BOULDER--As catastrophic floods worsen in Bangladesh, a pilot forecasting program is being used to warn thousands of residents in selected flood-prone regions. The forecasting system was designed by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and Georgia Institute of Technology.
Bangladesh is one of the world's most vulnerable regions to floods. Rising waters in recent days have left dozens of people dead and several million marooned or displaced, with the toll likely to mount.
The pilot program began this summer with the aim of delivering 1- to 10-day forecasts directly to more than 100,000 people living on floodplains of the Brahmaputra and Ganges rivers, and then expanding to reach additional residents in coming years. It predicted the current floods a few days in advance, alerting a network of volunteers in Bangladesh last week to notify residents at risk. The volunteers cannot yet confirm the extent to which these efforts helped people prepare for the floods.
"Our goal is that long-range flood forecasts, for the first time, will consistently reach many rural individuals in Bangladesh who are in jeopardy of losing their homes, businesses, and possibly their lives," says NCAR scientist Thomas Hopson, who helped develop the forecasting system.
The system uses a combination of weather forecast models, satellite observations, river gauges, and new hydrologic modeling techniques. It is part of a larger initiative, known as Climate Forecast Applications in Bangladesh (CFAB), to improve flood and precipitation warnings in the low-lying nation. Peter Webster of the Georgia Institute of Technology is the principal investigator of the overall initiative.
Hopson and Webster have provided forecasts to Bangladeshi agencies since 2003, but the forecasts often have not reached rural regions, where many residents lack radios and even electricity. This year, the Thailand-based nonprofit Asia Disaster Prep
Contact: David Hosansky
National Center for Atmospheric Research/University Corporation for Atmospheric Research