Innovative forecasting trial could help flood risk communities

date12 March 2015

CREW, Scotland’s Centre of Expertise for Waters, has today (12 March 2015) published a report, commissioned by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), on the successful delivery of an innovative pilot project to improve surface water flood forecasting in urban areas.

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The surface water flood forecasting model, which is the first of its kind in the UK, was implemented in Glasgow during the 2014 Commonwealth Games, and the CREW report, which can be viewed at that a wider roll-out to other urban communities across Scotland is technically feasible and should be considered.

The pilot, which was led by the Scottish Flood Forecasting Service (a joint initiative between SEPA and the Met Office), operated during the period of June to August 2014 over a 10km by 10km area, covering the East End of Glasgow, an area previously affected by major flooding in July 2002.

A key part of ongoing research to help urban areas in Scotland improve their resilience to and preparedness for flooding, the pilot provided strategic flood guidance in real-time throughout the Games to organisers and emergency responders.

Using state of the art weather and hydrological models, the forecasting system integrated the real-time intensity and pattern of rainfall forecast over a 24 hour period with detailed information on land use and risk of flooding to properties and transport links.

The project assessed how this approach could be integrated into SEPA's existing flood forecasting mechanisms to deliver real-time information on the severity of surface water flooding impacts in urban areas.

Michael Cranston, SEPA's Flood Forecasting and Warning Manager, said:

In Scotland there have been many instances in recent years where flooding has occurred in urban areas due to intense rainfall. Such rainfall events can be highly localised making real-time surface water flood forecasting a challenge.

"The Glasgow pilot project has delivered a novel approach for forecasting the impacts of surface water flooding in real-time which is at the forefront of scientific developments in the UK. The approach was found to be very useful in alerting the Games organisers and emergency responders for the localised flooding events which occurred during the Games, and we hope that with further refinement this system could be rolled out to help make urban communities more resilient across Scotland."

This innovation has been achieved due to the support and funding by the Scottish Government through CREW, and work was carried out by SEPA in collaboration with the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, the James Hutton Institute, and the Met Office.

Environment Minister Aileen McLeod, said:

Flooding causes great distress and anxiety for thousands of residents at risk across Scotland. But receiving and acting on flood warnings ensures that they can take actions in time to protect their family and property. The ground breaking capabilities developed by SEPA to alert for surface water flooding was an essential part of our contingency planning during the Commonwealth Games."

Michael Cranston added:

Hydrometerology is still a relatively new science and this project has really stretched the boundaries of operational flood forecasting. It's only four years this week since we produced our first Flood Guidance Statement in Scotland, and since then over half a million routine flood forecasts have been issued helping Scotland's emergency responders prepare and react.

"Developing better and wider surface water forecasting will be a real challenge, but we look forward to continuing to innovate and improve so more people can benefit from even better warning and informing services in years to come."


Read 'Flood forecasting for the 2014 Commonwealth Games' on SEPA View here.