Aachen/Germany, March 22, 2018: Extreme weather events that cause catastrophic damage are increasing in frequency worldwide. Last year’s floods have certainly not been forgotten. For more effective flood response, short- and medium-term action planning and flood prevention, authorities here in Europe can use the same innovative solutions that are transforming the United States approach to forecasting hurricanes like Harvey and Irma. Developed by the German IT company KISTERS, the advanced software systems were used by scientific and technical advisors to local U.S. flood rescue teams and emergency response centres and they proved to be a success. The systems consolidate a large amount of information and present quick and clear visualizations of useful data regarding water levels and at-risk neighbourhoods. This information enables authorities to make sound and timely decisions. In contrast to either precipitation or discharge predictions alone, the KISTERS system both monitors the actual water level and accurately forecasts its rise at numerous local hotspots, giving emergency managers more time to plan and act.
Cloud solutions for water level notifications, predictions and alarms
The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the United States Geological Survey (USGS), ESRI and KISTERS worked closely together to implement the U.S. National Water Model (NWM) in 2017, which will be used to forecast discharge volumes for 2.7 million river reaches. The most critical information is not the expected discharge, but rather the anticipated water level or increase in water level within a specific time period. By combining measurement data from monitoring stations, results from forecasts and models provided by universities, and spatial-temporal information from precipitation radars, the NWM will soon be capable of delivering accurate and reliable results. KISTERS’ powerful processing engine calculates current and predicted water levels for various time horizons. Authorities and emergency responders with appropriate authorization can access this information through an easy-to-navigate web portal at any time and from any location. Therefore, they are able to respond to flooding risks in a much more effective manner.
For employees of the American Red Cross, this solution proved to be a groundbreaking tool for comprehending the factors and impacts of Hurricane Harvey. They later applied the solution to monitor Hurricane Irma as well. Other projects on a national level are in development as KISTERS serves as a member of the Community Advisory Committee for Water Prediction.
Likewise, KISTERS solutions for flood forecasting and flood warning are accessible for Europe.
Integrating measurement data, radar data and models
The data relevant for flood protection are contained in files that are many gigabytes in size and updated several times a day. KISTERS is one of the few providers whose software solutions can handle such an immense amount of data. In addition, proprietary web services use open data standards to overcome technical barriers that previously isolated all of this critical hydrological information. Powerful algorithms then transform the volume of data into useful, actionable insights. The KISTERS solution is able to show the expected number of flooded homes as well as cartographic representations of the water level, streamflow volumes and forecasted level of precipitation with additional data geoprocessing by ESRI, a KISTERS technology partner. Numerous visualization features allow users to quickly and easily view and digest information, especially in time-sensitive situations like emergencies. For example, streamflow representations on the maps may change in thickness and colour; they may “pulse” during floods.