Improving cross-border management of floods – 10 years of EFAS

21 May 2015

Flooding in the Balkans

The European Flood Awareness System (EFAS) held its 10th anniversary user meeting at the Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) in Brussels on 28 and 29 April to review its operations ten years after it started its pre-operational service. Florian Pappenberger, Fredrik Wetterhall and Blazej Krzeminski attended the meeting for ECMWF.

In 2005, the development of a European flood forecasting system (EFAS) had matured to a pre-operational stage and national hydrological services started testing EFAS, which was designed to give early warnings of major flood events. Seven years later, EFAS became fully operational as a key part of the EU-funded Copernicus Emergency Management Service. From an initial partner network with up to 10 dedicated members in 2005, EFAS now has over 45 regional hydro-meteorological partners across Europe.

ECMWF contributed to the 10th user meeting with a presentation by Florian on weather forecast improvements and the impact on hydrology. Fredrik presented information about the EFAS Computational Centre, run by ECMWF, which is responsible for running the forecasts, post-processing, and hosting the EFAS information system platform. Blazej presented a poster on the operational implementation of EFAS at ECMWF.

Balkan floods

A special focus of the anniversary workshop was the Balkan floods in 2014, which were predicted several days in advance by EFAS, whose forecasts are largely based on input from ECMWF as well as from the DWD and COSMO-LEPS. During these floods, EFAS supported the national services which are partners of EFAS as well as the coordination of EU civil protection actions. For the first time, its forecasts were used to task satellites before the event to obtain detailed maps of the disaster through the Copernicus Emergency Management mapping service. These maps are useful for decision-makers on the ground to assess the situation and manage the event. The International Sava River Basin Commission used ECMWF and EFAS forecasts to coordinate activities by affected nations.

At the meeting, the EFAS users approved a plan for future developments, ranging from improved flash flood forecasting and extending forecasts to the seasonal scale, to advanced statistical pre-processing routines to derive total probabilities.

A recently published study provides clear evidence that cross-border, continental-scale flood early warning systems such as EFAS are likely to bring substantial monetary benefits (The monetary benefit of early flood warnings in Europe). The results support the wider drive to implement early warning systems at the continental or global scale to improve resilience to natural hazards

Global Flood Partnership

Continental-scale forecasting is important and requires international collaboration, which ECMWF is fostering through involvement in various initiatives, including  the Global Flood Partnership.

The Global Flood Partnership brings together professionals from academia, government agencies, humanitarian NGOs and industry, the partnership aims to coordinate the modelling and observation of floods globally to better predict and manage their impacts.

The partnership held its annual conference at NCAR in Boulder, Colorado, from 4 to 6 May. ECMWF’s Florian Pappenberger and Calum Baugh presented posters on forecast-based financing of aid and flash flood forecasting in EFAS, respectively. They also ran a workshop on using probabilistic forecasts to predict extreme weather events.

This was the first meeting since the partnership was launched in 2014 and provided an opportunity for the global flood forecasting community to discuss where to focus its efforts to help prevent humanitarian disasters and manage water resources effectively.

More information

The European Flood Awareness System

EFAS was developed and tested at the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission, in close collaboration with national hydrological and meteorological services, European civil protection agencies through the Emergency Response and Coordination Centre (ERCC), and research institutes. It provides pan-European overview maps of flood probabilities up to 15 days in advance, and detailed forecasts at stations where the national services are providing real-time data.

Global Flood Partnership website