Progress for flood forecasts

More accurate predictions of flood risk and earlier warnings of imminent problems may be on the horizon thanks to a £6m research project.

Predicting floods could become easier with more research

Predicting floods could become easier with more research

The project may also help forecasters understand better the role of climate change in particular extreme weather events.

Led by the Natural Environment Research Council and supported by the University of Salford, the five year Flood Risks from Extreme Events (FREE) programme will examine what causes floods, help to quantify flood risk, and inform society about the likely effects of climate change.

The programme will involve researchers from 12 UK universities and will study recent floods such as those in Gloucestershire and Boscastle.

The project steering committee have established a Flood Action Team, with results to be presented to the Environment Agency and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

According to the team existing flood prediction systems are not sufficiently reliable and it is impossible to tie down direct links between climate change and a particular extreme weather event.

Salford University's Professor Chris Collier said: "At present, flood damage costs the UK about a billion pounds each year. We want to get to the stage where we can use mathematical techniques more reliably to predict floods and prevent the kind of destruction seen recently.

"The group will investigate both meteorological and hydrological aspects of forecasting extreme river and coastal flooding. We will consider both floods that have accumulated over time such as those seen in Gloucester, and flash floods that develop rapidly, like the situation in Boscastle.

"It is essential we improve our ability to forecast, quantify and manage flood risks, and mitigate the effects of climate variability and change, if we're to maintain a sustainable economy. Sound environmental science must underpin our efforts."

Sam Bond



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