Flooding destroys lives. Every year it kills thousands of people around the world and affects millions more, devastating homes, businesses and livelihoods.
Professor Hannah Cloke and Dr Liz Stephens at the University of Reading are helping us to become better prepared for these destructive events by improving flood forecasting. Their research helps to save lives by improving early warning systems in flood-prone parts of the world.
Their work is helping to deliver food supplies, clean water and medicines to people who are in crisis caused by floods around the world. The techniques Hannah and Liz have developed use data about river levels and soil moisture to predict where a flood is likely to hit communities, sometimes weeks in advance of it happening.
Hannah advises the UK Government on flood response and preparing for national and international flooding incidents. Liz works with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent, helping people in places including Peru, Mozambique and Bangladesh to prepare for floods. In Uganda, these ground-breaking techniques were put to use when the Red Cross was able to deliver aid to 5,000 people before roads and other lines of communication were cut by floodwater.
Their work feeds directly into teaching in the Department of Geography and Environmental Science at the University of Reading. Hannah teaches modules covering current and recent floods in the UK, optional field classes, a forecasting exercise and visits to campus from key representatives of external organisations to talk with students.
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This work has had a real impact in that we are now better prepared for floods.
As we take these techniques forward, we could reduce flood risk to people across the world.