The challenge for the team working on this new area of research is how to verify the method. “There is a huge effort going on to try to obtain appropriate levels of data to validate the results,”, says Quillon. “Social media can be one source of information about flood events, or official figures on casualties, or Government reports on damage. We did a study around 10 years ago in Genoa, Italy where we used UK based depth/damage curves on the buildings – our estimates were very close to what the local authorities reported. So we’re definitely getting there.”
The key to the success of flood impact forecasting will be continued funding. SIVA is funded for two years, and the team are optimistic that they will secure a third year. The hope is that the research in India will lead to life-saving systems which can be rolled out all over the world.
Against a backdrop of climate change, rapid urbanisation and continued population growth, the need to accurately forecast the impact of flooding is likely to become more and more important. Countries like Malaysia, where according to the Department of Irrigation and Drainage almost 5 million people are at risk from flooding, stand to benefit hugely from the technology. HR Wallingford has been working with Malaysia’s Department of Irrigation and Drainage to build the first phase of a new National Flood Forecasting and Warning System, a fully-automated flood forecasting system which alerts the authorities 48 hours prior to a flood. Being able to add value to such vital forecasting systems, by forecasting impacts, will really take them to the next level, according to Emma, who has worked in Malaysia and seen at first-hand how floods, and the threat of floods, impacts the country.
“We can never completely eliminate the risks of flood disasters, but we believe continued, incremental improvements will gradually make a significant difference,” says Quillon. Sourcing, interpreting and combining EO and other data, and developing systems to tell the right people at the right time, has the power to make the difference between life and death.