SEPA recently had an opportunity to share its knowledge and experience in the prediction and warning of floods, and other natural hazards, at The European Geosciences Union’s General Assembly in Austria.
This annual event has grown in size from its early origins where it usually attracted a small group of Geoscientists. This year the event hosted 4,879 oral and 8,489 poster presentations, in addition to 577 unique scientific sessions at which 11,837 scientists participated.
This was the perfect setting for SEPA, with institutes from the Netherlands and Slovakia, to co-convene an interactive session on hydrometeorological science research and applications.
Prediction of natural hazards
The session, or PICO (presenting interactive content), aimed to bridge the gap between science and practice in operational forecasting for different natural hazards.
Operational (early) warning systems are the result of progress and innovations in the science of forecasting. In recent years opportunities have arisen in flood forecast modelling bringing together meteorological and hydrological forecasts, and ensemble forecasting with real time control. However, often the sharing of knowledge and experience about these developments is limited to particular fields or environments.
Around 30 international specialists, covering a range of hazards including flooding, water scarcity, heat, storm surges and landslides, attended the session to take advantage of this unique opportunity to learn more about these recent developments.
In Norway there have been recent advances in utilising the hydrometeorological approach to flood forecasting by providing predictions of landslides. The Norwegian Water Resource and Energy Directorate (NVE) now apply their hydrometeorological models, using information on rainfall and runoff, to aid in the assessment of landslide risk.
How to provide early warning of urban flooding is a common issue across many international organisations, and so developments made by SEPA and the Scottish Flood Forecasting Service in this area were of particular interest to many at the session. This included the Natural Hazard Mitigation Center of Taiwan which is researching approaches to surface water flood predictions.
Later this year SEPA will be launching a new initiative – ‘your flood reports.’ This will enable members of the public to report incidents of flooding, whether from the sea, rivers or in towns and SEPA will publish these flood reports online. This will be an invaluable source of information to help us understand flood risk across Scotland. It is also an excellent example of citizen science.
Other groups are also developing this concept such as WeSenseIt where citizens’ observatories are emerging as a means to establish interaction between members of the public and authorities during emergencies. Some of the developing technology includes remote capturing of river level and flow data which observatories can then report to authorities using an app. Information such as this could be used in the future for verification of flood forecasts (similar to the ideas also promoted by Floodtags).
The Benefits of Forecasting
Many good international example applications were presented at the General Assembly showing why prediction is important. These included the role of water management for hydro-scheme operations where ensemble forecasts are used to manage reservoirs.
One particular research project highlighted that across Europe flood forecasts strengthen the preparedness phases of disaster risk management and suggested that every Euro invested in early warning systems provides a financial benefit of 400 Euros.
When linked to measures such as property level flood protection this certainly supports the recent Scottish Government research in this area.
The General Assembly demonstrated that there is a host of exciting work taking place in hydrometeorological science around Europe and we look forward to seeing how these developments will impact on flood forecasting in the years to come.