New cloud study offers better flood warnings

October 17, 2003

Research announced this week by a group that includes scientists from the University of Birmingham could reduce the menace of floods to cities across Europe.

Chris Kidd, senior lecturer in satellite meteorology at Birmingham, is leading work that will give more accurate warnings of floods such as those seen in Britain and the much more severe floods that have affected cities such as Prague in recent winters.

He told a conference in Dresden, Germany, on Monday that his work was the first to combine satellite measurements of cloud cover with detailed analysis of the size and number of raindrops the clouds contain.

He said: "This work allows us to predict rainfall to within a few millimetres. This will tell us whether a river is going to overflow its banks, where and by how much."

Dr Kidd's work combines data from conventional meteorological satellites, which generate the images seen on TV weather broadcasts, with readings from satellites in low orbits over the Earth, which view Europe four or five times a day.

He said: "Meteorological satellites provide cloud-cover images every 15 minutes. We combine these with data from instruments that operate at microwave frequencies and are on either US military satellites or new civilian ones."

The group, led by Italian research agency Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, based in Bologna and funded by the European Commission, has cut flood prediction errors by 50 per cent.

Dr Kidd said the UK Meteorological Office, among others, was likely to offer a service based on this research. He said: "Our data provide better information on the scale of major floods," adding this was likely to be in demand by emergency services Europe-wide.

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