Monday, March 25, 2013

Superfast model brain to predict UK flooding during heavy rain

University of Exeter (UK): Heavy rain has once again resulted in widespread flooding across the country. With climate change likely to cause further severe weather events in the coming years, methods of quickly predicting flooding will become increasingly important.

A team of engineers and scientists from the University of Exeter has developed a model, 1000 times faster than existing flood prediction systems, which can rapidly predict when and where flooding will occur. The model uses artificial intelligence to ‘learn’, in the same way that biological neural networks in the human brain process data.

Designed for urban areas, the system can provide instant updates as bad weather conditions unfold. The model uses information about the drainage and sewage systems to predict the volume and flow of flood water in real time. Although not yet in general use, tests show a good ability to predict flooding with field trials and it is hoped that the model will soon be rolled out nationwide.

Professor Dragan Savić, who headed the development of the new model at the University of Exeter said: “Our model can be trained to use data from rainfall events to distinguish between urban areas that suffer from flooding and those that don’t. Once it has learnt, it can then be used to classify new rainfall events into those likely to cause flooding and those that do not pose a threat.”

The model was shown to be of great potential value for the water industry in a report commissioned by UK Water Industry Research (UKWIR). The report produced by HR Wallingford, an independent research and consultancy organisation, tested the model against recorded rainfall events in London, Dorchester and Portsmouth and found that the model accurately predicted the actual outcomes….

A flooded road near Stratton, Dorchester, shot by Nigel Mykura, Wikimedia Commons via Geograph UK, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

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