Management / Satellites could function as flood-risk warning systems, research shows

Satellites could function as flood-risk warning systems, research shows

Data from NASA satellites could be used to help combat the risk of devastating floods, according to new research.

A study by the University of California, Irvine, found that data could be used to predict the likelihood of a river basin flooding, months before it happened.

The research looked at the flooding of the Missouri river in 2011, and found that water storage information could have sped up local flood warnings from two months to as much as five months. Increased warning time could, potentially, reduce any loss of lives as well as property, and limit the risk of flood damage.

Jay Famiglietti, one of the scientists involved in the research, said: “We’re not talking about actual flooding but about the saturation level of the ground and its predisposition to flooding.

“When it finally rains and the basin is full, there is nowhere else for the water to go.”

Following a series of damaging floods in Britain, there have been calls for the UK government to take a more effective approach against this risk. Earlier this year the Institute of Risk Management, a trade body, criticised the government for having a “fingers crossed” approach to risk.

Richard Anderson, the body’s chairman, said: “The terrible flooding in Somerset and the Thames has brought into sharp focus the ‘fingers crossed’ and ‘touching wood’ approach to risk management strategy that is so often adopted by government.

“Since the flooding we have seen lots of frenetic activity from government officials which is unproductive, and the government would be better served by seeking the advice of the increasing cadre of expert risk professionals who are largely being ignored at the moment.”

According to the government, the winter of 2013 to 2014 was “the wettest on record”. It notes more than 7,800 homes and nearly 3,000 commercial buildings were flooded, and that £14m has been paid out to help communities, with another £183.5m to come from local authorities.

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