The science of forecasting floods

Sudha Rangan

floods ‘Turn around – don’t drown’ – that’s a slogan that one sees often on various posters in the corridors of the hydrology department of the National Weather Service in the United States. Though this particular saying is more relevant to the situation of flash flooding, which is common in the US, floods in general are a common occurrence in all parts of the world, including India. Many a year has seen various Indian states ravaged by rivers flooding their banks, with farmers losing their livelihood and people losing their lives. River forecasting, especially as it relates to floods, has thus assumed an important role in government agencies throughout the world. If dangerous flooding can be predicted with some level of accuracy and with some lead time, then arrangements can be made to minimise the loss of life and property.

A good way to link the principles of hydrology, hydraulics, systems development, software engineering and statistics is to look at what happens in flood forecasting. This is also an opportunity to introduce high school students to important professional avenues that use knowledge of geography, mathematics and physics – subjects that many children think are arcane and unrelated to day to day life!

The author is a software engineer who has worked on flood forecasting systems. She can be reached at [email protected].

This is an article for subscribers only. You may request the complete article by writing to us at [email protected].

Leave a Reply