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Science helps to reduce flood risk around the world

New global flood risk models are used to reduce flood impacts around the world
Jul 24 2015

New computer models that estimate the social and economic impacts of flooding help to protect communities from devastating floods and to reduce the economic losses associated with them. A new study published in Nature Climate Change, co-authored by JRC scientists, reviews how global flood risk models are being used in practice to reduce flood impacts around the world.

Using case studies, the article reviews how different global flood risk models, such as the Aqueduct Global Flood Analyzer, the SSBN-flow model or GloFAS (Global Flood Awareness System), have been developed in a cooperation between research, government or aid organisations and are used in practice.

For example,  the  Global Flood Awareness System (GloFAS), jointly developed between the JRC and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, is currently being employed by the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre to test a forecast-based financing system in developing countries to trigger preventive actions before a flood occurs. These preventive actions include large-scale efforts such as distributing water purification tablets in entire villages. Such measures are beneficial to local communities even if the flood does not actually happen and help international aid organisations to make better use of their available funds. In addition, GloFAS is being used by national authorities such as CEMADEN (Centro Nacional de Monitoramento e Alertas de Desastres Naturais) for Brazilian river basins where currently no national flood early warning system exists.

Further case studies in the paper outline the benefits of global flood risk models as well as their limitations and provide an insight into the future challenges requiring interdisciplinary research and a close collaboration with the user communities. Initiatives such as the JRC led Global Floods Partnership address those challenges by bringing together researchers and users of global flood risk models as demonstrated by this study. In addition, those models and initiatives support the EU's engagement in the recently adopted Sendai framework of Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 and the EUs civil protection legislation.

Background

The Global Flood Awareness System (GloFAS) couples state-of-the art weather forecasts with a hydrological model and with its continental scale set-up it provides downstream countries with information on upstream river conditions as well as continental and global overviews. GloFAS is still in a pre-operational research phase but access to the daily GloFAS flood forecasts through a web interface was launched during the last Global Floods Partnership conference in May 2015.

The Global Floods Partnership (GFP), led by the JRC and the Dartmouth Flood Observatory, was kicked off during the 4th meeting of the Global Flood Working Group in March 2014. Its objective is the development of flood observational and modelling infrastructure, leveraging on existing initiatives for better predicting and managing flood disaster impacts and flood risk globally.