Creation of Record Flood Outlines across Yorkshire

In February 2020 parts of Yorkshire experienced severe flooding, particularly the River Aire, River Wharfe and River Calder catchments.

The Environment Agency (EA) is required to report on flood events that have occurred nationally, regionally and locally to HM Government each year under Section 18 of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 and the National Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management (FCERM) Strategy for England. A key part of the report are instances of recorded flooding. This information is collated within the Environment Agency’s central mapping and modelling data store, and exported regularly as the Recorded Flood Outline (RFO) open dataset.

As part of the Environment Agency’s (EA) recovery programme, we were commissioned to produce an outline of the flooding recorded from data collected during and in the immediate aftermath of the February 2020 events.

What are Recorded Flood Outlines?

Recorded Flood Outlines is a Geographical Information System (GIS) layer which shows all of the EA’s records of historic flooding from rivers, the sea, groundwater and surface water. Each individual Recorded Flood Outline contains a consistent list of information about the recorded flood.

Under the Open Government Licence, the RFO can be accessed from the following location:

Why is it important?

The RFO is one of the Environment Agency’s Flood and Coastal Risk Management (FCRM) top three datasets and underpins flood-related decision making by Risk Management Authorities across England. Therefore the information contained in the RFO should be as complete and accurate as possible.

What was involved in the update?

The process involved collating and analysing the evidence data from multiple sources, some examples included:

  • Aerial photography and videos
  • Ground photos and videos
  • Resident reports
  • Satellite Radar data

The visible flood extent from Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis was then digitised in the format of two separate GIS layers, one for each event. The extent drawn was also classified within its attributes to show the flood source, flood cause and what type of flooding had occurred. This useful output is known as the Recorded Flood Outline (RFO) and is shared by the Environment Agency with internal and external partners to increase awareness of flooding and its impacts.

The collaborative Environment Agency and JBA project team focused digitisation effort by splitting the evidence data by type which enabled partial delivery and feedback as the project went on.

Recorded Flood Outlines for Storm Dennis showing areas surrounding York and Selby
RFO for Storm Dennis showing areas surrounding York and Selby


Originally planned as a collaborative secondment opportunity, with JBA originally planning to work alongside EA staff at the Lateral office space. Covid-19 introduced unexpected changes and required rapid replanning. Both the EA and JBA were able to maintain a close and effective working relationship via use of Microsoft Teams in order to produce the flood extents ready for publication in late 2020.

Want to know more?

Email Rosalind Rogers for more information about this project. You can read more about our Flood Modelling work here.

Leave a Reply