Following weeks of floods that have devastated different parts of the world, leading hydrologists are working to develop the first worldwide hydrological monitoring and modelling system aimed at helping countries prepare better for floods and droughts. Scientists have converged in Entebbe, Uganda this week to scope out a four-year plan to deliver the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Hydrological Status and Outlook System (HydroSOS), an operational system capable of assessing hydrological variability on a global scale.
Twenty million people around the world are at risk from flooding – a figure that could rise to 50 million in the next 15 years – according to the World Resources Institute. The World Economic Forum estimates that the effects of drought across the globe cost up to USD 8 billion a year from losses in agricultural and related businesses. However, there is currently no global hydrological monitoring, modelling and reporting system to warn of impending flood or drought situations.
“With the many challenges posed by climate change and a rising global population, the need to have in place an operational global system capable of assessing the current status of surface or groundwater systems and how they will change in the coming weeks or months, is becoming more acute,” said Professor Alan Jenkins, Chair of the WMO HydroSOS Task Team and Deputy Director at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH).
HydroSOS will use a combination of local ground-based data, global scale remotely-sensed satellite data, global/regional/national weather and climate forecast models and global hydrological models to help inform government bodies, regional and international aid agencies, and affected populations through their National Meteorological and Hydrological Services of expected flood or drought situations.
“HydroSOS builds on WMO initiatives on hydrological monitoring, data sharing and seasonal meteorological and hydrological forecasting to deliver accessible and actionable hydrological information, especially for flood and drought impacted populations,” said Johannes Cullman, Director of the WMO Climate and Water Department.
The group will also assess how HydroSOS can help deliver the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6, which stresses the importance of attaining human health, environmental sustainability and economic prosperity through access to safe water and sanitation and sound management of freshwater ecosystems.
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