Articles | Volume 20, issue 9
Research article
05 Sep 2016
Research article |  | 05 Sep 2016

Action-based flood forecasting for triggering humanitarian action

Erin Coughlan de Perez, Bart van den Hurk, Maarten K. van Aalst, Irene Amuron, Deus Bamanya, Tristan Hauser, Brenden Jongma, Ana Lopez, Simon Mason, Janot Mendler de Suarez, Florian Pappenberger, Alexandra Rueth, Elisabeth Stephens, Pablo Suarez, Jurjen Wagemaker, and Ervin Zsoter

Abstract. Too often, credible scientific early warning information of increased disaster risk does not result in humanitarian action. With financial resources tilted heavily towards response after a disaster, disaster managers have limited incentive and ability to process complex scientific data, including uncertainties. These incentives are beginning to change, with the advent of several new forecast-based financing systems that provide funding based on a forecast of an extreme event. Given the changing landscape, here we demonstrate a method to select and use appropriate forecasts for specific humanitarian disaster prevention actions, even in a data-scarce location. This action-based forecasting methodology takes into account the parameters of each action, such as action lifetime, when verifying a forecast. Forecasts are linked with action based on an understanding of (1) the magnitude of previous flooding events and (2) the willingness to act "in vain" for specific actions. This is applied in the context of the Uganda Red Cross Society forecast-based financing pilot project, with forecasts from the Global Flood Awareness System (GloFAS). Using this method, we define the "danger level" of flooding, and we select the probabilistic forecast triggers that are appropriate for specific actions. Results from this methodology can be applied globally across hazards and fed into a financing system that ensures that automatic, pre-funded early action will be triggered by forecasts.

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Short summary
Many flood disaster impacts could be avoided by preventative action; however, early action is not guaranteed. This article demonstrates the design of a new system of forecast-based financing, which automatically triggers action when a flood forecast arrives, before a potential disaster. We establish "action triggers" for northern Uganda based on a global flood forecasting system, verifying these forecasts and assessing the uncertainties inherent in setting a trigger in a data-scarce location.