Improved Flood Forecast Tool Announced as Louisiana Recovers from Historical Flooding

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration launched a new flood forecasting tool in August just days after the historic flooding in Louisiana. The system simulates the movement of water through streams and rivers and is being hailed as a vast improvement to the nation’s current flood forecasting system.

Running on NOAA’s Cray XC40 supercomputer, the National Weather Model is able to simulate meteorologic conditions for 2.7 million locations in the United States. This will allow hourly forecasting for the country’s entire river network compared to previous forecasts that came only every few hours.

Officials said that the need for a more-detailed system arose out of the growing number of flooding occurring within the country during recent years. “With a changing climate, we’re experiencing more prolonged droughts and a greater frequency of record-breaking floods across the country..,” said Louis Uccellini, director of the National Weather Service.

The model will initially provide water forecasting for rural areas that were not previously covered, but will evolve over time to provide “zoomed-in street level forecasts” as well as providing forecasts for water quality.

David Gochis, a scientist for the National Center for Atmospherica Research, said that the new system can forecast flooding hours or even weeks ahead of time. This will allow better flood prediction, especially for flash flooding events. It will also measure other parameters including stream velocity, soil moisture and runoff, giving scientists a more extensive picture of water behavior.

Officials at all levels of the government will be able to use the system as an emergency management tool with the ability of drought planning and measuring water quality. This will allow for a more adequate deployment of emergency resources, espeically in times of simultaneous weather disasters.

Uccellini said that the new tool is imperative in properly protecting life and land with water-related emergencies.