European Flood Awareness System
Providing medium- and long-term flood forecasts to EU Member States and Accession countries and the European Commission’s Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC)
The European Flood Awareness System (EFAS) is a unique and state-of-the art flood forecasting system that is under development by the European Commission’s in-house science service, the Joint Research Centre, since 2003. In close collaboration with the Member State’s National Hydrological and Meteorological services it is designed as an early warning system at a pan-European scale to provide flood information 3-10 days in advance, allowing Member States and the Commission to be better prepared for potential flood crises at international scale. A recent example of such a major event was the flood in Eastern Europe, in May 2010 where several countries including Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, and Slovakia were affected by severe flooding at the same time.
EFAS is currently running on a daily 24/7 basis at the JRC's Institute for Environment and Sustainability (IES) in Ispra (Italy) but is being outsourced to a fully operational service during 2012 as part of the initial operational phase of the Global Monitoring of Environment and Security Emergency Management Service (GMES-EMS), an initiative led by DG ENTERPRISE.
The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecast (ECMWF) will be in charge of the computational aspects of the complex hydrological modelling system including its maintenance and improvements; a consortium of Swedish, Dutch and Slovak hydro-meteorological services will be in charge of the analysis and dissemination of EFAS results to the EFAS partners; and the collection of hydrological data has been outsourced to a Spanish consortium (REDIAM & ELIMCO).
EFAS closely works with, and for, the benefit of the Members States (MS). The large river floods have shown that early information allows for more efficient implementation of crisis management plans in order to mitigate the flood impact. For example, EFAS alerts can provide national agencies with more time to plan necessary emergency actions, such as organising controlled releases of water from upstream reservoirs, activating temporary retention basins to reduce flood volumes and peaks or evacuating people from high-risk areas. EFAS currently also supports the European Commission’s Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC) from DG ECHO improve their disaster response activities within Europe.
Technically, EFAS is based on the hydrological rainfall-runoff-routing model LISFLOOD that has been designed at the JRC specifically to simulate hydrological processes in large river basins. Currently, EFAS incorporates 120 different weather forecasts daily from different weather services to estimate the probability of upcoming floods across Europe. It automatically processes and combines the data about weather and river conditions from more than 1,000 ground stations with satellite information. In the case that a high probability of flooding is forecasted in the next 3-10 days, partner organisations are contacted with detailed information from the EFAS system.
EFAS alert levels
The EFAS network consists of more than 30 National and Regional hydrological authorities responsible for trans-national river basins across Europe. In 70-80% of the cases early EFAS alerts are later confirmed to be ‘correct’ – i.e. in the right place, time, and magnitude (based on statistics from 2007 onwards).
However, the capability of EFAS is not limited to just forecasting. It is a unique tool that can be used in large and transnational catchments for a variety of applications other than flood forecasting, for example monitoring the hydrological situation across Europe, and assessing the effects of river regulation measures, land-use change and climate change.
Once the European system is being fully operational, the JRC will adapt the system to other continents, e.g. Africa and the global scale. Furthermore, feasibility studies to apply system methodologies for flashfloods are also being tested.
Jutta Thielen-del Pozo - Tel: +39-0332-785455 E-mail: jutta.thielen(at)jrc.ec.europa.eu