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Decisive moments

In the build up to a flood situation, major decisions – some potentially life or death – have to be made rapidly. The authorities must pinpoint the areas to be evacuated and where to set up emergency defences.

Weather forecasting and river basin models can give us advanced warning of floods and alert us to potential trouble spots. For this information to be meaningful, there must be efficient communication and coordination between experts and decision-makers – a complex interdisciplinary undertaking.

This also involves an effective decision-support mechanism that provides timely and accurate risk assessments, flood scenarios and alternatives for emergency responses. EU research has made major inroads towards putting just such systems in place.

The EUROTAS project takes a catchment-scale view of flood management by linking models of flood propagation to economic and land-use data. This provides a perspective on both flood hazard and flood vulnerability.

EUROTAS developed a prototype Decision Support System (DSS) to help town and local authorities to mitigate flood risk. The DSS has been used in several flood defence projects in the United Kingdom.

The FRAMEWORK project takes a longer-term view. It has developed ways of better integrating flood risk assessment into town and regional planning strategies. To learn more about FRAMEWORK go to: http://www.ncl.ac.uk/wrgi/wrsrl/projects/framework/framework.html

The project worked towards reducing policy uncertainties by developing flexible risk-assessment models that can chart the impact of changing land-use patterns and river engineering projects. FRAMEWORK aimed to facilitate a better allocation of resources to reduce flood risk and promote the development of sustainable land and urban planning strategies.

Back to the future

Extreme floods are relatively rare but devastating. In the future, they may become more frequent and extreme due to climate change. If the damage they cause is to be limited, forecasters must be able to anticipate their occurrence to a high degree of accuracy. Experts currently extrapolate directly measured data collected over a 100- to 150- year period to estimate the incidence of extreme floods. But this time span is too short to assess climatic change, especially regarding extreme flood events.
Scientists on the SPHERE project have dug deep into the past to improve the flood-frequency analyses. Using paleohydrological techniques, they are able to examine the variability of floods over a much longer period – 100 to 10 000 years.
To learn more about SPHERE, go to: http://www.ccma.csic.es/dpts/suelos/hidro/sphere
 

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Decisive moments