EU research allows faster, more accurate flood warnings

Posted: Thursday 13th November 2014

Three UK organisations are taking part in research projects getting £ 9 million in EU funding to work on unique forecasting and alert systems to warn communities of impending floods. Bringing European research expertise together in such projects is a high priority for Europe given the dramatic flooding in several EU Member States, including the UK, over the last few years.

The Imprints, WeSenseIt and UrbanFlood projects received respectively €3.3 million (£2.6m), €5.4 million (£4.3m) and around €2.3 million (£1.8m) under the EU’s 7th Framework Programme (FP7).

Lancaster University and 17 other research institutions from six other countries are cooperating with the European Commission's Joint Research Centre to work on Imprints. The platform is based on better rainfall predictions, using meteorological models and weather radar networks. The software is able to predict water flows on the ground and provide a full early warning system for flash floods, the amount of debris they might carry and any potential damage to local infrastructure. Flash flood indicators developed by this project are already being used in the operational European Flood Awareness System.

WeSenseIt brings together partners from the public and private sectors and includes eight SMEs among the total of 13 partners. The University ofSheffield coordinates the project. The other British participants areMiddlesex University higher education Corporation in London, Knowledge Now Limited, an SME providing advanced knowledge platforms and portals in Sheffield, and Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council. The project uses the power of human observation, through new apps, as an early warning system. People contribute by taking measurements using new apps currently being developed by the project, and sending information and images by mobile phone. The new technologies and approaches are being tested in civil protection agencies in the UK, Italy and the Netherlands. WeSenselt will end in September 2016.

“We have developed mobile apps so that flood wardens in the UK can walk along river banks, and take tagged pictures if they think there is something of concern,” says project coordinator Fabio Ciravegna from the University of Sheffield.

The recently completed UrbanFlood project involved HR Wallingford, a civil engineering and environmental hydraulics consultancy from the Thames-side town of Wallingford, along with five partners, including the University of Amsterdam and two other organisations from the Netherlands, where anti-flood technology and practice is especially advanced. This project developed sensors and related technology to monitor embankments at risk of flooding and provide an early warning of their risk of failing. The underground sensors monitor the state of embankments and any changes to water levels, and other factors such as temperature, moisture and earth movements. The information is then assessed by the project’s modelling software, which can trigger an alert if there is a problem. The software calculates how fast the site will be flooded if the dam fails, and suggests the best ways to move citizens to safer areas.

European Research, Innovation and Science Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said: “The EU continues to invest research and innovation into flood management and prevention. Our aim is to help governments take adequate and coordinated measures to reduce this risk and protect its citizens”.

The European Commission's Joint Research Centre is also contributing to the research on floods, with the development of European and Global flood forecasting and monitoring systems

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