Floods are one of the most devastating and costly natural disasters, each year on average affecting 96.9 million people worldwide and causing $13.7 billion in damage, according to the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. They wash away or destroy homes, pollute drinking water, wipe out croplands… Diseases like water-borne cholera can follow in their wake.
And although they are hard to predict, a new computer tool known as the "Global Flood Monitoring System" or GFMS, produced by the University of Maryland and already used by scientists around the world, is improving flood forecasting.
The GFMS is a NASA-funded experimental system using real-time precipitation information as input to a quasi-global (50°N – 50°S) hydrological runoff and routing model running on a 1/8th degree latitude/longitude grid. Flood detection/intensity estimates are based on 13 years of retrospective model runs, with flood thresholds derived for each grid location using surface water storage statistics (95th percentile plus parameters related to basin hydrologic characteristics).
Streamflow, surface water storage, inundation variables are also calculated at 1km resolution. In addition, the latest maps of instantaneous precipitation and totals from the last day, three days and seven days are displayed.
Featured image credit: NASA.
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