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Public Engagement and Outreach

Inspiring the next generation is a key mission for LIFD. Fluid dynamics underpins almost everything in our lives, yet is often a hidden discipline in our school curriculum. Our researchers work closely with end-user partners to inspire curiosity and show how fluid dynamics affects the world around us. We are particularly interested in engaging school age children through interactive hands-on activities.

Wetropolis model.


A novel outreach demonstration to visualise river flooding return periods. The model simulates a day every 10s and incorporates porous groundwater moorland draining into a river. Galton boards randomly determine rainfall amount and location, enabling visualisation of stochastic processes. (Image: O Bokhove, School of Mathematics)

Wetropolis flood investigator: from education to policy and research

The Wetropolis Flood Investigator visualises return periods for extreme flooding events. It allows us to understand that an event with a return period of 100 years occurs at random rather than regular intervals, which is often misunderstood. Wetropolis reaches that in a portable model with a weather machine leading to random rainfall onto a river landscape. “Wetropolis-days” occur in 10s real time, rendering possible visualisation of rare events without us having to wait for years. On average, Wetropolis-city experiences floods, super- or mega-floods every 5, 25 or 125 Wetropolis-days. How does the weather machine lead to these flooding return periods?

Researchers in the School of Mathematics have developed and further improved the “Wetropolis” flood-outreach investigator to enable visualisation and explanation of these so-called return periods or (annual) exceedance probabilities (AEPs) of extreme rainfall and flooding events. Wetropolis has been showcased to 1000s of members of the general public and flood professionals. It not only triggered the development of new quantitative tools for bridging science and engineering with environmental policy -- deployed in analyses of flood-prevention in France, Slovenia and in Bradford but also seeded the development of educational material on water management.

In 2022-2027, Wetropolis was showcased to the public at the ten-day Mathematics of Planet Earth (MPE) Science exhibition at Imperial College (May/June 2022) with a hundred visitors per day. It was further shown one day at the Global Flood Partnership Conference for flood professionals at the University of Leeds and for three days as part of the stand of Jacobs company at the UK conference for flood professionals Flood & Coast 2023, and will be shown at a University of Leeds’ Priestley Centre launch event in June 2024.

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