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Come hell AND high water

By [email protected] - 25th February 2020 - 16:02

Parts of the UK found themselves inundated as Storms Ciara and Dennis rampaged across the country in mid-February. And once again, MPs were queueing up in the Commons for reassurances that we would be better prepared for floods in the months and years to come.

Better forecasting is certainly welcome, and here, Steve Ramsdale, Chief Meteorologist at the Met Office, has some good news: “Our confidence in the forecast means we have been able to issue severe weather warnings well in advance, giving people time to prepare for potential impacts of the storm.”

On the other hand, the £600 million spent annually on flood defence and alleviation measures is being outpaced by the increased frequency and intensity of rainfall, exacerbated by urban sprawl, poor drainage maintenance and rising sea levels. But even as defence measures are implemented at one point, weaker points elsewhere come under added strain. Political and economic considerations will doubtless influence many decisions, but predicting the knock-on effect is still important to local communities,

Which is where flood risk mapping and modelling enters centre stage as an important tool for planners, developers, mortgage lenders, insurers and home owners alike. This discipline is likely to gain added impetus from recent ground-breaking projects that apply Machine Learning and AI techniques to high resolution DEM-based flood hazard models.

One such initiative, with funding from Innovate UK, has seen flood risk assessment specialists Ambiental teaming with AI solutions provider DataJavelin to develop a new generation of simulation tools that accurately reflect reality. And for those who fear ML will displace hydrologists and others, Dr. Philip Rooney, CEO of DataJavelin, offers reassurance: “It provides experts with the ability to carry out experimentation that they just couldn’t do before. The idea is to give them a powerful tool so they can do their job even better.”

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