With up to 15% of the world’s population being protected by dikes from flooding, climate-change-induced river levels may dramatically increase the flood risk of these societies. Reliable assessments of dike stability will become increasingly important, but groundwater flow through dikes is often oversimplified due to limited understanding of the important process parameters. To improve the understanding of these parameters, we performed a global sensitivity analysis on a comprehensive hydro-stability model. The sensitivity analysis encompassed fifteen parameters related to geometry, drainage conditions and material properties. The following three sensitivity settings were selected to characterize model behavior: parameter prioritization, trend identification and interaction qualification. The first two showed that dike stability is mostly dependent on the dike slope, followed by the type of subsurface material. Interaction quantification indicated a very prominent interaction between the dike and subsurface material, as it influences both groundwater conditions and dike stability directly. Despite our relatively simple model setup, a database containing the results of the extensive Monte Carlo analysis succeeded in finding most of the unsafe sections identified by the official inspection results. This supports the applicability of our results and demonstrates that both geometry and subsurface parameters affect the groundwater conditions and dike stability.
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