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Continental and global scale flood forecasting systems

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Floods are the most frequent of natural disasters, affecting millions of people across the globe every year. The anticipation and forecasting of floods at the global scale is crucial to preparing for severe events and providing early awareness where local flood models and warning services may not exist. As numerical weather prediction models continue to improve, operational centers are increasingly using their meteorological output to drive hydrological models, creating hydrometeorological systems capable of forecasting river flow and flood events at much longer lead times than has previously been possible. Furthermore, developments in, for example, modelling capabilities, data, and resources in recent years have made it possible to produce global scale flood forecasting systems. In this paper, the current state of operational large‐scale flood forecasting is discussed, including probabilistic forecasting of floods using ensemble prediction systems. Six state‐of‐the‐art operational large‐scale flood forecasting systems are reviewed, describing similarities and differences in their approaches to forecasting floods at the global and continental scale. Operational systems currently have the capability to produce coarse‐scale discharge forecasts in the medium‐range and disseminate forecasts and, in some cases, early warning products in real time across the globe, in support of national forecasting capabilities. With improvements in seasonal weather forecasting, future advances may include more seamless hydrological forecasting at the global scale alongside a move towards multi‐model forecasts and grand ensemble techniques, responding to the requirement of developing multi‐hazard early warning systems for disaster risk reduction. WIREs Water 2016, 3:391–418. doi: 10.1002/wat2.1137 This article is categorized under: Science of Water > Water Extremes
Components of the U.S. Hydrologic Ensemble Forecast System (HEFS).
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The BoM publicly available flood warnings showing (a) warnings and river conditions across Australia; (b) warnings and river conditions for a particular region; (c) current river levels at a specific warning point where flow is above the minor flood level.
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Components of the Australian Flood Forecasting and Warning Service (FFWS).
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Components of the European Hydrological Predictions for the Environment (E‐HYPE) Water in Europe Today (WET) tool.
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The Water in Europe Today (WET) tool interface with example forecast (inset) showing above‐normal (blue shading) and below‐normal (red shading) forecast river flow. The hydrograph shows current conditions and forecast river flow (black line) compared to climatology (blue shading). Forecasts are available at hypeweb.smhi.se/europehype/forecasts.
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The European Flood Awareness System (EFAS) showing (a) the main interface with high (red) and medium (yellow) reporting points, flood alerts (warning triangles), and probability (% likelihood) of exceeding 50mm of precipitation (green shading) during the forecast period (10 days); (inset a) the flood alert displayed when the alert point is clicked on; (b) the return period hydrograph with return period thresholds (1.5 years green, 2 years yellow, 5 years red, 20 years purple); (c) upstream snow melt forecast; (d) upstream precipitation forecast.
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Components of the European Flood Awareness System (EFAS).
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A conceptual large‐scale hydrometeorological flood forecasting system.
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Runoff output of the Global Flood Forecasting Information System (GLOFFIS) W3RA model in the Delft‐FEWS forecast platform interface.
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Components of the Global Flood Forecasting Information System (GLOFFIS).
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The Global Flood Awareness System (GloFAS) interface showing (a) a global overview of severe (purple), high (red), and medium (yellow) reporting points; (b) a more detailed view of warning points in the U.S.A.; (c) the return period hydrograph with return period thresholds (1.5, green; 2, yellow; 5, red; and 20 years, purple) for one point in the U.S.A. Forecasts are available at www.globalfloods.eu.
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Components of the Global Flood Awareness System (GloFAS).
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The U.S. Hydrologic Ensemble Forecast System (HEFS) overview map of locations forecasting floods, with color representing flood severity. An ensemble hydrograph is shown for a flood event at one river location, including observed stage and flow (green), forecast stage and flow (purple) in terms of probabilities, and colors indicating the forecast severity based on flood stage data (minor flood, yellow; moderate flood, red; major flood, pink). Forecasts are available at water.weather.gov/ahps/forecasts.php.
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