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"Glocal" approach is needed to mitigate flood damage

An international team of researchers is calling for a new approach to help mitigate the destructive effects of floods, which are increasingly affecting communities worldwide. 

The report, sponsored by the Institute of Atmospheric Physics, says that large-scale global forecasting and on-the-ground observations must be integrated into one system to better predict and prevent widespread flooding disasters.

Study lead author Huan Wu is the deputy director of the Guangdong Province Key Laboratory for Climate Change and Natural Disaster Studies and a professor at Sun Yat-Sen University.

“A ‘glocal’ – global to local – hydrometeorological solution (GHS-F) for floods is considered to be critical for better preparedness, mitigation, and management of different types of significant precipitation-caused flooding, which happen extensively almost every year and in many countries, such as China, India and the United States,” said Professor Wu.

He explains that such a solution is necessary for both scientific research and operational logistics. A GHS-F could combine widespread weather predictions with the knowledge of how forecasted rain could affect river basins to produce highly detailed and consistent rain-flood information.

Professor Wu notes the complex relationship between rain and floods, arguing that if the meteorological and hydrological communities shared more observations, techniques, and modeled data some flooding damage could be avoided.

The researchers examined flood events which occurred between May 20 to July 18 in central-eastern and southern China. During these two months, the Yangtze River had 49 percent more rain than the average amounts for the same time period over the last 60 years. Seven major rainfall events affected almost 40 million people in 27 provinces, with 141 people reported dead or missing.

“An encompassing view of flood occurrences, evolution, extent dynamics, and spatial distribution of areas at high risk from flooding over a global or national scale with local detail is highly desirable and, yet, missing for international and national agencies with a mandate in flood response and management.”

According to Professor Wu, a GHS-F was first suggested about 10 years ago, but the unprecedented computing capability and timely data availability, as well as model and data interoperability of the current era mean such a solution is now more practical.

The researchers plan to demonstrate the feasibility of a GHS-F to increase the confidence of emergency management decision makers in using this tool for information and risk assessment.

The study is published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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