Partners of the NERC Science Project EMERGE recently met in Oslo to share experience and challenges in tackling multi-hazards and emergent risks such as extreme rainfall and landslides. The project, led by the University of Strathclyde, has European partners SEPA, BGS Landslides and University of Newcastle, the Icelandic Meteorological Office and the workshop hosts NVE, the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate.
The workshop was held at a time of growing concerns around water scarcity in Norway. Following a winter of between 30% and 50% of the typical precipitation and a spring with limited snowmelt runoff, many reservoirs are now very low. The result is a region-wide call for reduced water use and cascading hazards such as forest and grass fires in the south of the country.
The aim of EMERGE is to develop new long-term partnerships with international researchers to better understand the unique challenges natural hazards pose in remote settings in Iceland, Norway and Scotland; and there’s plenty all partners can learn from the Norwegian approach to multi-hazard early warning.
NVE operate Varsom a trusted multi-hazard warning system providing national and regional warnings for flood, landslides and avalanches. The service is operated in partnership with the Norwegian Meteorological Institute. Whilst the public-facing service operates a simple escalating green-yellow-amber-red risk status, a lot of the challenges include yellow warning fatigue, with the warnings ‘operating more in log scale rather than linear’.
A key challenge for remote areas in Norway is the lack of observations supporting early warning systems. Similar to Scotland, Norway suffers from poor radar observations across the upland areas and limited spatial coverage of rainfall observations in remote and upland areas. To supplement this, NVE and the Met Institute use citizen science observations such as the NetAtmo network of independent rainfall observers and crowd-sourcing observations of hazards through the Regobs (Register Observations) application.
Operating a service that supports both urban and remote regions in Norway is also a challenge. With that, in 2022 NVE launched a four-year project FlomRisk is collaboration with Met Norway, the Norwegian Road Authority, the Directorate for Civil Protection and the Mapping Authority. The project aims to improve the flood warning system in Norway by testing the implementation of a flood impact-based warning system in five pilot municipalities, giving more precise, local and useful information.
Hervé Colleuille, Head of the Forecast of Flood and Landslide Hazards in NVE was keen to use the EMERGE project as a knowledge sharing platform, “We are particularly interested to learn from the flood warning system operating by SEPA in Scotland. Norway has quite close geological and meteorological conditions, the same amount of population for an area four times larger. The Scottish well-functioning flood warning system is a model and a source of inspiration for us in Norway.”