Award for flood research group supporting UN global goals
26 November 2021
Researchers whose forecasting work allows early action to be taken before floods hit have won an award that recognises outstanding support for the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.
The University of Reading's Water@Reading research group was named the winner of the Testimonial/Story category in the Earth Observations for the Sustainable Development Goals (EO4SDG) 2021 Awards, run by Group on Earth Observations (GEO).
The Water@Reading researchers work in partnership with national hydrometeorological services (NHMS), humanitarian organisations and global forecasting centres like the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) to develop state-of-the-art global flood forecasting models to allow governments and humanitarian organisations to take preparatory actions to prevent loss of life and livelihoods.
Water@Reading was recognised by GEO for its work providing longer-range forecasts to the Government of Bangladesh to inform the early distribution of more than $5 million of aid to more than 200,000 people ahead of floods, which the judging panel said clearly demonstrated the model's effectiveness.
'Getting information to aid organisations and decision-makers in advance of a crisis can be the difference between life and death' -- Dr Liz Stephens
Dr Liz Stephens, co-director of Water at Reading and Associate Professor in Climate Risks and Resilience at the University of Reading, said: "We are honoured to have received this award, and hope that it recognises not just our role but the importance of sustainable partnerships between scientists and decision-makers.
"Getting information to aid organisations and decision-makers in advance of a crisis can be the difference between life and death.
"It is important to recognise too that the successful use of these forecasting systems goes well beyond just us: the German Federal Foreign Office has been the driving force for anticipatory action through funding to the German Red Cross, IFRC and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, and the UK's Science for Humanitarian Emergencies and Resilience research programme has funded research to ensure that these aid investments are based on robust science."
'This research can identify flooding disasters before the rain even starts to fall' -- Prof Hannah Cloke
Professor Hannah Cloke, co-director of Water@Reading and a hydrologist at the University of Reading, said: "Utilising scientific knowledge can keep us one step ahead of natural hazards.
"This research can identify which regions are in the path of a potential flooding disasters before the rain even starts to fall, something that is increasingly important as floods and other natural hazards become a bigger problem under climate change."
The 2021 GEO EO4SDG Awards winners were announced during the GEO Week 2021 conference held this week.
Previous winners of the award include the Colombian Government, Netherlands Space Agency and Stanford University.
The EO4SDG initiative was set up to help better exploit a wide range of observational data sources to contribute to the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals. The 17 goals cover the environmental and societal challenges facing the world, and focus on efforts to combat these.
Researchers, lecturers, staff and students at the University of Reading support the SDGs in a number of ways, from sustainability work on campus to partnerships that protect vulnerable people around the world.
Reading scientists have worked with partners to provide forecasting information to agencies and governments around the world in recent years, including ahead of Cyclone Eloise in Mozambique.
Dr Stephens was recently jointly appointed by the University of Reading and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre as Associate Professor in Climate Risks and Resilience to continue this work.