Improving rainfall and flooding prediction in Scotland

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Flooding January 2016

Inverurie and Port Elphinstone: January 2016.

The recent flooding we have seen over the winter caused significant disruption, damage and heartache to large parts of the country. However, these effects could have been much worse if it weren’t for the advance warnings issued by SEPA, and the subsequent action taken by emergency services and local authorities to prepare for the expected deluge of water.

Here we take a look at a new project, which aims to further improve our understanding of rainfall, to help in our future predictions of flooding across the country.

Advance warning of potential flooding enables homeowners and businesses to take the necessary action to protect themselves and their property from the devastating effects that flooding can bring. Accurate information about expected rainfall is therefore key to our predictions.

SEPA, in partnership with the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS), the University of Leeds, Scottish Water and the Met Office, has launched a new initiative which aims to improve understanding of rainfall and flood predictions in Scotland.

The project involves the deployment of the NCAS Mobile X-band Radar, which will observe clouds and measure rainfall. These observations, combined with the Met Office radar network, will provide data which will enable SEPA and our partners with better insight into precipitation and flooding, and help improve flood prediction and warning for the country.

X Band radar being used to detect heavy rainfall across northern Scotland

X Band radar being used to detect heavy rainfall across northern Scotland

This will be the first in-depth study of clouds and precipitation, and their links to flooding in Scotland. The NCAS radar is capable of measuring clouds and precipitation in remote locations, and is the only one of its kind in the United Kingdom.

Dr Lindsay Bennett from NCAS at the University of Leeds, who operates the radar, said: “By deploying this radar in this location, we can provide high resolution observations of the precipitation in and around Inverness and the Moray Firth area. Using this data we aim to improve the understanding of rainfall and the predictions of floods in Scotland.”

As Scotland’s national flood forecasting, flood warning and strategic flood risk management authority , SEPA is committed to developing and improving our flood forecasting and warning services to reduce the impact of flooding on our most vulnerable communities. Therefore, any new advances in technology which can provide more accurate and timely warnings could prove invaluable.

Michael Cranston, SEPA’s Forecasting and Warning Manager, explains: “The winter of 2015-2016 has already seen devastating floods across several parts of the country and Scotland has been reminded just how horrendous the effects and impacts of flooding can be for people.

“We are committed to reducing the risk caused by floods by improving our ability to predict flooding, which is why we have funded this new research project. Innovation like this increases our knowledge, which leads to better forecasting, which ultimately helps our partners and those at direct risk to prepare and reduce the impacts of flooding on their lives.”

The Scottish Government also acknowledges the importance of flood forecasting and warning in helping to protect Scotland’s communities from future flooding. Dr Aileen McLeod MSP, Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform said: “Recent flood events have shown the importance of flood warning in supporting informed and effective responses. This initiative will help enhance SEPA’s flood forecasting capacity and delivery of the recently published flood risk management strategies.

Interested in flood forecasting and the science behind it? Keep up to date with new projects and developments from the blog of the Scottish Flood Forecasting Service.

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