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Floods

Leading the research in this domain for the past two decades, as well as being the entrusted entity of the Copernicus Emergency Management Service, the JRC supports the preparedness and emergency response of floods at the European and global level.

The JRC’s research on floods focuses on improving preparedness and response during a flood crisis, mainly through early warning and monitoring systems, but also through the assessment of mitigation and prevention measures. It has developed several systems to forecast and monitor floods at a European and global scale. Furthermore, the JRC’s flood research investigates how future climate and socio-economic changes may impact flood risk in Europe and the World, using high-resolution  climate information, hydro-morphological datasets, hydrological modelling and statistical analyses. Additionally, continuously exploratory research projects such as currently on Coastal flood forecasting and social media for disaster risk management assure that modern capabilities are explored to meet the existing and new challenges in the domain of flooding.

European Flood Awareness System (EFAS)

The European Flood Awareness System (EFAS) is the first operational pan-European flood forecasting and monitoring system. It has been developed at the European Commission’s in-house science service, the Joint Research Centre, since 2002 in close collaboration with the national hydrological and meteorological services, the European Civil Protection Mechanism of the Emergency Response Coordination Center (ERCC), and other research institutes. Since 2011, EFAS is part of the Copernicus Emergency Management Service (CEMS) and was transferred to operational service in 2012.

EFAS provides a wide range of constantly updated early flood forecasting information to support national and regional flood risk management authorities in arranging preparatory measures before an event strikes. In addition, EFAS provides a unique overview across Europe and neighbouring countries on currently  forecasted and observed flood events. It is an asset to the flood risk management of large trans-national river basins as well as the European Civil Protection Mechanism. In addition to forecasting where and when large riverine and flash floods will likely occur, the service also estimates and maps the potential socio-economic impact of those events.

EFAS system interface view

For more information, check out the EFAS poster and flyer or visit the European Flood Awareness System (EFAS) website.

Global Flood Awareness System (GloFAS)

The Global Flood Awareness System (GloFAS) is the global extension of the European Flood Awareness System, for forecasting floods across the world. It has been developed since 2011 by the Joint Research Centre in close collaboration with the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), and is in full operation since 2018 under the Copernicus Emergency Management Service.

GloFAS is an operational, freely accessible web service for global hydrological forecasting and monitoring. It provides probabilistic hydrological predictions and overviews across the world on time scales from days to few months, independent of administrative and political boundaries. It is therefore especially beneficial for the flood risk management of large trans-national river basins, as well as for international and national water management or aid-related organisations. Water resources managers can also benefit from GloFAS seasonal hydrological outlook (up to 4 months ahead) for decision-making. In addition to forecasting where and when large riverine floods are likely to occur, the potential socio-economic impacts are also estimated and mapped within GloFAS.

Glofas system view

For more information, check out the GloFAS poster and flyer, visit the GloFAS website.

On-Demand Mapping and Automated, Near Real-Time Monitoring of Global Flood Events

Complementing its state-of-the-art system for providing flood early warnings, the Copernicus Emergency Management Service (CEMS) also includes two components for (a) the on-demand mapping and (b) the continuous monitoring of global flood events, based on Earth observation (EO) satellite images:

  1. The on-demand Rapid Mapping component of CEMS, which has been operating since 2012, provides - for specific flood events and upon request by CEMS users - information products such as delineation of flood extent, estimated flood depth and potentially impacted infrastructure, derived from EO satellite image data (both optical and microwave).
  2. The new, operational, near real-time Global Flood Monitoring (GFM) product of CEMS, which was launched in 2021 as part of the Global Flood Awareness System (GloFAS), provides a continuous monitoring of floods worldwide, by immediately processing and analysing all incoming Sentinel- 1 Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) images acquired globally. Being a fully automated system, one of the strengths of the GFM product is the high timeliness of the information on on-going floods. Furthermore, the GFM product makes use of a Sentinel-1 “data cube” (time-series) approach that integrates three independently developed flood mapping algorithms, thereby improving the robustness and accuracy of the flood and water extent maps and building a high degree of redundancy into the service.
    On demand near real time

For further technical information on the new CEMS Global Flood Monitoring (GFM) product, see the GFM-GloFAS page and the GFM wiki, while the GFM product itself is accessible through the GloFAS map viewer.

River Flood Hazard Maps

The JRC has computed flood prone areas in Europe and the World for river flood events of different magnitude (from 1-in-10-year to 1-in-500-year). The maps have been developed using hydrological and hydrodynamic models, driven by the climatological data of the European and Global Flood Awareness Systems (EFAS and GloFAS). European-scale maps comprise most of the geographical Europe and all the river basins entering the Mediterranean and Black Seas in the Caucasus, Middle East and Northern Africa countries.

Flood hazard map

 

All maps are in raster format (GEOTIF) with a grid resolution of 100m (European-scale maps) and 30 arcseconds (global-scale maps). The maps can be used to assess the exposure of population and economic assets to river floods, and to perform flood risk assessments. The maps themselves as well as more information can be found in the JRC Data Catalogue

Impact-based flood forecasting

In addition to forecasting where and when large riverine floods will likely occur, EFAS and GloFAS service also estimates and maps the potential socio-economic impact of those events. The magnitude of forecasted flood peaks is compared against local information on protection levels and extent of flood-prone areas to derive event-based flood hazard maps. These event-based maps are combined with population, infrastructure and land cover information to identify population and assets at risk. For more information, check out the EFAS and GloFAS websites.

Impact map of floods

Present and Future River Flood Risk

The JRC has investigated how future climate and socioeconomic changes may modify flood risk in Europe and the World. JRC studies simulate the response of river flow to different future climate scenarios to determine the occurrence and intensity of flood peaks. Future flood regimes are compared with projected distribution and vulnerability of population and economic assets to estimate flood impacts in terms of population exposed and economic losses. Based on these analyses, the JRC assessed the effectiveness of a range of adaptation strategies (e.g. increasing the height of river dikes, restoring floodplains to reduce flood peaks) to mitigate future flood risk in Europe. For more information, check out the PESETA IV project website.

Coastal flooding  

Envisaged to support early detection of imminent coastal flood risk and enhance preparedness of local communities, the global coastal forecast framework will be capable to issue sea state warnings up to three days in advance. Integration with both EFAS and GLOFAS, will provide awareness and decision support for compound river and coastal flood extreme events.

Social Media for Disaster Risk Management

Gaining situational awareness in a disaster is critical and time-sensitive. The JRC is exploring the use of social media information to provide crisis responders quickly with relevant information on events, to enable a faster and more effective crisis response.

The interactions among people in social media are a form of collective intelligence, as they allow people to make sense of a developing event collectively. Social media users can contribute to creating a "sensor" for citizen-generated data that modelling or monitoring systems can assimilate during a crisis. However, their platforms may not provide the functionality of summarising the information that is useful for crisis responders.

For this reason, the JRC is developing SMDRM, a software platform that streamlines the processing of text and images extracted from Twitter in near real-time during a specific event. The data is collected using a combination of keywords and locations based on daily forecasts from the early warnings systems of the Copernicus Emergency Management Service such as EFAS, GloFAS and EFFIS (emergency.copernicus.eu) or triggered manually in case of earthquakes or not-forecasted events. Text is automatically "annotated" using a binary multilingual classifier trained on 12 languages and extended with multilingual embeddings. Simultaneously, a multi-class convolutional neural network labels relevant images for floods, storms, earthquakes and fires. The information that doesn't embed coordinates is geolocated in a two-step algorithm where location candidates are first selected using a multilingual named-entity recognition tool and then searched on available gazetteers. The last step of the SMDRM data processing is the aggregation of relevant information in spatial (administrative areas) and temporal (daily) units. Social media activity about an event can finally be distributed as a data map and visualised on a map server and made available to users. SMDRM could offer timely information useful for reducing the hazard models' uncertainty and providing added-value information such as reports or descriptions of the situation on the ground or in the vicinity. SMDR code, together with the tens of thousands of annotated social media messages used for training its models, are released as an open-source platform whose modules can be adapted to serve other research projects.

Social Media banner

Flash Floods

The JRC started its research related to flash floods in 2004 with a feasibility study on “Increasing the forecasting lead-time of weather driven flash-floods” (Aquetin et al., 2004).

In the following years, the JRC participated in the  project (2005-2009) and  project (2009-2012) with dedicated studies on probabilistic early warning methodologies of flashfloods. This work has resulted in the development of a European flash flood early warning indicator, which is now also incorporated into the operational EFAS European Flood Forecast and  Assessment System.

Screen from flash floods in EFAS
EFAS

More information FLOODsite project

LISFLOOD Model

LISFLOOD is an open source, spatially distributed water resources model, developed by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission since 1997.

LISFLOOD is suitable for a wide range of applications, among those floods, droughts, water resources management as well as impact assessments of climate and land-use changes on water resources. This is on the one hand due to the model’s modular structure, which can be extended with additional modules when the need arises, to satisfy the new target objective. In that sense, it can be extended to include anything from a better representation of a particular hydrological flow to the implementation of anthropogenic-influenced processes. On the other hand, the model has also been designed to be applied across a wide range of spatial and temporal scales.  LISFLOOD is grid-based, and applications to date have employed grid cells of as little as 100 metres (for medium-sized catchments), to 5000 metres for modelling the whole of Europe and 0.1° (around 11 km) and 0.5° (around 55 km) for modelling at the global scale. LISFLOOD can simulate the long-term water balance (using daily or sub-daily time steps), as well as individual flood events (using hourly or even sub-hourly time intervals).

The most prominent applications of LISFLOOD so far are as flood forecast model for the European and Global Flood Awareness System (EFAS & GloFAS), for the computation of hydrological drought indicators within the European and Global Drought Observatories (EDO & GDO) and as tool to assess the impacts of climate change and adaptation measures on water resources within the PESETA and WEFE Nexus project.

The entire suite of OPEN SOURCE LISFLOOD including model code, documentation, user guide, use cases, calibration tool, and other affiliated useful tools can be accessed freely on Github.

Related Content

Publication: GloFAS – global ensemble streamflow forecasting and flood early warning