New flood warning system developed

Published 4 June 2009

Researchers from the United Kingdom and China develop a software-based flood warning system which takes into account both climate change and corresponding hydrological effects

Researchers from King’s College London and Hohai University in China are developing a new software-based flood warning system. Several software systems have been commercialized in the past with significant market success, but they often fail to incorporate multiple weather forecasts and post-forecast data processing into one system.

The Novel Early Flood Warning System (NEWS) will be the first commercially viable, multipurpose early flood warning system to take into account both climate change and corresponding hydrological effects. It will be able to perform early and reliable flood event warning for short-term (a few hours) and medium-term (a few days) as well as risk analysis, which is currently unachievable with conventional models and software.

The project at King’s College London is led by Dr. Hannah Cloke and Dr. Yi He from the Department of Geography. Cloke said: “The new system will satisfy many unmet technological demands in the field of flood prediction and risk analysis, and will bring significant benefits and commercial value to the private and public sector — in addition to the many lives we hope it will save. We have already received significant interest from industries and governments, and are excited to take the project to the next level with the development of a commercial prototype.”

The feasibility and commercial promise of the software has already been demonstrated successfully in the Upper Severn Catchment in the UK, and subsequently in the Upper Huai Catchment in China.

The tests were supported by the Natural Environment Research Council and a Partnership Award from Innovation China-U.K.(ICUK), which was assisted by King’s College London Business.

A recently granted Proof of Concept award from ICUK will take the development work to the next stage, supporting the translation of the Novel Flood Early Warning System from a research prototype into a commercial system. Potential end-users include insurance companies (using flood risk maps to estimate loss values and calculate premium to be allocated to specific regions), engineering consulting firms (to provide sound climate-proof design for flood defenses and other hydraulic structures), research and educational institutions as well as government authorities.