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Permanent Monitoring Panel -
Floods and Extreme Weather Events

Members of the Panel:

Robert Clark (USA)

Arnaldo Longhetto (Italy)

Summary of the Emergency

More deaths, property damage, and human misery are caused by droughts than any other extreme weather event; however, floods, windstorms and other weather-related disasters impact nearly as many people (700000 annually, versus 960000 annually from droughts). Their impact often is significantly greater than droughts since they are suddenly occurring events that require almost immediate mobilization of resources to combat their severe effects. This places a severe strain on developing countries.

Levee systems to alleviate floods have existed in Europe and Asia for more than 2000 years; but scientific knowledge to operate such systems successfully has been developed only in the last 100 years. Fortunately, major improvements in flood prediction have occurred through advances in meteorology and hydrology, coupled with a better understanding of hydraulics.

The USA alone has sustained 44 weather-related disasters over the 20-year period 1980-1999 in which overall damages and costs each year exceeded $1 billion. The midwest flooding alone during the summer of 1993 produced approximately $21 billion damage/costs, although only 48 deaths were associated with the flooding as a result of the excellent flood forecasts.

Unfortunately, 96 percent of all deaths from natural disasters occur in developing countries. Recently, in February 2000, approximately 250000 people were affected by heavy rains and floods in the southern Mozambique provinces and at least 300000 people on the island of Madagascar. Because both these countries are not well-developed economically, while dollar damages and number and number of deaths were not large, the number of refugees and costs to support them were monumental.

Click here for a more complete definition of this Emergency.

Priorities in dealing with the Emergency

The Permanent Monitoring Panel (PMP) on Floods and Extreme Weather Conditions will monitor the following conditions:

Network deterioration

  • Developing countries - no networks

  • Commercialization of networks in developed countries

  • Developing countries - computer technology not available

  • Training needed for maintenance of equipment and model use

  • Natural and/or man-made (anthropogenic) problems.

The PMP will also provide assistance to developing in the preparation of efficient forecasting and warning systems, which are critical to protecting lives, property, and environmental resources. The primary steps for disaster reduction are:

Assessing the risks

  • Hazard identification

  • Vulnerability analysis

  • Risk evaluation

Reducing the losses

  • Prevention

  • Preparedness

  • Emergency response

Workshop and Meeting Reports

A PMP Seminar was held in Geneva from 19-20 November 1998. Five on-going tasks important for future activities of the PMP were proposed and discussed. These tasks included:

  • Data for science.

  • Prediction of extreme events.

  • Coastal issues.

  • Training in flood and quantitative precipitation forecasting.

  • Seasonal forecasting.

A second meeting of the PMP was held in Erice on 19 and 24 August, 1999. A number of specific topics were discussed, including:

  • Data access.

  • Activities of the USA National Weather Service.

  • Forecasting dust storms in Africa and the Middle East.

  • Climate forecasting in Africa.

  • Training for dust forecasting.

  • Seasonal rainfall in Sudan.

Special Recommendations

The PMP, in the Erice meetings of 19 and 24 August 1999, listed several goals and subtopics for this panel. A proposed activity is the development of a web-site with general information on specific topics related to floods and extreme weather events with answers to most frequently asked questions: e.g., available training, predictive techniques, and data access. Subtopics include:

  • Communications.

  • Modelling.

  • Observations.

  • Available case studies.

These topics will be the subject of future meetings with emphasis on specific subjects.