Flooding regularly ravages communities around the world: the 2010 Pakistan floods, for instance, affected about 20 million people and killed nearly 2,000. But until now it's been all but impossible to predict where and when a flood will strike. That may be about to change. IBM and researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have developed technology they say can predict floods days in advance.
The technology uses detailed data about rivers such as depth and flow, along with weather information, to create a highly accurate 100-hour picture of future river behaviour. By combining the existing gold standard for flood prediction - HEC-Res, which was developed by the Army Corps of Engineers - with advanced IBM technology, researchers say they've created highly accurate long-term flooding forecasts.
One problem, however, is finding reliable data. The system is being tested in Texas, where the team has access to highly detailed information about the rivers they're studying. In Pakistan, such data is not available, which will greatly reduce the effectiveness of the system. Still, the tech does offer hope that in the future, communities will get early warning of floods so they can prepare and reach safer areas sooner. The researchers also believe the technology will be of use in predicting droughts, so that aid can be sent in advance.