Flood forecasting for Newfoundland and Labrador available online

Residents of the town of Badger, located in the central region of Newfoundland and Labrador, are accessing satellite radar imagery used for forecasting floods straight from their computers. This service has been funded by the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES), an EU-led initiative in partnership with ESA.

Badger, situated at the confluence of three rivers, has a long history of flooding due to ice build up in the Exploits River the largest of the three. In February 2003, the water level rose 2.3 metres in less than one hour. The flood waters froze, putting parts of the town in ice for weeks.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Minister for the Department of Environment and Conservation Clyde Jackman said: "The flood forecasting service, which uses a computer model to simulate ice conditions on the Exploits River, is crucial for providing advance warning to the residents of Badger and our Emergency Measures Organization.

"Remote sensing is increasingly being used for environmental disaster prevention and management. The GMES programme helps by making remote sensing data available to end users, such as the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Environment and Conservation, who use it to add value to their existing environmental disaster prevention services."

The GMES initiative represents a concerted effort to combine ground- and space-based observations to develop an integrated environmental monitoring capability to benefit citizens.

The flood forecasting service combines satellite radar images, provided by ESA's Envisat and the Canadian Space Agency's RADARSAT satellites, weather forecasts and field observations.

Using a computer simulation programme called the 'Ice Progression Model', which inputs data from real-time flows, weather conditions and forecasts, the Water Resources Management Division (WRMD) simulates ice conditions on the Exploits River. When conditions warrant, forecasts or warnings are issued to the town and emergency officials.

The WRMD has been testing the use of radar imagery to improve flood forecasting since December 2003. The Department of Environment and Conservation has been offering the online flood forecasting service via its website since February 2006.

"Based on our experience with the 2003 flood, I believe the use of radar imagery would have significantly improved our ability to provide a timely forecast and to direct the post flood response," Minister Jackman said.

Radar imagery plays a key role in the process by providing ice conditions as well as the location of ice, which was previously only available by observers.

"The radar imagery offers a 'big picture' view of a large segment of the Exploits River at one instance and is able to work in all weather as the radar sees through rain, snow and fog. It is able to safely provide information on areas of the Exploits River where we would have safety concerns in sending observers," Minister Jackman said. "When ice conditions are changing rapidly, observations can be made by the satellite twice daily. It also helps us analyse how the ice conditions change between images."

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The flood forecasting service is provided by the Canadian company C-CORE under the Polar View initiative, which is a satellite remote-sensing programme provided through an ESA activity known as the GMES Services Element (GSE) that promotes the utilisation of satellites for public good and public policy support.


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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