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Q&A: Adam Parkes, Head of Discipline for Hydrology

We’re getting to know members of the Flood Modeller team! Hear from Adam Parkes, Jacobs' Head of Discipline for Hydrology, who has over 15 years of experience using Flood Modeller. He talks about his role at Jacobs, what sparked his interest in a career in flood risk management, and his predictions for the future of the software.

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do at Jacobs?

I am a hydrologist and hydraulic modeller focused on flood risk management to support our clients and the wider community. My work is predominantly to assess how flooding from different sources (rivers, coast, surface water, etc) can affect people, communities, infrastructure and the environment; both now and into the future.

My work is divided into two broad areas. Hydrology: calculating likely river flows during flood conditions, including considering extreme flood conditions which we are unlikely to have yet experienced; and hydraulic modelling: using computational representations of river systems to work out where flood water will flow, to understand mechanisms of flooding, flood extents and consequences.

By better understanding flood risk, we are able to identify and design interventions to manage floods and reduce the often devastating impacts they have on people.

Paired with this, I've always enjoyed looking for new ways of working and driving innovative approaches. I'm involved in various initiatives where we are challenging the traditional ways of working to take advantage of new technology and tools.

What sparked your interest in water/hydrology?

Science and engineering have always been my main areas of interest since I was young, trying to understand how things work and are put together (I still have far too much Lego). When choosing a degree, I was torn between science and engineering, ultimately studying for a degree in Earth Sciences followed by and engineering focused masters. My career at Jacobs has allowed me to combine both areas of interest and have a positive impact on people’s lives.

How long have you been using Flood Modeller to map and manage flood risk?

I've been using Flood Modeller since I started as a graduate hydrologist in 2004, so well over 15 years now. I have used a wide range of other software, but Flood Modeller remains my "go to" tool for hydraulic modelling.

What have been the most notable changes to the Flood Modeller software since your involvement?

Flood Modeller has changed hugely since I first started using it. The most significant changes for me are the introduction of 2D solvers to allow comprehensive modelling of floodplain hydraulics, the 1D urban solver, allowing pipe networks to be modelled and the ever evolving interface which is unrecognisable compared to the early days with the introduction of GIS integration.

What do you see as an important aspect of flood risk management over the next 5 years?

Every week we see extreme weather events across the world, with major flooding a regular feature in the news. Although we are striving to limit the impacts of climate change, even if we achieve the goals of COP26 in limiting warming to 1.5 degrees, we will still see significant increases in flooding from all sources. This presents significant challenges to communities, governments and the industry to manage increased risk proactively, invest the sums of money required and ensure there are the numbers of engineers and scientists needed.

How do you see climate change influencing the way engineers and consultancies utilise hydraulic modelling?

Our understanding of climate change and its consequences continues to evolve, but there is still a huge amount we don't understand. As an industry we need to better recognise and embrace uncertainty in our work as well as communicate this to communities.

I envisage our analysis will make far better use of the wealth of data available, using massively paralleled computers to consider stochastic modelling and Monte Carlo analysis. In addition to this, our tools need to evolve to aid public understanding of flood risk, with tools such as Virtual Reality used to help explain the issues and gain support for decisions and interventions.

If you're not in the office, what would we most likely find you doing?

Encouraging my young children to get outdoors and enjoy some of the activities I like (climbing, caving, kayaking) though I'd settle for a few hours of building Lego.

What do you enjoy most about being part of Jacobs?

I really appreciated the opportunities and resources being part of such a large organisation brings. There's so much interesting work going on across the world, I can choose to get involved in things which really excite me and know there's the support available to make a success of projects and initiatives.

Our continuing investment in Flood Modeller development is a good example of this, I really enjoy supporting the development team to implement new functionality with some very exciting new features coming over the next 12 months.


Looking for a role in flood risk management or software development?

Our water catchment management disciplines are keen to hear from you!

Check out the various opportunities online.


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