The JRC has developed a new forecasting tool to help disaster responders prevent the worst impacts of floods. The first of its kind in operation, the tool adds near real-time impact assessments to existing forecasts, allowing authorities to prepare and focus resources well ahead of potential floods. Following extensive testing, it has now been integrated into the Copernicus European Flood Awareness System (EFAS website).
The EFAS already plays an important role as an early warning flood forecast service. By providing added value information to its users such as predictions up to 10 days ahead for Europe’s major rivers, it helps countries to take action ahead of time.
However, predicting where floods are likely to happen is only part of the picture. EFAS users, including national flood forecasting services, civil protection authorities and the European Commission’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre, have previously relied on static information such as flood risk maps prepared for an event of a certain magnitude or expert judgement to predict a flood’s impact and take precautionary measures.
The JRC’s new tool allows the EFAS to calculate flood hazard and risk dynamically based on the most recent forecasts and to display the potential consequences in near real-time. Even when there are multiple flood events occurring simultaneously across the continent, the procedure is capable of producing results within one hour of the initial flood forecasts being produced.
The impact information, which includes an estimate of potentially affected people, economic damage, critical infrastructure and a list if the major urban areas impacted by the forecasted flood event, will help emergency services to better allocate the available resources to mitigate the flood impacts. Making the right decisions on where to strengthen flood defences or when to evacuate those at risk is essential to protect lives and livelihoods from the increasing instances of flooding across the continent.
The methodology is fully described in an open-access scientific paper (https://www.nat-hazards-earth-syst-sci.net/17/1111/2017/).
The EFAS risk assessment tool will be continuously improved, including applying additional risk scenarios and more detailed critical infrastructure data such as hospitals or airports. Furthermore, the new tool is now used to increase the timeliness of the satellite based flood monitoring and mapping as provided by the Copernicus Emergency Management Service Mapping (http://emergency.copernicus.eu/mapping/).
Finally, it is foreseen to expand the tool also to the global scale by combining it with the Copernicus Global Flood Awareness System (GloFAS).
Source: EU Disaster Risk Management Knowledge Centre (DRMKC)