How Technology Predicts and Prevents Floods Before They Happen
May 9 2019
The Environment Agency has issued a warning that Britain’s flood planners must prepare for the worst on climate change. Flooding and coastal erosion can have terrible consequences for people, businesses and the environment. Smarter adaptation and resilience building - including natural flood management measures like tree-planting - is undeniably important.
The Environment Agency’s chairwoman, Emma Howard Boyd, said following current trends, global temperature could rise between 2C and 4C by 2100 and £1bn a year would need to be spent on flood management.
Flooding can be influenced by an unlucky confluence of extremely heavy rainfall, land use, drainage and the capacity of existing watercourses. While most flood prediction models attempt to capture all these influences to provide flood warnings, they often give a fairly crude picture. Researchers from around the world are continuously working on global flood risk models, such as the Aqueduct Global Flood Analyzer, the SSBN-flow model or GloFAS (Global Flood Awareness System). These have been developed in a cooperation between research, government or aid organisations and are used in practice. Recently, Google confirmed that its artificial intelligence based flood prediction system will be available in India before monsoons this year. The AI forecasting tool is capable of predicting floods with 75 percent precision.
Rising UK Flood Risks
There’s no denying that flood risk is on the rise in the UK. In December 2015, the city of Leeds in the north of England was hit by some of the largest flood levels ever recorded. BAM Nuttall - one of the UK's largest construction and engineering companies - called upon SenSat to create a highly accurate digital replica of the flood corridor along a 12km length of the river Aire in order to help with the construction of flood defences.
The virtual flood corridor had one objective, to allow computers to analyse the river, topography and flood risks across vastly more variables than humans alone could do.
To capture the data, drones were flown along the river valley 80 metres above the ground, gathering pictures and taking a measurement every 2.5cm. In total it collected more than 600 million data points that were used to digitally reconstruct the river and its flood plain.
SenSat’s experienced team of engineers digitised and inspected the entire riverfront in just two days, working closely with the client’s designers to ensure a satisfactory output. SenSat operates with a continued 100% safety record, reducing the working hours on site by over 95% compared to the traditional means.
The captured data not only allowed for better decision making but also more efficient use of public funds to protect vulnerable areas and alleviate the misery of flooding. Visualising the captured data on Mapp® allowed BAM Nuttall and all stakeholders to intuitively discuss and engage with the simulated reality of the 12 km-long site, which sources, combines, and integrates dynamic information to offer a full picture of the project.
The engineering team can share this data with their colleagues rapidly in just a few clicks as well as download and integrate the raw information into their existing systems and workflows.
This drastically helped inform what construction works Bam Nuttall needed to undertake to reduce flooding in the area.
If you’re interested in reading more about SenSat’s involvement in the project, you can download the full case study below: