Nowcasting FLood Impacts of Convective storms in the Sahel (NFLICS)

Institute

  • NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

Background

Nowcasting FLood Impacts of Convective storms in the Sahel (NFLICS) addresses the pressing demands faced by on-the-ground responders and risk groups for advance warnings of heavy rainfall and likely flood impact.

In the Sahel region of Africa, the vast majority of flash floods are due to intense rain within long-lived mesoscale convective systems (MCSs), which have tripled in frequency over the last 35 years, and appears to be linked to global warming. Therefore, this climate change signal, accompanied by rapid urban expansion in the region, indicates that the socio-economic impacts of flash flooding are likely to become even more devastating in the coming years.

As a consequence, civil protection authorities and on-the-ground responders in the Sahel are demanding improved early warnings of the likelihood of flood impact through proven tools and services from National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHS). NFLICS will address this need by developing and testing automated nowcast approaches for MCS evolution and likely flood impact in Senegal. A wide range of stakeholders will be engaged to co-develop decision-relevant products and processes for operational services that meet the demands of the user community.

Approach

NFLICS will also exploit state-of-the-art research findings from satellite analysis that have identified land surface drivers of extreme MCS rainfall, opening up the potential for probabilistic nowcasting of intense rain and flooding up to six hours ahead of these storms. Statistical analysis of historical flood events can link these probabilistic nowcasts to likely urban flood damage and thus provide novel forecasts of flood risk, based on recent methods advanced in the UK. This real-time flood risk information would allow communities to develop and take actions that mitigate flood damage, thus improving resilience and adaptation planning to extreme rainfall events.

The project will be led by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) and, for this catalyst grant, Senegal will be the case study country. However, the methods developed will be open, scaleable and transferable to other countries in the Sahel and beyond. This will be aided by primarily using near real-time (NRT) satellite data that are readily available to African countries. The project plan has been developed in partnership with ANACIM, the national meteorological agency of Senegal, who will also be a key beneficiary of the research outputs and capacity building funded by the work.

Knowledge exchange activities are a key component and stakeholder participation will ensure user-led design of services by facilitating engagement with users and promoting two-way dialogues. NFLICS will deliver a two-year programme of activity that will culminate in a real-time trial of the new rainfall and flood risk nowcast products during the 2020 wet season. This will be reviewed by all partners and will inform operational implementation plans. The findings will be widely shared amongst other Sahel countries, and beyond, to promote wider uptake and benefit of the project outputs.