Forewarned is forearmed
Accurately predicting when and how floods will occur enables a proactive approach to minimising their devastating impact. With the aid of early-warning systems, authorities can activate emergency measures to protect public safety and property – evacuating populations at risk and shoring up defences – before disaster strikes.
Flood risk assessment techniques help planners to identify areas susceptible to flooding and manage river resources more effectively. But constructing reliable and precise flood risk maps is no easy feat. It requires a deep understanding of how weather and river systems function, and how natural and man-made factors are likely to affect them. Researchers also need observation data gathered by the latest radar and satellite technology, as well as sophisticated computer systems to integrate this data and design models of these complex natural phenomena.
The EU is promoting research to improve flood forecasting and explore how uncertainties may be quantified meaningfully. ACTIF is one cluster of EU-funded research projects aiming to broaden the scope of flood forecasting and warning. To learn more about ACTIF go to: http://www.hrwallingford.co.uk/projects/actif/index.html
The latest technology enables researchers to combine data from numerous sources – satellite, radar and databases. Several EU-funded projects (EURAINSAT, CARPE DIEM, MUSIC, MANTISSA and VOLTAIRE) are exploring ways of using these advances to improve the performance of flood models.
Atlantic cyclones are instrumental in shaping the European climate – they are one of its principal cloud and rainmakers, providing most of northern Europe’s water needs. They are also responsible for devastating floods and winds. Despite advances in forecasting techniques, these cyclones have remained difficult to predict accurately.
The EU-backed FASTEX project carried out intensive measurements from buoys, ships, aircraft and satellites to better understand the mechanics of Atlantic cyclones. This valuable information is being used to construct a model to forecast storms up to four days in advance. To learn more about FASTEX go to: http://www.cnrm.meteo.fr/dbfastex/ftxinfo/index.html
Tracking the seasons The ancient Greeks believed that Demeter, the goddess of fertility, was responsible for the shifting of the seasons. In the modern world, we have turned away from the gods and towards science to help us predict weather patterns.
The transnational DEMETER project, coordinated by the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts, is close to completing the first-ever worldwide modelling system that aims to produce long-term seasonal weather forecasts. These can provide valuable precipitation data to help anticipate floods.
The EU-funded initiative shows great promise in providing predictions of the probability of particular weather regimes and patterns, seasons to years ahead, including their impact on agriculture and health. To learn more about DEMETER, go to: http://www.ecmwf.int/research/demeter/