Sunday, October 24, 2021

New UN tool designed to enhance flood forecasting, disaster planning

October 1 (WNN) — United Nations researchers have developed a new tool that maps immediate, accurate street-level solutions to floods around the world since 1985, the agency announced Friday.

The free online world flood mapping tool is designed to help countries – especially those in the Global South, where flood risk maps are scarce and often woefully out of date – prepare for and protect against catastrophic disasters. do, it said.

Vladimir Smakhtin, director of the United Nations University’s Institute for Water and Environment, said: “Floods in the past decade have affected the lives of more than half a billion people, mainly in low- and middle-income countries, and cost about $500 billion. The damage has been done.” and health, said in a press release.

“We need to prepare now for more intense and more frequent flooding due to climate change and hope this tool will help developing countries in particular to see and mitigate risks more clearly,” Smakhtin said. said.

According to United Nations University, an academic and research arm of the United Nations based in Tokyo, an estimated 1.5 billion people globally – about a fifth of the world’s population – live at risk of severe flooding.

Most forecasting centers in flood-prone countries lack the ability to run complex models, said Hamid Mahmood, an expert at the Institute for Water, Environment and Health, who led the tool’s development.

Floods like the one that hit Europe earlier this year, which killed more than 200 people and caused billions of dollars in damage, are now nine times more likely to be caused by climate change, he said.

The high death rate was described as a “monumental failure of the system” by an official of the European Flood Awareness System.

“As temperatures continue to rise, the number of flood events will increase with their severity,” Mahmood said in a press release.

“No place is safe – and yet remarkably few areas, even wealthy countries, have useful, up-to-date flood maps because of the cost and difficulty of making them,” he said.

Created by the United Nations University’s Institute for Water, Environment and Health, which is based in Hamilton, Canada, a flood mapping tool to help government users detect gaps in their nations’ flood protections and responses, the agency said. Allows multiple variables to be adjusted.

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It can also be used in planning all kinds of future developments – for example, where to build or upgrade infrastructure or develop agriculture depending on the risk of floods, it said.

The new World Flood Mapping tool lets users detect gaps in flood prevention and responses and adjust variables to help plan all kinds of future developments. Image by United Nations University-Institute of Water, Environment and Health

The tool creates flood maps over the Internet at 30-meter resolution – street-by-street level – with a planned upcoming version for commercial users, such as insurance companies, to provide more accurate building-level resolution.

It uses the Google Earth Engine with Landsat data from 1985 – a massive catalog of geospatial data that enables planet-scale analysis capabilities – integrating site-specific elevation and land-use data while integrating temporal and land-use data. To identify permanent water bodies, the agency said.

Combined, these data form a comprehensive map of flood floods in recent decades with available overlays of population, buildings and land use.

The United Nations University said the new tool will also record new floods soon to provide the most up-to-date maps to assess the overall impact of floods and plan for the future.

An agency-led study found that using the tool compared documented flood events in Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Cambodia, India, Mozambique, Sri Lanka and Thailand – 82 of the maps created in less than a minute % accuracy.

In addition, the tool can help estimate disaster-related insurance rates, flood-related human and economic losses and potential supply-chain disruptions, Mahmood said.

In 2022 a flood risk prediction component will also be added to the tool and it will use artificial intelligence to generate current and future flood risk maps for three climate change scenarios at city, district and river basin levels.

“It will be invaluable for any urban and regional planning department to paint a detailed picture of areas with historical and potential flood risk,” said Duminda Pereira, a researcher at the Institute for Water, Environment and Health, in a press release.


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