Catalyst grants

Catalyst grants fund smaller research projects which support and complement the SHEAR programme’s goals and work

The SHEAR catalyst grants, funded by DFID and NERC, are smaller research projects that complement the existing four main research projects (LANDSLIP, Landslide-EVO, FATHUM and ForPAc). The projects focus on weather-related hazards (such as floods, droughts and heatwaves) and the events weather can trigger (such as landslides) and improving resilience to these in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Projects will be expected to address one or more of the following research challenges:

  • improved understanding of the hydrological, geological and hydro-meteorological factors that determine the occurrence, duration and impact of the hazards and how they impact on local communities
  • improved understanding of how governance, political interventions and societal factors influence the impact of the hazards and can contribute to better preparedness and resilience
  • development of techniques for multi-hazard risk assessments by building on multi-hazard modelling to include cascading hazards and concurrent hazards
  • development of improved impact models that take into account the vulnerability, exposure and capacity of the affected community
  • development of integrated, multi-hazard risk monitoring and early-warning systems
  • improved understanding of how social and behavioural factors affect the communication, uptake and use of risk-based information and how this can be taken into account when designing effective monitoring and warning systems
  • expanding on existing ongoing research, in particular to scale-up to the regional/national level or to transfer approaches and methodologies to a different area

The expected outcome of the programme is improved research and innovation capacity and new collaborative partnerships in the UK, sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia that will position the research community to respond to future needs in resilience research, for example from the Global Challenges Research Fund and Newton Fund.

News


Accounting for BOUlders in Landslide-flood Disaster Evaluation and Resilience (BOULDER)

Institute

University of East Anglia

Background

Landslides and floods are globally occurring natural hazards that pose a significant threat to human life and sustainable development. The most severe losses due to landslides occur in the less economically developed countries of Asia and South America, particularly in those with mountainous topography, earthquakes and monsoonal climates. Landslides and rockfalls in these regions often detach fractured bedrock and deliver large boulders downslope that block roads, destroy buildings and kill people. On entering the river channel network, boulders may be bulldozed by large floods and block hydropower infrastructure, jeopardising electricity supply and the economy. Thus, boulders may cause a cascade of hazards.

Aims

This project addresses specific landslide and flood risk-management problems brought to our attention by stakeholders impacted by boulders in the Upper Bhote Koshi catchment in Nepal, one of the most landslide- and flood-prone countries in the world. This project also addresses a lack of data and scientific understanding of boulder production on hillslopes (e.g. by landslides) and boulder transport in floods.

The boulder hazard map and boulder tracking system developed in this research will help make the Bhote Koshi Power Company and the wider hydropower industry more resilient to landslide and flood hazards. The research will also benefit organisations managing transport infrastructure and communities living on steep, landslide-prone hillslopes in the Bhote Koshi.

We will hold two project workshops bringing together project partners and relevant stakeholders from industry, local communities and government institutions with the help of Practical Action Consulting Nepal to research boulder hazard perception and enhance uptake of this research into risk-management practice at local and national governance level, ultimately to aid development in Nepal and South Asia.

Approach

  • Map boulders and investigate the controls on boulder production on hillslopes by landslides and rockfalls
  • Develop a new real-time GPS boulder tracking system with which to improve understanding of boulder movement in floods and monitor hazardous boulders
  • Engage with stakeholders to incorporate findings into disaster management plans and ultimately to increase resilience to landslide and flood hazards

Project site

The project will focus on the Upper Bhote Koshi (UBK) catchment to the north east of Kathmandu, Nepal, and has been designed with specific end users in mind in the UBK that are dealing with boulder hazards related to landslides and floods. This area is particularly vulnerable to boulder hazards as it is the main road link between Nepal and China and contains several major hydroelectric power plants including the Upper Bhote Koshi Hydroelectric Power plant (UBKHEP). The catchment encapsulates the multitude of natural hazards faced by Nepal.

In 2015, the catchment was shaken by the Gorkha earthquake, generating some of the highest densities of landsliding anywhere in Nepal. In July 2016, a complex monsoon flash flood entrained extremely large boulders (>8 m), some of which became jammed in the sluice gates of the UBKHEP, culminating in more than $110 million damage to the power station. The power station remains closed, resulting in lost revenue and compromising Nepal's energy supply. As the power company rebuilds and a further hydroelectric power station is built just downstream, it will be vital to properly account for future boulder hazards in landslide and floods.

Climate service for resilience to overheating risk in Colombo, Sri Lanka: a multi-scale mapping approach (COSMA)

Institutes

  • University of Reading
  • Glasgow Caledonian University

Background

Sri Lanka, like many other developing countries in South Asia, experiences severe heatwaves that affect the health and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of residents. The risk to heat exposure will be further exacerbated when the heatwave coincides with the urban heat island in the urban area in a non-linear manner, or when there exists a 'cascading/concurrent' heat hazard indoors (as the majority of the households in Sri Lanka have no access to air conditioning and people spend the majority of their time indoors).

Living in such hot and humid climate for many generations, Sri Lankan people have established the unique and remarkable climatic, historical, cultural and architectural values and knowledge to be resilient to the extreme climate, reflected in the unique vernacular architectural and urban design. However, with rapid urbanisation and economic development, the traditional Sri Lankan vernacular villages and dwellings are being replaced by fast-built, western-style, brick-concrete structures. The indigenous Sri Lankan climate-sensitive design knowledge is being forgotten and is disappearing.

In the developed countries, it has been proved that new data streams, improved forecasts and better visualisation techniques have the potential to improve the utility of predictions for early warning of adverse conditions. However, for the countries in the global south (e.g. Sri Lanka), it is vital to provide such climate services with embedded indigenous design knowledge and use of local resources to improve the resilience to extreme humanitarian disaster.

Aims

At the heart of the project are the studies of:

  • how the heatwave overheating risk prediction and assessment could be improved at finer urban and building scales
  • the useful indigenous design knowledge in Sri Lanka for heatwaves mitigtion, and how the designs could be regenerated and re-incorporated into the heatwave action plan and future design practice

COSMA aims to develop an integrated modelling approach by taking into account the urban heat island, building characteristics and vulnerable population to build effective early-warning systems and a city-scale heat action plan. The final outputs of the project will be a series of hierarchical overheating risk and mitigation potential maps across different scales for Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Approach

COSMA is a multidisciplinary study that will bring together a group of experts in urban meteorology, building environmental engineering, architecture, urban planning and social science, to work with local stakeholders to deliver SHEAR programme objectives. By working closely with the local community, government and professionals, one important goal of COSMA project is to harvest and regenerate traditional design knowledge (both building and urban scales) from indigenous craftsmen embedded within local culture and traditions, and feed into the heat-exposure risk mitigation plan.

COSMA, led by the University of Reading (UoR), involves collaborations with Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU), and carried out in partnership with a group of well-established Sri Lankan partners: the Department of Meteorology (DoM) and the Institute of Town Planners Sri Lanka(ITPSL) as well as researchers at University of Moratuwa (UoM).

Compound flooding from tropical cyclone-induced sea surge and precipitation in Sri Lanka (C-FLOOD)

Institutes

  • University of Plymouth
  • University of East London
  • University College London
  • University of Peradeniya
  • Coast Conservation & Coastal Resource Management Department

Title

Coastal communities in the north and east of Sri Lanka face significantly greater risk of coastal flooding from storm surges associated with seasonal cyclones than those in the rest of the country. These storm surges are essentially local elevations in sea level caused by the weather system, which subsequently inundate the land.

Storm surges are caused by a combination of:

  • low atmospheric pressure 'lifting' the sea surface (barometric tide).
  • frictional drag of the wind blowing over the sea causing a slope in the water surface (wind stress).
  • breaking waves transferring their momentum into the water column (wave setup).

Hazard maps to indicate predicted storm surge inundations around the Sri Lankan coastline were produced by Prof J Wijetunge of the University of Peradeniya, in association with the Disaster Management Centre. The computer models on which these hazard maps were based were limited to describing only the barometric tide and the wind stress.

The situation is potentially much worse than this, however, as scientists are beginning to understand the interaction of storm surges with severe rainfall events, which almost always accompany the cyclones in the Indian Ocean region. The mechanism for this so-called 'compound flooding' is that rivers swollen from heavy rainfall are prevented from effectively discharging to the sea due to storm surges coming inland. To protect against flooding events in the west we are familiar with flood defence structures; Sri Lanka has no such hard-engineered structures. However, there are natural protective features such as mangrove forests and salt marshes. The potential benefits of mangroves in particular have received some attention since the devastating Boxing Day tsunami of 2004, though the intentional implementation in formal coastal schemes is still in its infancy.

Aims

The C-FLOOD project will produce a new generation of compound flood-hazard maps, based upon state-of-the-art computer modelling that will consider all the storm-surge components and the rainfall effect. It will also consider a variety of climate change scenarios that will influence flooding due to predicted rising sea levels.

The final outcome will be improved predictions of flooding inundation, with engagement of the selected communities, leading to improved resilience to compound flooding. The hazard map-production techniques and flood-impact mitigation methods could then be implemented across other vulnerable communities.

Approach

This will be done by Prof J Wijetunge at the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka, and Dr M Jayaratne at the University of East London, with their related expertise. Furthermore, the protective effects of the natural vegetation will be included in the modelling and maps, by conducting experiments at the University of Plymouth's COAST Laboratory. This will be undertaken by Prof A Raby (Plymouth) and Prof W Taylor (University of Western Australia). The C-FLOOD project will focus on three communities that are deemed most vulnerable due to their geography and levels of poverty associated with the past military conflict.

The project team will work with community members in addition to local and regional leaders and administrators to maximise the benefits and uptake of the new hazard maps. Individual, localised hazards will also be captured in comprehensive multihazard maps for the communities. Dr K Kitagawa from the University of East London and Mr R Ranawaka of the Coast Conservation and Coastal Resource Management Department have past experience of such activities and will be overseeing these critical aspects.

Connect4 water resilience: connecting water resources, communities, drought and flood hazards, and governance across four countries in the Limpopo basin

Institute

University of Aberdeen

Background

The Limpopo River Basin (LRB) is an arid, water-stressed basin, yet it is highly susceptibile to floods. It encompasses a large diversity of physical and socio-economical characteristics spread across four countries: Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Floods and droughts have been shown to exacerbate water availability and quality problems and are predicted to increase in frequency and magnitude. We will focus on the challenges and opportunities during floods following droughts in the LRB, when aquifers and communities are already under stress, and when appropriate flood management could improve short-term coping mechanisms and long-term resilience for future dry seasons. We will explore to what extent geographical differences between subregions influence how water resources respond to, and how people cope with, floods and droughts in order to inform appropriate water-management strategies at various scales (local to transnational).

Aims

The research will provide a better understanding of the connectivity within and between physical and social aspects of vulnerability to improve societal preparedness and resilience to flood and drought hazards in arid sub-Saharan regions.

Research outputs will impact:

  • people in the LRB and arid regions through enhanced awareness and preparedness to flood and droughts, leading to increased resilience.
  • local and regional authorities via improved hydrological monitoring networks and a strengthened connection from local to transnational levels of governance.
  • general public through public engagement activities.
  • international academics via publications and socio-hydrological datasets on public databases, training of African under- and postgraduate students and development of early-career researchers.

Approach

The 'CONNECT4 water resilience' project brings together a multidisciplinary team of hydrologists and sociologists from academia, policy and practice in the UK, Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique to investigate the physical and societal factors affecting vulnerability and resilience to drought and floods in four countries of the LRB.

The research will articulate around three integrated work packages (WP).

WP1 will assess basin-scale hydrological connectivity, i.e. how droughts and floods propagate in space and time under varying physical conditions (hydrometeorology, physiography, geology, groundwater-surface water interactions), with a focus on how the hydrological response of a specific subregion influences or is influenced by other regions. This will be achieved though implementation of a basin-scale groundwater–surface-water modelling approach and will be based on existing datasets, in part collected by the project team. Outputs will aid to improve transnational flood and drought monitoring networks and update susceptibility mapping.

WP2 will assess the basin-scale social connectivity, i.e. how drought–flood cycles are understood, anticipated and worked with by local communities and how these communities interact with governance institutions. This will be achieved by carrying out interviews with diverse community groups and with key community–government intermediaries such as extension officers and catchment management fora. Outputs will contribute to understanding how drought/flood risk is perceived by communities and to develop better communication.

WP3 will integrate WP1 and WP2 and will work on the connectivity between social and hydrological systems. It will connect our understanding of multiscale hydrological processes underlying alternating droughts and floods with water resource and risk management, and societal preparedness pathways. This aims to co-create management solutions to reduce impacts and increase benefits of drought–flood cycles throughout the LRB. It will use an iterative, co-production process to strengthen crucial bridges between scientists and water-management stakeholders on the appropriate scale(s).

Improving Preparedness to Agro-Climatic Extremes in Malawi (IPACE-Malawi)

Institute

University of Leeds

Background

The work is centred around a participatory process of identifying agro-climatic indices that describe critical weather events (such as two-week dry spells after planting) based on recent experiences of drought and floods in Malawi. The skill of existing short-term to seasonal-scale tools in accurately forecasting these events at appropriate resolutions will be tested, and on the basis of this understanding of forecasting capabilities and uncertainty, climate services for farmers and responding communities (e.g. humanitarian relief organisations) will be co-developed.

Aims

IPACE-Malawi will investigate the impacts of extreme weather events on agricultural systems and contribute to improving the forecasting and delivery of agriculture-specific weather information to improve preparedness of farmers and humanitarian and disaster response organisations. Through a stakeholder-led process, the project will address some of the gaps in weather forecasting, information and preparedness that compound the vulnerability of small-scale farmers and rural communities in Malawi.

Specifically, IPACE-Malawi aims to:

  • identify critical agro-climatic drought and flood indicators in three districts of central and southern Malawi.
  • test the skill of short-term to seasonal forecast tools in simulating these indicators.
  • co-design agricultural climate services based on these indicators/forecast tools.

Intrinsic to the design and implementation of the project is a commitment to cross-institutional capacity building.

Approach

As well as being embedded in the cross-stakeholder dialogues that will take place throughout the project, specific capacity-building activities will be incorporated into the work, including a contribution to a Met Services training workshop, a co-supervised masters research projects, and a postdoctoral secondment from Leeds to the Malawi Red Cross Society and 510 Initiative.

This work builds on existing work on climate impacts and adaptation in Malawi and will feed into both new climate service innovations and the improvement of existing work on forecast-based financing. The proposal has been developed by an experienced cross-disciplinary team, with expertise in farming systems research, climate science and forecast modelling, climate services, and risk, vulnerability and humanitarian response. The team represents a partnership between the Sustainability Research Institute (SRI) at the University of Leeds, the UK Met Office, the Red Cross 510 Initiative, the Malawi Red Cross Society, and the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANR), Malawi.

National-scale IMpact-based forecasting of Flood Risk in Uganda (NIMFRU)

Institute

University of Reading

Background

Despite significant investments in early-warning systems, only limited progress has been made towards making flood-prone communities safe (UN SDG Report, 2017). Forecast-based financing (FbF) is an initiative to enable humanitarian funds for early action to be released before a disaster on the basis of a forecast.

The initial FbF project in north-eastern Uganda has highlighted the complexity in establishing vulnerability and response thresholds to guide interventions. Scaling-up FbF across a nation is therefore a grand challenge due to the complexity of environmental, climatic and socio-economic factors affecting flood risk, the multi-sectoral impacts (health, environment, water, transport) and the range of factors affecting response at community level.

Understanding the specific vulnerabilities of communities at different seasons, and their exposure to different types of flood threat, is key to improving physical and livelihood risk assessment, preparedness, communication and response. The demand from the FbF community for impact-based forecasts at a national scale in Uganda therefore drives the need for a new approach that synthesises evidence from different disciplines including climate science, hydrology, and livelihoods.

Aims

The NIMFRU project responds to this need through a new approach that will provide comprehensive, flood impact assessments for FbF across all areas of Uganda, complementing the SHEAR-FATHUM project's outputs on forecast skill with basic household economy/socio-economic information, to guide preparedness, protection and response.

FATHUM's approach is the basis for NIMFRU's overarching aim, which is to improve the targeting, relevance and communication of flood warning and response in Uganda, through better integration and analysis of information on the sensitivities and vulnerabilities of different population groups to flood events across the agricultural year.

Approach

Through linking with the FbF initiative, NIMFRU's research outcomes will inform developments for impact-based forecasting beyond Uganda. We will achieve this new synthesis of climate science and livelihoods analysis through our well-established consortium of globally recognised leaders in hydrology, climate science and livelihoods research and practice, together with longstanding stakeholder networks and existing, strong and equitable relationships with our project partners.

With wide ranging and extensive local and regional knowledge of policy processes, our team has the critical capacity to ensure NIMRFU's work is fully embedded within national agencies, including the Ugandan National Emergency Coordination and Operations Centre's flood information system, its humanitarian relief database and its emergency response mechanisms. This will ensure the project's long term legacy, its sustainability and its extensibility beyond the pilot districts, across Uganda, and to sub-Saharan Africa and beyond.

Next generation flood hazard mapping for the African continent at hyper-resolution (HYFLOOD)

Institute

University of Bristol

Background

Flood hazard and risk maps form the evidence base for decision making regarding issues such as land-use planning, insurance and capital provision, emergency response and disaster preparedness. None of these essential activities could be planned properly without such data and this is recognised by high-level policy such as the EU Floods Directive, the Sendai Framework and the Flood and Water Management Act in the UK.

However, across most of sub-Saharan Africa such data are absent, posing a huge challenge to disaster risk managers. The high cost and expertise needed to create flood hazard maps is a barrier to their provision in many sub-Saharan countries, meaning that innovative, low-cost solutions are needed if the provision of such maps and associated benefits for risk management are to become universal.

One solution is to use data from global flood models, which have emerged in the last five years, to fill the numerous gaps in coverage. These models make predictions everywhere based on techniques for hydrological prediction in ungauged basins combined with remotely sensed datasets on catchment topography and river size and location. Unfortunately, all global flood models have substantial limitations, such that the data they produce are usually only considered accurate enough for high-level national and transnational risk assessment. This hampers their ability to support a wide range of disaster risk management activities.

A second generation of global flood models is therefore needed with sufficient predictive skill and quantification of uncertainty to discriminate risk levels at regional or even community scales. Only with such an advancement will it be possible to transform our understanding of risk and to identify risk hotspots where regional and community-level risk-reduction efforts would be best focused.

Aims

HYFLOOD will improve our understanding of the occurrence, location and intensity of flooding with unprecedented detail by building on an existing global flood model to develop regional to community scale flood hazard maps.

The outcome of the project will be an improved flood hazard map for the African continent that, for the first time, can include local-scale variability in river characteristics and a quantification of prediction uncertainty. This will be accompanied by the first estimate of river bathymetry at continental scale that can be used by other flood hazard and risk modelling groups. Therefore, HYFLOOD will improve our understanding of the hydrological and morphological factors that determine the occurrence, duration and impact of floods.

Approach

We will do this by using the remotely sensed data record on flood occurrence for several satellites to disaggregate river reaches into those that we think go overbank more or less often. This information will be used to locally change the river channel characteristics that will then influence the simulated flood inundation extents, depth and duration for extreme events.

By overlaying information on population and land use we will make improved estimates of who and what is exposed to flooding. We will trial our approach with end-users in the Democratic Republic of Congo via an existing collaboration between the University of Bristol and the University of Kinshasa, who host the Congo Basin Network for Research and Capacity Development in Water Resources.

Nowcasting FLood Impacts of Convective storms in the Sahel (NFLICS)

Institute

NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

Background

Nowcasting FLood Impacts of Convective storms in the Sahel (NFLICS) addresses the pressing demands faced by on-the-ground responders and risk groups for advance warnings of heavy rainfall and likely flood impact.

In the Sahel region of Africa, the vast majority of flash floods are due to intense rain within long-lived mesoscale convective systems (MCSs), which have tripled in frequency over the last 35 years, and appears to be linked to global warming. Therefore, this climate change signal, accompanied by rapid urban expansion in the region, indicates that the socio-economic impacts of flash flooding are likely to become even more devastating in the coming years.

As a consequence, civil protection authorities and on-the-ground responders in the Sahel are demanding improved early warnings of the likelihood of flood impact through proven tools and services from National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHS). NFLICS will address this need by developing and testing automated nowcast approaches for MCS evolution and likely flood impact in Senegal. A wide range of stakeholders will be engaged to co-develop decision-relevant products and processes for operational services that meet the demands of the user community.

Approach

NFLICS will also exploit state-of-the-art research findings from satellite analysis that have identified land surface drivers of extreme MCS rainfall, opening up the potential for probabilistic nowcasting of intense rain and flooding up to six hours ahead of these storms. Statistical analysis of historical flood events can link these probabilistic nowcasts to likely urban flood damage and thus provide novel forecasts of flood risk, based on recent methods advanced in the UK. This real-time flood risk information would allow communities to develop and take actions that mitigate flood damage, thus improving resilience and adaptation planning to extreme rainfall events.

The project will be led by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) and, for this catalyst grant, Senegal will be the case study country. However, the methods developed will be open, scaleable and transferable to other countries in the Sahel and beyond. This will be aided by primarily using near real-time (NRT) satellite data that are readily available to African countries. The project plan has been developed in partnership with ANACIM, the national meteorological agency of Senegal, who will also be a key beneficiary of the research outputs and capacity building funded by the work.

Knowledge exchange activities are a key component and stakeholder participation will ensure user-led design of services by facilitating engagement with users and promoting two-way dialogues. NFLICS will deliver a two-year programme of activity that will culminate in a real-time trial of the new rainfall and flood risk nowcast products during the 2020 wet season. This will be reviewed by all partners and will inform operational implementation plans. The findings will be widely shared amongst other Sahel countries, and beyond, to promote wider uptake and benefit of the project outputs.

Predicting Impacts of Cyclones in South-East Africa (PICSEA)

Institute

University of Reading

Background

On average, 14 tropical cyclones per year form in the southern Indian Ocean, most in the months between November and April. Of these, about two or three per year make landfall in south-east Africa, most often in Mozambique and Madagascar. In these countries, tropical cyclones are associated with approximately one third of all extreme daily precipitation events, defined as days with rainfall accumulations greater than 50 mm (2 inches). Tropical cyclone landfalls in Mozambique in 2012 caused severe flooding, resulting in US$65 million in damage and 150 deaths. Two cyclone landfalls in Madagascar in early 2018 resulted in 23 deaths and displaced 21 000 people. The Seychelles archipelago is also affected by tropical cyclones, including category 5 (the most severe) Fantala in 2016.

Despite the vulnerability of the south-east African populations to tropical cyclones and related hazards, little is known about the ability of contemporary weather and climate prediction systems to forecast cyclone tracks, intensities, and wind and rain impacts. Further, there may be particular tropical atmospheric circulation patterns that provide 'windows of opportunity' for more accurate cyclone forecasts. For instance, El Niño conditions (warm equatorial Pacific Ocean temperatures) may provide the backdrop for more accurate predictions of tropical cyclones and their impacts.

Aims

The PICSEA project addresses these shortcomings by providing the most comprehensive assessment of forecast systems to date for tropical cyclones and their effects on south-east Africa. This assessment is needed desperately to give advice to national meteorological agencies, humanitarian organisations and the growing forecast-based finance community on how best to interpret forecasts of tropical cyclones in the southern Indian Ocean.

Specifically, PICSEA will determine which forecast systems, lead times and background tropical circulations lead to relatively more or less accurate tropical cyclone predictions. When should disaster management agencies trust a forecast for a landfalling tropical cyclone, and when should they not?

Approach

Initially, PICSEA will assess the accuracy of predictions of tropical cyclone tracks, intensities and associated hazards (primarily wind and rain) from three weather forecasting centres: the UK Met Office, the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts and the US National Centers for Environmental Prediction.

We have 10–30 years of forecast data for each centre, including multiple realisations of each forecast. We will determine to what extent, and how far in advance, contemporary prediction systems can forecast the extreme winds and rainfall associated with tropical cyclones in south-east Africa.

Next, PICSEA will determine whether there are particular background tropical conditions, such as El Niño or La Niña, that lead to more or less accurate forecasts. We will do this by evaluating forecast accuracy conditioned on the type of background conditions. Is skill for cyclone-related hazards greater during La Niña or El Niño? Are there particular circumstances under which forecasters and disaster management agencies should trust these forecasts more, or less?

Finally, PICSEA will work together with partner organisations — national meteorological organisations in Mozambique, Madagascar and the Seychelles, as well as the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Center, a key provider of scientific advice to humanitarian organisations and the forecast-based finance community — to develop guidance for interpreting tropical cyclone forecasts. We will work with forecasters and disaster management agencies to improve their understanding of when they can, and cannot, trust forecast information on cyclone impacts. PICSEA will also provide training in the use of this guidance, as well as background training on tropical meteorology, for forecasters in south-east African meteorological agencies.

Towards resilience to pluvial flood events

Institute

Newcastle University

Background

Many growing cities in low and middle-income countries experience flash floods on an annual basis, exacerbated by inadequate drainage systems and increased permeable surfaces from rapid and unplanned urbanisation, resulting in in little opportunity for individuals and infrastructure to recover. Pluvial flooding is a hazard for a wide range of often already fragile, interdependent infrastructure sectors: water and waste water, transport, energy generation and distribution, solid waste and ICT, as well as housing and livelihoods.

Flood-related losses and damage to people's property is escalating, as is the cost of maintaining roads and drainage channels. The hazard also increases the incidents of water-borne diseases such as cholera, typhoid, dysentery and malaria.

Flood events typically occur in low-lying areas often occupied by informal settlements, however, the wider, knock-on effects on transportation, economy and infrastructure also influence middle and upper income groups, with whole cities becoming exposed.

Early-warning systems for weather events are limited to predicting rapid, high-magnitude events (such as hurricanes) or slow-onset events (such as droughts) with little attention paid to rapid, low magnitude events such as flash flooding from intense rainfall that typically lasts between two and six hours and can therefore only have limited impact on reducing the risk from pluvial flooding.

Aims

The aim of this catalyst project is to understand the hydro-meteorological factors that lead to pluvial flash flooding and the impact this hazard has on local communities and their supporting infrastructure. Furthermore, this project will test the transferability of three impact models that will better prepare communities and emergency services to respond in a pluvial flood event and inform decision makers on how to improve infrastructure resilience.

The research will benefit a wide range of stakeholders including:

  • individuals and communities, by providing appropriate information for them to be better prepared during pluvial flood events and to change behaviours and take measures to adapt to the risk.
  • emergency services and responders, who could make use of the disruption risk mapping to support response and recovery during pluvial flood events.
  • local authority and infrastructure providers, who will have improved evidence of where to target adaptation to limit direct and indirect impacts on housing, infrastructure, the economy and livelihoods.

This catalyst research will demonstrate how the approaches used could be combined with real-time weather predictions to support the development of a real-time, decision-support system during pluvial flood events.

Approach

Demonstrated in Kampala, Uganda, this catalyst will address five objectives.

  • Explore past impacts of, and current vulnerability to, extreme rainfall, capitalising upon existing data and tools, and local knowledge
  • Characterise extreme rainfall associated with pluvial flooding in the city of Kampala
  • Enhance understanding of the location and magnitude of impacts of pluvial flooding on people and infrastructure to assess pluvial risk as a function of hazard and impacts
  • Assess effective responses and preparation to enhance resilience to pluvial extremes
  • Co-create appropriate communication mechanisms to enhance the uptake of risk and resilience information in practice by communities, NGOs and local government agencies

Web-based natural dam-burst flood hazard Assessment and foreCasting sysTem (WeACT)

Institute

Loughborough University

Background

Catastrophic floods resulting from the failure of dams that impound glacier lakes are known as glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs). A hydrodynamically similar natural hazard is caused by the failure of a river dam that has been formed by a landslide. GLOFs and landslide dam-burst floods, jointly termed natural dam-burst floods (NDBFs), have been recognised as one of the most serious natural hazards in populated mountainous regions across the globe.

Of all South Asian countries, Nepal is subject to some of the highest national-level socio-economic impacts from NDBFs, threatening thousands of people, hundreds of villages and basic infrastructure downstream. Therefore, it is imperative that a national capacity is developed for increasing awareness, early warning and risk mitigation for NDBFs.

Although the Nepalese government has been actively seeking to reduce and mitigate the NDBF risks, effective early warning and risk mitigation strategies are still lacking across the country. Early-warning systems have recently been developed and implemented in various global locations for NDBFs, however, the potential of the latest remote sensing and high-performance flood-modelling technologies has yet to be adequately explored and exploited in the existing NDBF monitoring and early-warning systems.

In short, there is an urgent societal need to develop reliable NDBF-hazard risk assessment, forecasting and warning tools to improve preparedness and build resilience at the community level, and there is a clear research gap in exploiting the latest monitoring and modelling technologies to support practical NDBF risk-mitigation applications.

Aims

To meet the societal need and fill the current research gap, the overarching aim of WeACT is to exploit recent contemporary advances in earth observation and high-performance dam-break flood modelling to innovate a web-based NDBF hazard assessment and forecasting system to improve community flood preparedness and resilience in Nepal.

Although the proposed project has a focus case study in Nepal (the 3400 km2 Sun Kosi catchment), the developed methods and tools will be transferable to other mountainous countries in South Asia or across the globe that are suffering from NDBFs.