ECMWF helps to improve flood warnings in Albania

Cinzia Mazzetti, Damien Decremer, Christel Prudhomme


ECMWF is part of the EU-funded Programme for Improving National Early Warning System and Flood Prevention in Albania (PRO NEWS). The programme started in 2017 with the overall objective of ensuring increased resilience to floods in Albania by strengthening the National Early Warning System and improving disaster prevention in line with EU good practices. Besides ECMWF, the PRO NEWS consortium includes global organisations such as the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), partners from Italy and Croatia, and local institutions, which are involved as both active partners and beneficiaries of the programme.

In this context, and with strong support from the EU Delegation in Albania, ECMWF has worked to upgrade the European Flood Awareness System (EFAS) for the area covering Albania. This includes improving the river drainage network, revising parameter sets of the LISFLOOD hydrological model based on new sets of observations provided by Albania, and integrating national monitoring points into the EFAS web interface. These enhancements, combined with the rolling EFAS upgrades undertaken for the Copernicus Emergency Management Service (Copernicus EMS), have made it possible for EFAS to be adopted as the National Flood Forecasting and Warning System for Albania.

River drainage network. The figure shows the LISFLOOD 1 km river drainage network for catchments in northern Albania. Each grid box is coloured according to the upstream drained area, ranging from 25 km2 (the lightest colour) to more than 14,400 km2 (dark blue).

ECMWF activities in the programme have also included the implementation of a high-resolution prototype of the hydrological model LISFLOOD over Albania. The prototype, in which the grid spacing of the hydrological model is 1 km instead of the 5 km used in EFAS, may serve as a test for the future development of the EFAS system. Technical issues that were addressed include devising methods to downscale LISFLOOD parameters and to generate all static maps necessary to run LISFLOOD at the increased resolution. While the method adopted in PRO NEWS to downscale the river drainage network from 5 km to 1 km worked well for a small domain such as Albania, it became clear that more thought needs to go into developing a high-resolution river drainage network for the EFAS pan-European domain.

For example, while performing experiments with the LISFLOOD 1 km prototype over Albania did not raise any issue in terms of computation time, a future high-resolution EFAS system would increase the current computational burden 25-fold. Considerations of computation time, data handling and storage for such a system call for improvements in the EFAS computational chain and a better use of parallelised computing resources at ECMWF.

When the PRO NEWS programme ends in September 2020, it will have brought benefits for both Albania and EFAS. For more information on PRO NEWS, visit