EU Science Hub

Current floods in central Europe: awareness and monitoring

Jun 06 2013

Since beginning of June central Europe has faced, once again, severe flooding of the rivers Elbe and Danube and their tributaries with severe damage already reported. The flood waters are threatening to cause more damage as the flood waves travel down river.

The JRC is contributing to European emergency preparedness through raising awareness and monitoring of the events. The European Flood Awareness System (EFAS) informed the relevant national authorities and the European Commission's Emergency Response Centre (ERC) several days in advance with reports of potential flooding.

In addition, the JRC is providing the ERC with situation reports on the developing crisis, integrating scientific information with impact information into products tailored for the civil protection community. This is part of the analytical and technical support JRC is providing to the ERC for monitoring crisis events globally.

The JRC also coordinates the operational work of the Copernicus Emergency Mapping Service (EMS) and ensures its activities are complementary to the International Charter “Space and Major Disasters” and the mapping service of the German Aerospace Laboratory (DLR-ZKI).

On June 3, the German Federal civil protection authorities triggered the EMS via the ERC. Reference maps and flood extent maps delivered by the EMS are available at

Early flood warning systems are one of the most important tools to reduce the impacts of floods. The JRC has been developing EFAS since 2002, in close collaboration with other Commission services as well as national hydrological and meteorological services, and other research institutes. EFAS flood forecasts are generated coupling a spatially distributed hydrological model on a European scale with various high-resolution, deterministic and probabilistic medium-range weather forecasts from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), the German Weather service, and the COSMO consortium. Being set up on the continental scale, EFAS is capable of providing medium range flood forecasts for large river basins.

There is double benefit with the EFAS service: First, it provides an added value of early flood forecasting products, with a lead time of up to 10 days, to national and regional hydrological services. Secondly, it provides a unique overview of on-going and forecast floods in Europe to the ERC of the European Commission. Since September 2012, EFAS is fully operational under the umbrella of the COPERNICUS Emergency Management Service and is co-funded by DG ECHO. It is run by several consortia: the EFAS computations and web services are executed and hosted by ECMWF (UK);the analysis of EFAS forecasts and the dissemination of EFAS flood alerts are carried out by the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SE), Rijkswaterstaat (NL) and Slovak Hydro-Meteorological Institute (SK) and the hydrological data collection is accomplished by the Andalusian Regional Ministry of Agriculture, Fishing and Environment (ES) and the private company ELIMCO (ES). The overall project management, meteorological data collection, and the further scientific development is led by the JRC.