Flood Forecasting Initiative


Introduction - Setting the Scene

1. Floods are without doubt the most devastating natural disasters, striking numerous regions in the world each year. During the last decades the trend in flood damages has been growing exponentially. This is a consequence of the increasing frequency of heavy rain, changes in upstream land-use and a continuously increasing concentration of population and assets in flood prone areas. In general, less developed countries are the most vulnerable to floods, causing damages that significantly affect the national GDP. At country and community levels important initiatives have and are being devoted to implement appropriate countermeasures, both structural and non-structural, aiming to alleviate the persistent threats of water-related disasters. Flood Forecasting (FF) forms an important tool in reducing vulnerabilities and flood risk and form an important ingredient of the strategy to "live with floods", thereby contributing to national sustainable development.

2. Preparedness and response actions of the various national disaster management authorities are highly dependent on the availability of accurate and timely meteorological and hydrological forecasting products and their adequate and timely dissemination to authorities responsible for civil protection, and the general public. However, many National Meteorological Services (NMSs) and National Hydrological Services (NHSs) at present do not have adequate means or the knowledge to provide extended forecasting services in flood critical situations and to communicate effectively with disaster management authorities. Longer lead-time and accuracy of FFs require an effective use of the latest technology available in the field of hydrology and meteorology. In many cases there is need for an integration of forecasting services. Such an approach requires an improved cooperation between NMHs and NHSs.

3. Recognizing the need to improve the capacity of NMSs in detecting flood-critical situations and to improve the capacity of NHSs in using meteorological forecasting information to provide accurate and timely FF services, the WMO Flood Forecasting Initiative [WMO-FFI] was launched based on the outcomes of an expert meeting held in April 2003 .

4. The initiative started with the assessment of the state of hydrological forecasting services, and of applied knowledge in the field of flood forecasting. A series of regional workshops were organized worldwide, where hydrologists and meteorologist engaged in the FF services in their countries were invited. Then a Synthesis Conference was organized by WMO, from 20 to 23 November 2006, in an effort to analyse the gaps as identified during the regional workshops and chalk out the way forward to improve national and regional capacities for flood forecasting.

5. The aim of these events has been to bring national experts from NMSs and NHSs together to discuss problems, identify major gaps that should be addressed and suggest solutions for issues related to strengthening FF in their countries. The focus was on improvement of tools and methodologies for weather- and flood forecasting taking into account also the potential benefit of seasonal climate prediction. Thus, outputs from the meetings have been the identification of opportunities and challenges in the development and use of forecasting tools available today; the use of meteorological and climatological forecasting methods including now-casting for flood forecasting; and the definition of an outreach process with a view to strengthening regional cooperation.

6. Between November 2003 and September 2006 six regional workshops on "Improved Meteorological and Hydrological Forecasting for Floods" were held for countries of West, Central and South Africa (RA I), Latin America (RAs III and IV), Asia (RA II), Europe (RA VI) and for the Mediterranean basin countries of RAs I and VI. These events were attended by representatives of NMSs and NHSs responsible for meteorological and hydrological forecasting of about 85 countries and of a number of regional and river basin organizations, as well as of universities and research institutions. The conclusions and recommendations of all these regional workshops constitute the basic input to the global Synthesis Conference mentioned in para 4 above.


Status of National Forecasting and Warning Services

7. During all the regional workshops representatives of NMSs and NHSs presented reports on the status and perspectives of the FF activities in their countries. In addition, technical papers on relevant FF and warning issues were also presented. The results of the workshops' discussions, with the main conclusions and recommendations, are contained in the final report of each event. The latter, together with the country papers, thus allow to provide a regional and global overview of the status of FF related issues.


Regional workshops on "Improved Meteorological and Hydrological Forecasting for Floods":

Conclusion and recommendations
  • WMO Workshop on Improved Meteorological and Hydrological Forecasting for Floods In Southern Africa (RA I), Pretoria, Republic of South Africa, 17-19 November 2003 [ English ]
  • Valencia Declaration, Ibero-American Expert Meeting on Hydrometeorological Information and Forecasting Systems, Valencia, Spain, 2 April 2004 
  • [ English ] - [ Español ].
    As a follow up to this meeting an Ibero-American Network was created: [ PROHIMET ].
  • WMO Workshop on Enhanced Flood Forecasting in Europe , Bratislava, Slovakia, 12-14 December 2005 [ English ]
  • WMO Regional Expert Meeting on Improved Meteorological and Hydrological Forecasting in Asia (RA II), Bangkok, Thailand,December 2005 [ English ]
  • Regional Workshop on improved Meteorological and Hydrological Forecasting for Floods in West And Central African countries, Niamey, Niger, 4 - 6 April 2006 [ English ] - [ Français ]
  • Zaragoza Declaration; Expert Meeting on Flood Forecasting in the Mediterranean Basin, Zaragoza, Spain, 26 to 28 September 2006 [ English ] - [ Español ]


Synthesis Conference - WMO, 20 - 23 November 2006

The conference's aims were to synthesize the technical know-how and expertise, the requirements for improved cooperation between hydrological and meteorological services and to agree on an outreach strategy to implement recommendations on national, regional and global levels. You can find the outcomes of the Conference below.



WMO Flood Forecasting Initiative Advisory Group Meetings