In the SFFS we have 12 operational flood forecasting hydrologists working on a rota system as well as meteorologists on shift at the Met Office. Similar numbers of people are working in most countries across Europe and worldwide. Combine this with the number of people working ‘behind the scenes’ on research and development and it is immediately evident that hydrometeorology is a large and rapidly growing discipline.
Engaging with other scientists on an operational and development level is important to continue providing a skilled and competent forecasting service. This can be achieved though traditional methods such as keeping abreast of new research or online communities such as HEPEX, but face to face meetings remain highly valuable.
Our closest neighbour (both geographically and in terms of products and data) is the Flood Forecasting Centre (FFC) for England and Wales. We aim to meet up every 6-12 months with the FFC to share ideas and ensure consistency across the UK. Last month three members of the SFFS travelled down to Exeter to meet operational hydrometeorologists at the FFC and partake in joint training on new meteorological forecasting methods.
Further afield there is an active flood forecasting community across Europe bought together by the European Flood Awareness System (EFAS). The annual EFAS meeting last week, this year held in the Netherlands, provided a valuable opportunity to meet up with other flood forecasters, learn about their experiences and discuss new developments and challenges, one of the main ones being the presentation, communication and use of probabilistic forecasts. The SFFS was identified as setting a good example in how much of its science it communicates to end users, for example through workshops and this blog!
As well as operational links the SFFS is also involved in research partnerships for example we were invited to give a presentation on the development of the pilot surface water forecasting tool for Glasgow at the RainGain Annual Observers meeting. RainGain is a project which is looking at a range of areas to help improve surface water flood forecasting and surface water management from developing radar rainfall detection to small scale coupled surface and subsurface urban flood models.
Broadening out from flood risk, SEPA is a member of the Natural Hazards Partnership (NHP), a group of organisations working to improve how risks from natural hazards are modelled in the UK. The Annual NHP Science Conference in March provided a great opportunity to review the extreme weather and response to the coastal, fluvial and groundwater flooding combined with high winds, landslide and sinks holes over the past winter. The NHP has been working on many of these areas for several years but the recent events have pulled the discussion from the theoretical to the applied, raised government awareness of the issues and highlighted how important it is to have a joined up approach to multi-hazard events.
A busy couple of months but it’s always rewarding to both share the work with have been doing in Scotland and learn from others working in similar areas. There was a common theme running through all of these discussions that communication is key, it is vital that we continue working together with scientists, other operational organisations, responders and governments to make sure the right people have the right information at the right time to make informed decisions.