institute for Water EducationDeltares


Worldwide, there is a need to enhance our understanding of vulnerability and to develop methodologies and tools to assess vulnerability. One of the most important goals of assessing coastal flood vulnerability, in particular, is to create a readily understandable link between the theoretical concepts of flood vulnerability and the day-to-day decision-making process and to encapsulate this link in an easily accessible tool. This article focuses on developing a Coastal City Flood Vulnerability Index (CCFVI) based on exposure, susceptibility and resilience to coastal flooding. It is applied to nine cities around the world, each with different kinds of exposure. With the aid of this index, it is demonstrated which cities are most vulnerable to coastal flooding with regard to the system’s components, that is, hydro-geological, socio-economic and politico-administrative. The index gives a number from 0 to 1, indicating comparatively low or high coastal flood vulnerability, which shows which cities are most in need of further, more detailed investigation for decision-makers. Once its use to compare the vulnerability of a range of cities under current conditions has been demonstrated, it is used to study the impact of climate change on the vulnerability of these cities over a longer timescale. The results show that CCFVI provides a means of obtaining a broad overview of flood vulnerability and the effect of possible adaptation options. This, in turn, will allow for the direction of resources to more in-depth investigation of the most promising strategies.


Coastal City Flood Vulnerability Index (CCFVI) Urbanised deltas Climate change