A European flood alert system - Lisflood Simulator set to improve flood warnings

September 4, 2002

Brussels, 03 Sep 2002

The European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) has developed a computer model to improve forecasting of floods in European river basins this could help alleviating the effects of the heavy inundations in Central Europe. The LISFLOOD system is being assessed as part of the

European flood forecasting system (EFFS) project financed by the EU Fifth Framework Programme (FP5) for research. The objective is to provide 4- to 10-day advance alerts on the base of realtime weather forecasts. LISFLOOD is being applied to the current situation in the Danube basin to follow the hydrological situation in the concerned countries and to improve predictive capabilities. The JRC is thereby applying the results of its research to respond to emergencies.

Current flooding in Eastern Europe and Germany is the latest in a series of unusually long-lasting rainfall events in Europe. These include floods in Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands in 1993 and 1995, the Czech Republic, Germany and Poland in 1997, Italy in 1994 and 2000, and the UK in 1998 and 2000. UN World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) projections on future climate changes also indicate further increases in severe floods are likely in north and northwest Europe.

Flood prevention and crisis monitoring are thus issues of major concern. In this context its is critical to define prevention measures, understand the impact of human activities on flood severity and frequency. Some of those activities are directly influenced by community policies related to regional development or agriculture. Such work requires improved, physical models to enable a better understanding of the mechanisms involved.

Multi-disciplinary approach

The JRC Institute for Environment and Sustainability (IES) in Ispra, Italy set out to develop tools to assess the influence of landscape factors, such as land-use changes, on flooding problems. Work includes flood simulation and forecasting, impact of historic land-use changes, and flood-risk and flood-damage assessment. The multi-disciplinary approach includes numerical modelling. LISFLOOD, which is designed to simulate floods in large European drainage basins is a key activity in this context. Full basin-scale simulations can be carried out that take into account influences of land use, spatial variations of soil properties and spatial precipitation patterns.

Improving warning lead-times

The lead-time of a flood is the period between its announcement and arrival, also used for the mobilization of resources needed in relief operations. LISFLOOD targets a 10-day lead-time in flood prediction and has been validated by computer modelling using data derived from floods in the Oder and Meuse basins in 1995 and 1997. Its objective is to draw more effective evacuation plans in high-risk areas.

In conjunction with satellite imaging, LISFLOOD should also allow more effective crisis management. New approaches are also being tested to evaluate the effects of changes in land use on a region's vulnerability to flooding.

A timely alert system requires on-line data links and extensive databases on local hydrological and terrain conditions, all of which need regular updating and improvement. The establishment of operational links with the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) in Reading, England further enhances the relevance and accuracy of the predictive model - making it possible to improve warning lead-time from 7 to 10 days.

The JRC is currently assessing the flooding situation along the course of the Danube and Elbe. Such work will improve the predictive capabilities of LISFLOOD. The JRC has pledged an immediate doubling of manpower devoted to the project and will seek finance for an increased commitment under the forthcoming Sixth Framework Programme (FP6).

Aim of the current measure and operation of the system

In the short term, simulations of current floods integrating weather forecasts in real time will be available to the authorities concerned. In time, this measure may provide effective and lasting scientific support to a European flood alert system containing topographical, geographical and hydrological information on the main European basins and with access to medium-term weather forecasts in real time. This measure falls within the GMES initiative, which aims to use all technical means for the surveillance of the environment and for safety.

Measures and players involved

The players involved are local water authorities, national civil protection agencies, the Ministries of the Environment and/or other competent authorities, DG ENV, DG REGIO and DG ENTR. The following measures should be achieved:

Adaptation of the LISFLOOD system to the Elbe and Danube basins. Daily simulations and integration of meteorological data throughout the rest of the current floods.

Creation of a network with the competent authorities for concerted action in forecasting and preventing floods (coordinated with DG ENV - first meeting in autumn 2002). Harmonisation of methods for electronic exchanges of hydrological information (during 2003).

Introduction of additional topographical, geographical and hydrological information supplied by the regional authorities along the Elbe and Danube (during 2003).

Impact simulation for prevention measures and changes in land use for the Elbe and Danube basins (during 2003).

Extension of the system to other European basins (2003-2006).

More information

JRC - Natural Hazards sector: http://natural-hazards.jrc.it/ ; JRC work on flood forecasting: http://natural-hazards.jrc.it/ floods/ ; Institutional project "Natural hazards".

Commission responds to the floods in Germany, Austria and certain applicant countries (press release); The European Community Response to the Flooding in Austria, Germany and several Applicant Countries: A Solidarity based Initiative.

Scientific contact: Dr. A.P.J. De Roo, European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Institute for Environment and Sustainability Land Management Unit; Natural Hazards Project; 21020 Ispra (Va), Italy, email: ad.de-roo@jrc.it , Tel: 0039-332-78-6240, -9205; Fax: 0039-332-985500.

Joint Research Centre
http://www.jrc.cec.eu.int/default.asp?sI dSz=our_work&sIdStSz=focus_on&sAnchor=Fl oodAlertSystem

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