Blog posts

   Building the evidence case for scaling up drought risk financing in East Africa

Just over 10 years ago, researchers at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and their partners* launched an ambitious experiment: to provide index-based livestock insurance (IBLI) for livestock keepers to help protect them from drought-related asset losses.

This safety net mechanism was developed in response to increasingly severe and frequent droughts in East Africa as a result of climate change, which can often have devastating effects on livestock keepers, especially pastoralists, wiping out or weakening most of their herds and leading to distress sales of animals. These losses of critical sources of food and income can push these already marginalized groups further into poverty and vulnerability.


   After 10 years in Kenya and Ethiopia, are we ready to scale up livestock insurance in the Horn of Africa?

Index-based livestock insurance (IBLI) programs in East Africa have thus far had limited success. A new International Livestock Research Institute study finds that future initiatives should embrace a number of lessons learned if they wish to achieve scale and financial sustainability.


   Shifting from reactive to anticipatory forecast-based drought and flood risk management: ForPAc

Like much of East Africa, Kenya suffers recurrent flood and drought events that strongly impact lives and livelihoods and the economy. Kenya is one of the world’s more disaster-prone countries and climate change and increasing exposure is likely to increase these disaster risks in future. Disaster risk management is currently insufficient to meet this challenge: although there is a well-established drought management system, this remains largely reactive, with actions invoked only after drought declaration. Floods are less well managed, with early warnings provided in only one river basin. Risk governance tends to be fragmented.

   SHEAR studentship cohort shares PhD findings and implications for SHEAR

In early October 2021, the SHEAR studentship cohort (SSC) gathered virtually to share findings from their PhD research and discuss the insights the research has given them into the main SHEAR topic areas: improvements in forecasting science, improvements in data, improvements in tools, applying outputs in decision making, and building capacity.

Ten students presented their PhD research virtually over a two-day event, covering a range of topics from the political economy of Disaster Risk Financing to hydrometeorological drivers of flood characteristics in the Brahmaputra River basin in Bangladesh. The wide breadth of topics was complemented by a depth of specific research findings and new knowledge from the PhDs.

   New SHEAR publications introducing landslide early warning systems

Landslides cause significant loss of life and damage to buildings and infrastructure globally. Forecasting landslides and developing effective early warning systems is a difficult yet important task that can provide time and information needed to mitigate and/or reduce the effects of landslides, saving lives and reducing economic losses.

The SHEAR programme supports several projects that focus on elements of developing a landslide early warning systems: LANDSLIP, Landslide-EVO, BOULDER, the Impact and Integration project on a conceptual paradigm for implementation of an operational landslide early warning systems, and the mapping landslides in Nepal project.

2-6 November 2021 marked the Fifth World Landslide Forum. These forums take place every three years and act as a platform for scientists, engineers, practitioners and policymakers involved in landslide disaster risk reduction to present their latest progress. This year’s themes included hazard mapping, risk assessments, catastrophic landslides, landslide science, and monitoring and early warning. SHEAR member Qiuhua Lang, Loughborough University, from the WeACT project presented virtually at the forum: 'A coupled discrete element and depth-averaged model for flow-like landslide simulations'.

To complement these global discussions around landslide early warning systems, SHEAR is delighted to share with you three new publications that bring together learning and knowledge from across SHEAR and published literature to provide an introduction to landslide early warning systems for practitioners, donors, and researchers in developing countries:

   SHEAR explores the use of mobile phone technologies in disaster risk management

In October 2020, the Science for Humanitarian Emergencies and Resilience (SHEAR) Programme hosted a virtual workshop that explored the use of mobile phone technologies, including applications and SMS messaging, to support disaster risk management (DRM). The workshop brought together approximately 50+ members from across the SHEAR Programme and invited perspectives from the wider DRM community to share their experiences, identify what opportunities and lessons have been learned, and generate the most important challenges and opportunities of mobile phone technology use in DRM.

   Remote sensing and field validation confirm expansion of Tsho Rolpa glacial lake

The end of a glacier above a lake. The lake is very silty and there are bars of bare, grey rocks rising up from it. The glacier itself is dirty white with huge cracks running parallel to the end of the ice. Both the glacier and the lake are in a valley with slopes made of bare, grey rocks.

Under the Web-Based Natural Dam-Burst Flood Hazard Assessment and ForeCasting SysTem (WeACT) project, a team from four institutions – ICIMOD, Loughborough University, Newcastle University, and Tribhuvan University – adopted a new approach for their study that combines remote-sensing data with field validation to remotely monitor the expansion of Tsho Rolpa glacial lake, a potentially dangerous glacial lake in the Koshi basin. Data generated by remote sensing showed that the lake is expanding towards Takarding Glacier, and this was validated by an expedition team which observed the glacier ice calving into the lake. This new approach could be adopted to monitor lakes across basins.

   SHEAR at LandAware's MayDay conference

Detail of the conference, all of which is given in the following text

On 19–20 May 2021, SHEAR members presented and attended the first conference of LandAware — the international network on landslide early warning systems. The MayDay round-the-clock event was held for 24 hours online and provided a diversified and engaging conference for members and interested attendees, including working groups meetings, network-wide activities and special events.

   November 2020: international efforts to help people of Central America hit by hurricanes Eta and Iota

A helicopter flying above a flooded forest

UK scientists have been helping to guide international efforts to help people of Central America hit by Hurricanes Eta and Iota.

Royal Navy and US helicopters are now flying aid directly to areas in greatest need, thanks in part to work by scientists from the University of Reading, University of Bristol, HR Wallingford, Fathom and the European Centre of Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), in a project funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.

The scientists are supporting efforts to guide the huge humanitarian response required in the aftermath of Hurricanes Eta and Iota, which have so far killed 160 people and affected 5 million across Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala. Parts of Belize, El Salvador, Mexico, Costa Rica, Colombia and Panama have also been affected.

   Linking early warning with early action: closing the gaps for stronger resilience

A group of people standing on a steep slope above a river looking at river gauges, which are vertical panels placed in the ground with measurements marked on them

Forecast-based early action and early warning systems are integral components of disaster resilience and have the potential to reinforce one another, enhancing the effectiveness of these tools for greater risk reduction, management and response. This conversation is particularly timely considering the growing approaches for enabling forecast-based early action (and anticipatory action) driven by humanitarian actors like the Red Cross Red Crescent Network, UN agencies and NGOs, alongside the global efforts to strengthen early warning systems that reach the ‘last/first mile’ by climate, disaster and development actors.

   'Learning to Co-produce': forecasts that can strengthen preparedness and resilience to climate-related risks

Learning to Co-Produce provides on-line training for meteorologists to strengthen links between forecast production and use in decision making.

What is co-production?

Early warning and early action are vital to strengthening the resilience of people whose lives and livelihoods are directly impacted by climate-related risks.

The need to develop systems and deliver relevant weather and climate information based on a holistic and in-depth understanding of the varying needs of different users has been both a major focus and a major challenge highlighted in disaster risk reduction, humanitarian programming and climate-resilience building.

For weather and climate services to be effective in saving lives and livelihoods and further promoting and protecting hard-won development gains, they need to be relevant to the needs, priorities, and capacities of the stakeholders involved in producing and using them.

   Reducing impacts from natural hazard-related disasters: where are we?

SHEAR projects are contributing to the improvement of forecasting science, advancing data generation and creating new tools for disaster risk management.

SHEAR highlights 2020: research contributions to understand and predict disasters

The SHEAR programme supports world-leading research to enhance the quality, availability and use of risk and forecast information. The research brings together multidisciplinary academic knowledge and practitioner expertise and experience to investigate the factors affecting vulnerability and resilience to natural hazards.

How have SHEAR projects been improving forecasting science?

SHEAR projects have been improving forecasting science by testing new approaches and assessing how well they perform for application purposes. Examples include the following projects.

   Landslides: the next frontier of hazard early warning

Global landslide distribution. Image via the Global Fatal Landslide Database; data from Froude and Petley, 2018.

Dorothy Heinrich and Mirianna Budimir

Landslides are complex hazards that affect many areas of the world and cause significant loss of life, injury, and infrastructure damage. Our capacity to predict landslides and warn of their risks is a significant tool to reduce their impacts. Landslide early warning systems provide an opportunity to generate information in advance of such events, allowing for early actions that can reduce risks and impacts of these hazards.

On 3 December 2020, the work on landslide early warning systems developed through the SHEAR programme was presented at the Understanding Risk forum. This bi-annual forum went virtual for the first time, bringing together over 6200 attendees from 179 countries to showcase the best practices and latest innovations in the field of disaster risk identification as well as facilitating non-traditional interactions and partnerships.

   Mapping landslides in data-scarce contexts

Satellite image of the study site

Landslides are the most widespread type of geological hazard worldwide. Between 1998 and 2017, landslides affected around 4.8 million people, and caused more than 18 000 deaths. Developing countries bear the burden of social and economic losses resulting from landslides, with 80 per cent of the worst-hit countries being lower income (CRED and UNISDR).

Landslide inventory maps are a key resource for developing landslide hazard and risk maps that decision makers need in order to prepare for and respond to landslide events, and manage the risk effectively. However, in areas where data and resources are scarce, the information, time, and funding needed to produce these maps are a major challenge.

   Linking social protection and forecast-based action: a summary of lessons and knowledge gaps from SHEAR

Cyclone Idai response, Mozambique, 18-20 March 2019© Red Cross

'Social protection' is an umbrella term for programmes and policies aimed at reducing poverty and increasing the capacity of vulnerable groups. Forecast-based anticipatory action can have great potential in reducing the humanitarian impacts of natural hazards. How does social protection work when a natural hazard occurs? Can social protection systems and forecast-based action be combined to protect more people in anticipation, especially the most vulnerable? What could this integration look like?

Work conducted under SHEAR has offered the opportunity to explore some of these questions during deliberations with experts in the field. Building on thoughts and experiences from SHEAR, a new research brief, Linking social protection and forecast-based action: a summary of lessons and knowledge gaps from SHEAR brings together the learnings from the various projects to understand the feasibility of integrating forecast-based action and social protection systems. The aim of this brief is to provoke further discussions on the topic and propose tools to this end, by highlighting crucial questions and areas requiring further research.

   COVID-19, landslides and my PhD research in Kalimpong: reflecting on ways to make disaster research more resilient

An image of a white man standing on a hillside looking out across a river valley in India

I spent the first UK lockdown transcribing the 63 interviews I had recorded during my PhD fieldwork of 2019, a task well-suited to being stuck in one place for a long period of time. During those strange months of the lockdown, I reflected on the fact that I was in a relatively fortunate position:

  • I was staying with my girlfriend and her family, and their dog(!) in their home in the countryside and we all looked out for each other throughout
  • I was not working in risky conditions
  • I had collected my data and had 18 months left of funding guaranteed

Realistically I was going to be stuck indoors analysing, processing and writing up anyway. I concluded that if there was going to be a global pandemic during my PhD, now was the best time for that to happen! This, in turn, made me reflect on how much research is hugely influenced by the spatial and temporal context in which it takes place. To explore this further, the basic premise of this blog will be 'How would my PhD research have been different had it commenced in May 2020, rather than May 2019?'

   New training course for weather forecasters in South-east Africa

An image of a white swirling cyclone over green land and blue sea, taken from space

Just as the tropical cyclone season is beginning in the southern hemisphere, the Institue for Environmental Analytics (IEA) is today launching online training targeted for weather forecasters of south-east Africa and the south-west Indian Ocean.

The first tropical cyclone of this season, Alicia, generated over the warm waters of the south-west Indian Ocean earlier this month, downgraded to a tropical storm a couple of days later. Several of these storms can form during the southern hemisphere's summer, and while many remain over the ocean, on average three to four make landfall on African islands and continental landmass. For example, Cyclone Idai, in March 2019, affected three million people and caused catastrophic damage as it made landfall in Mozambique with offshore winds speeds of up to 195 km/h. It is the second deadliest tropical cyclone on record.

Forecasting tropical cyclones is a significant challenge so specific training to update on the latest research developments contributes to and enhances the existing knowledge and experience of operational forecasters. With the combined expertise in weather modelling, climate drivers and delivering technical training, the IEA are ideally placed to assist with turning research outputs into engaging learning activities for forecasters and forecast users.

   Participatory monitoring for improved water resources management: learning from remote mountainous regions of Nepal

People looking at rocks on a slope in Nepal

For many communities in the Himalayas affected by poverty and marginalisation, subsistence farming and agro-pastoralism are central to livelihoods. In spite of the Himalayas being a major reservoir of the fresh water needed for this work, the availability of water is becoming increasingly uncertain due to changes in environmental dynamics, the effects of climate change and the complex geography of the region.

Effective water resource management (WRM) is made difficult by a lack of hydrometeorological data. National-level WRM policy has been scarce and agricultural yield has been affected. Farmers report increased water availability, improved irrigation and improved WRM as common priorities. Landslide-EVO is working to apply citizen science to the generation of hydrological knowledge for improving WRM in the region.

Participatory monitoring and the co-generation of hydrological knowledge could improve the coverage hydrological monitoring networks and develop a “bottom-up” approach to the addressing water scarcity issues which is relevant to and led by the communities affected.

   Can stationary digital cameras improve our examination of vegetation condition from satellite images in detecting drought spells in Kenya?

James Muthoka

Publication on vegetation conditioning forecast.

Figure 1: Publication on vegetation conditioning forecast.

Drought is the most common climate–related shock in Kenya. Every other year more than 10 million people are impacted by periods of drought in Kenya, with the majority of this population living in arid and semi–arid lands (ASAL). Previously, these communities have experienced climate–related shocks (floods & drought) which badly impacted on their forage resources and subsequently lead to loss of livestock and livelihoods.

With 80% of the country being ASAL, the priority of this research is to understand how vegetation dynamics respond to disturbances (precipitation) as a step towards enhancing early drought warning systems.

What we know about vegetation dynamics when looking from space

A view from space ideally means the use of satellite imagery to assist in detecting broad–scale changes in vegetation. By having a long term look at these vegetation changes, droughts are monitored by a comparison of current vegetation over its long-term mean.

Using parameters acquired by satellites i.e. Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) vegetation anomalies can be calculated such as vegetation condition index which is an indicator of vegetation greenness in relation to its time–series. Thereafter using advanced techniques a trend can be established and forecasts are undertaken as shown in our paper.

   The Kosi River Basin Floods — whose disaster and whose resilience?

Gaurab Sagar Dawadi, KCL

The Kosi River: ancient view

Ancient courses of the Kosi River

Figure 1: shifting of Kosi River in last 220 years. Source: Mishra, 2008.

The Kosi River is a transboundary river running across China, Nepal, and India. It is one of the main tributaries of the Ganges River in India. Referring to the historical records, the Kosi River had meandered and shifted its course by about 115 km in the last 220 years (Figure 1). Through ancient folklores and stories, poets have described the Kosi River as a wild, beautiful, and carefree girl 'Kaushiki' who runs wildly in the open field and blesses the environment with lush greenery and a vibrant environment (Mishra, 2008).

The Kosi River has Mount Everest in its catchment and runs through a 700 m stretch with an elevation drop from the height of above 8848 m to 17 m above mean sea level. As the river runs from the steep slope to the flat terrain, it widens drastically and spreads over the width of 10 km in Nepal. The sediment load of the Kosi river is the second largest in the world, with 1915 tonnes/km2/yr (Sinha et al., 2019). The silt deposited each year on the river bed impedes the river flow in the subsequent season. It changes the river course to a new path, thereby meandering like a pendulum on a regular basis. Meandering has been the nature of the Kosi river for centuries, and it may have been since the formation of the Himalayas (Mishra, 2008).

   Subseasonal and short-term forecasts are the key to unlocking early action during the East Africa long rains

Roop Singh, Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre

In recent months, East Africa has been inundated with a triad of disasters starting with crop-destroying locusts, affecting farmers only just recovering from prolonged drought, followed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and now extreme floods have been added to the mix. These mutually reinforcing disasters are increasing vulnerability and making it harder to protect people from any one of these disasters, let alone all of them.

While the situation is incredibly complex, compound disasters are inevitable in a future in which humans are increasingly encroaching on natural systems, climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme events, and accelerating urbanization creates new risks and opportunities.

   Acauta Akoriok ('farmers get light') — the power of weather information to the rural farmers of Katakwi District

At the end of February, the sixth and final Farmers Agri-Met Village Advisories Clinics (FAMVAC) within the National Impact-based Forecasting of Flood risk in Uganda (NIMFRU) project took place in Katakwi District in North Eastern Uganda. For those who might not know, NIMFRU is a SHEAR-catalyst project funded under the NERC/DfID. I was lucky enough to join the NIMFRU team together with Environmental Conservation Trust of Uganda (ECOTRUST) and Uganda National Meteorology Authority (UNMA) for the fieldwork.

   Early action for flood preparedness: insights from Bangladesh

The science and technology behind forecasting and warning has undergone significant advances, with increasingly more being understood about hazards and extreme weather. However, there is still a critical gap between the production of this information and its application to decision-making and preparedness action.

Individuals, agencies and organisations mandated to manage disaster risk, plan and implement preparedness, and coordinate humanitarian response to disasters, need reliable and well-communicated forecast information to take action. Forecast-based financing and impact-based forecasting approaches are being implemented to address these challenges and reduce disaster losses.

   Towards landslide resilience: tracking boulder movement for early warning

Boulder landslide in Nepal

In South Asia, extreme rainfall, seismicity, and human activity result in a high risk of destructive landslides. Landslides cause significant human, social, economic and cultural losses, with vulnerable communities greatly affected by damage and destruction of homes and livelihoods.

   Coronavirus and me: Reflections from a PhD Student

Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a global pandemic. It has caused many countries to go into lockdown and deal with the terrible consequences of such an event on the worldwide population [1]. It is causing financial worry, job insecurity, livelihood damages and death [1] [2]. Almost all countries in the world have reported cases of the virus, and the global death toll is steadily rising. As this pandemic grips the world, countries will be focusing on delaying, mitigating and recovering from the effects of the virus on their populations, economies and businesses [3] [4]. As a result, people everywhere are finding their own ways to cope with consequences of COVID-19. Today, I want to share how the pandemic has impacted the PhD community and me as a PhD student.

08 April 2020

   'Time for action'? Disaster risk finance in the loss and damage negotiations at the COP25 Climate Negotiations

Sunset over the COP venue, and the conference tagline '#TimeForAction' - December 2019

This year's UN climate summit came with the tagline 'Tiempo de Accionar' – time for action. I spent a week in December following side events and negotiations as part of my research, but left with a sense of disappointment that was shared with many other delegates, and memories of a conference that had largely failed to deliver meaningful action on the key issues of the Paris Agreement.

23 March 2020

   Collecting sediment cores in the Limpopo

A view from the office! Photo credit: Fulvio Franchi, 2019

Our fieldwork for CONNECT4 has begun! Our co-investigator, Fulvio Franchi, is leading a team of researchers on a trip to collect sediment cores from a number of dams across the Limpopo. The team tested out their equipment in Botswana last week and are now in Zimbabwe, collecting the first cores in the waters of the Zhove dam. In this post, they let us know how they built the raft that that will carry them on this adventure. Good luck Fulvio and team!

Our first step, before we collect any data, is to build a safe, stable raft on which to set off into the dams of the Limpopo. The raft really needs to be stable, because we will spend a few days on it, floating in the middle of a number of dams, maneuvering a gravity corer that can weight up to 150 kg! We are happy to report that we tested the raft this week in the waters of the Bonkwakathako dam (Lat. -22.484626° – Long. 27.223099°, near Palapye in Botswana) and it worked really well!

15 August 2019

   New points of departure in transitioning disaster reduction and sustainability challenges

Dealing with Disasters, the UK Alliance for Disaster Research, Disasters Research Group and UK Collaborative for Development Research came together to hold an international conference at the University of Northumbria this month.

Natural hazards in Nepal and Senegal

The conference aims to stimulate debate and advance thinking around 'New points of departure in transitioning disaster reduction and sustainability challenges' building on the progress made in the recent United Nations Global Platform 2019 and in anticipation of the forthcoming Climate Summit.

For people and communities to survive and thrive in the face of disaster threats and sustainability challenges, new points of departure in our approach to science, technology, political will and behaviour are vital — and increasingly urgent. SHEAR researchers contributed insights from current projects, highlighting work on improved prediction and management of floods, earthquakes in landslides in India, Nepal and Senegal.

12 August 2019

   Georisk reduction: science, resources and governmental action: reflections on the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics 2019 General Assembly

Held every four years, the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG) General Assembly has been hosted across the world — most recently in Prague (2015), Melbourne (2011) and Perugia (2007) — and this year in Montreal. Covering a wide range of science from the interior of the Earth to solar and space physics (and lots in between!) there was much of relevance to the SHEAR programme.

12 August 2019

   Lessons learned from a disaster: 2015 Nepal earthquake

Gaurab Dawadi, PhD student on the LANDSLIP project

Damage caused by the Nepal earthquake. Photo by UNDP

Experiencing the earthquake

During the earthquake of 25th April at around 12:00 noon, it was Saturday, which was a holiday in Nepal. I had to attend a wedding reception of my relative that evening, and after all the preparations, I went inside the kitchen to prepare a fruit juice for myself. As soon as I put all the pieces of fruit inside a juicer, I heard an unusual roaring and grinding sound, as if the mixer had started itself. A moment later, everything started shaking. I was on the ground floor and quickly got out to the open space in front of my house. The shaking lasted for about one minute, and at some point, it was impossible to stand on the ground. After that unforgettable, terrifying minute, I heard family members and neighbours screaming in fear, the dust of collapsed buildings clouding the scene. It was the first time in my life I felt such a massive earthquake, and words cannot describe the chaos at that time.

I tried to get information from the Internet and checked my mobile phone in my pocket, but there was no Internet, no mobile network, and no electricity. Luckily everyone in my family was safe. I then assessed my house for cracks, but every four to five minutes there was an aftershock. Everyone in my family was screaming at me and telling me not to go inside the house; there could be a bigger earthquake coming. That night, I slept inside a car, and other family members also slept outside in the open ground. No one dared to sleep inside due to continuous aftershocks.

Gaurab is a DRR practitioner was involved in risk communication and counselling people regarding earthquake phenomenon, aftershocks, what to do and what not to do during earthquakes. He also worked with Nepal police to identify earthquake affected areas to quickly deploy the Nepal police rescue team based on the satellite image observation and GIS. Gaurab volunteered in structural safety assessment after the disaster, for about 500 buildings in Kathmandu valley.

17 April 2019

   Lessons learned from a disaster: The 2011 Horn of Africa drought

Olivia Taylor, Doctoral Researcher & ForPAc Project Manager

Women and Children waiting for the water truck in Tanzania. Photo by UNICEF Tanzania

Seeing clearly, and seeing whole

Recently, I attended a panel discussion about the future of the discipline of geography. As a human geographer among the diverse SHEAR studentship cohort – which counts geologists, hydrologists and civil engineers among its number – I left the event wondering what a geographer should contribute to the SHEAR consortia. While other disciplines might be of more immediate and practical use, geography's strength as a discipline is to 'see clearly, and to see whole1', weaving together accounts and different perspectives to see a holistic picture, beyond single stories or certainties. When it comes to reflecting on lessons learned from a disaster such as the 2011 Horn of Africa drought, seeing holistically is particularly important – a lot of work by many has gone into understanding the causes of the crisis, the responses from the humanitarian and development community and sharing lessons learned.

1 From J.S Debenham, The Use of Geography, 1950.

Olivia Taylor is a geographer with research interests in climate change adaptation, and in particular in understanding the political economy drivers and policy processes which shape this. She works both as a Research Assistant on a Sussex Sustainability Research programme project, as well as the Project Manager for ForPAc.

10 April 2019

   EGU 2019: Sharing SHEAR research findings at Europe's largest geosciences meeting

Landslide-EVO researchers arrive at EGU (L-R: Puja Shakya, Prakash Khadka and Binod Parajuli)

SHEAR colleagues were among the 16,000+ delegates at this year's European Geosciences Union General Assembly. Researchers from LANDSLIP, Landslide-EVO, FATHUM, Catalyst and Disaster Risk Finance projects presented and convened a range of presentations highlighting the latest findings and developments from the SHEAR programme. Select the headings below to find out more about our presentations on these themes, and contact us if you'd like to further details about any of these areas of work.

The preparedness activities led by the Mozambique Red Cross were facilitated by an innovative humanitarian system known as 'forecast-based action', whereby early action plans are triggered when a specific forecast of a natural hazard is made. These early action plans are supported by evidence from academics, with research contributing to early pilot projects in Uganda and Peru and ongoing research under NERC/DfID's SHEAR programme providing the tools and evidence to support the scale-up from these initial pilot projects to systematic international financing mechanisms for approving and funding early action on the basis of a forecast.

Landslide early warning systems

Flood hazard mapping

Disaster risk finance

06 April 2019

   Before Idai: how humanitarian action is evolving to act on forecasts

Damage from Cyclone Idai
Before Idai: how humanitarian action is evolving to act on forecasts

While the full extent of the impact of Cyclone Idai is still unknown, we do know that even with the airport closed and roads impassable, the Mozambique Red Cross were already on the ground in Beira having been preparing communities by disseminating early warning messages and prepositioning non-food items such as emergency shelter kits, blankets, and mosquito nets.

The preparedness activities led by the Mozambique Red Cross were facilitated by an innovative humanitarian system known as 'forecast-based action', whereby early action plans are triggered when a specific forecast of a natural hazard is made. These early action plans are supported by evidence from academics, with research contributing to early pilot projects in Uganda and Peru and ongoing research under NERC/DfID's SHEAR programme providing the tools and evidence to support the scale-up from these initial pilot projects to systematic international financing mechanisms for approving and funding early action on the basis of a forecast.

22 March 2019

   Experiences of the 2015–16 El Niño from across the tropics highlight the importance of building long-term resilience

Livestock in Halaba District, Ethiopia

It is widely anticipated that the global climate in 2019 will once again be affected by El Niño conditions in the Pacific Ocean. This can contribute to a range of experiences of weather extremes across the tropics and impact natural resources and livelihoods in a variety of ways, often requiring people to make adjustments to their livelihood strategies or resource usage.

   Reflections on the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting

Jonathan Paul

The American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting is widely regarded as the largest and most important conference in science. In 2018, for the first time, I was involved in convening a couple of sessions. The first — about the use of citizen science in natural hazard risk reduction — was something of an extension of a special issue of Frontiers in Earth Science on a similar theme, which I am co-editing with other Landslide EVO researchers. Following a project meeting in February 2018, we identified a 'gap in the market' that we hoped would be plugged by a second session proposal — this time, on the use of sensor networks in hydrology.

   Studentship spotlight: from a village in India to university in London

What would you call a girl from an Indian village who gets a scholarship to study in London and decides to step out of her comfort zone for the first time in her life? Crazy, opportunistic, brave, intelligent? Well, I have heard of all those adjectives for me and I won't deny any of them. I spent 17 years of my life studying to get a scholarship to attain education, competing against the huge Indian population since I was seven years of age. Little did I know that that this would lead me to sit for examinations that would help me apply for a PhD in international colleges. I had dreamed of being a research scientist since childhood but never thought that I would get an opportunity to be a sponsored PhD student in a unique international project like SHEAR that includes big names like King's College London, the British Geological Survey, the Natural Environment Research Council, the Red Cross Red Crescent Society and Imperial College London.

   Bringing SHEAR together in Brighton

The SHEAR programme held its first annual meeting in this autumn, bringing together the wide range of researchers involved in the different projects and all their different experiences and perspectives. Here, three members of the SHEAR Studentship Cohort — Neeraj Sah, Anna Twomlow and Siobhan Dolan — share their reflections on the experience.

   Citizen science: friend or foe?

Katarzyna Cieslik and Jonathan Paul, Landslide-EVO

Landslide-EVO sensor

The annual Development Studies Association conference invites both academic and practitioner reflections on issues of global importance, from poverty alleviation, through gender justice and the practices of inclusion, to the sustainable use of natural resources. This year's event was hosted by the University of Manchester and centred around the broadly understood theme of global inequalities 'as a subject of research, an issue for action and as a lens through which to approach the world'.

   Pressure cooker: can you design a risk communication strategy in 24 hours?

Anna Twomlow (SHEAR Studentship Cohort PhD student, Imperial College London)
Olivia Taylor (SHEAR Studentship Cohort PhD student, University of Sussex)

Pressure cooker challenge

Every two years, academics, professionals and practitioners working in disaster risk management gather for the Understanding Risk Forum, a platform for collaboration, knowledge sharing, and innovation in disaster risk management. This year, the forum was hosted in Mexico City, and we were fortunate enough to participate, and take part in the world's first 24-hour 'Risk communication pressure cooker challenge'. The challenge was hosted by the Water Youth Network, an organisation that connects youth and organisations within the water sector and beyond.

   New perspectives: fieldwork in Nepal

Neeraj Sah, PhD Scholar, Landslide-EVO, Imperial College London
Siobhan Dolan, PhD Scholar, FATHUM, University of Reading


Rain gauge at Buddhiganga

I started my PhD with fieldwork in western Nepal, and I have no qualms in saying that I had a completely unexpected experience in terms of my understanding of the project, and interaction and collaboration with local people, government officials and other stakeholders.

This fieldwork was carried out by Jonathan Paul, Neeraj Sah, Saugat Paudel and Siobhan Dolan from the Landslide-EVO project between 1 and 12 May 2018. The main objectives were to replace an existing river-level sensor with a new, more sophisticated one, and to install other sensors and a dense network of rain gauges at various locations in the Upper Karnali basin (Bahjang and Bajura districts) that are prone to landslide and flood risk.

It was a very exciting journey as we met new people, local leaders, school teachers and students every day, shared our research objectives, and involved them as much as possible at this stage of the project.

   Showcasing projects building resilience to El Niño — lessons from the field

Showcasing projects building resilience to El Niño — lessons from the field

The most recent El Niño event, occurring from 2015 to 2016, was amongst the strongest ever recorded. In response, NERC and the Department of International Development (DfID) funded the Understanding the Impacts of the Current El Niño Event research programme, which seeks to improve societal wellbeing by building a knowledge base to inform preparation for future extreme climate events.

23 February 2018