Take part in developing tools to save lives worldwide

Take part in developing tools to save lives worldwide by stimulating and improving the Global Flood Awareness System, which provides global forecasts of extreme flood events. GloFAS is used by international institutes like the Red Cross and World Food Programme as an information tool during crisis. We are looking for innovative ideas to improve the current system to make it easier and more flexible to use, for example  to develop a lightweight version (mobile app?) of the system to facilitate system exploitation in the field or to use other available data sources to create new features.

Background

Flooding has the highest frequency of occurrence of all types of natural disasters across the globe, accounting for 39% of all natural disasters since 2000. Flood events affect millions of people every year through displacement from homes, unsafe drinking water, destruction of infrastructure, and injury and loss of life. On average, each year, more than 5,500 people are getting killed by floods and more than 94million people are affected worldwide. With an increasing global population, including those living in flood-prone areas, the anticipation and forecasting of flood events is key to managing, preparing for and protecting from severe events, from local to national and international scales.

Producing forecasts at the global scale has only become possible in recent years, due to the emergence of new developments and capabilities of forecasting systems, integration of meteorological and hydrological modelling capabilities, improvements in data, satellite observations and land surface hydrology modelling, and increased resources and computer power. Global flood forecasts have little financial value and thus for example the current Global Flood Awareness System (GloFAS) was created through the volunteer enthusiasm of a few individuals.

Although we can produce these forecasts, there is still a long way to go in order to make them usable in particular for NGOs. The GloFAS system is currently used in a pilot project by the International Red Cross for forecast based finance. The project recognizes there are often forecasts available but no humanitarian organization with resources to act before disaster, which can be far more effective than post-disaster response (http://www.climatecentre.org/programmes-engagement/forecast-based-financing). These pilots will disburse humanitarian funding as soon as a forecast threshold is crossed and before a potential disaster.

However, to be effective, the system needs to be accessible and usable to a wide range of individuals . This highlighted the limitations of the system, and more help and volunteers are needed to make it more usable and useful for a wider user base.

Challenges

Data Model

Currently the flood forecast output format are PCRaster maps. Output maps are processed and the result of this phase are mostly shape files, geo-referenced images (PNG) and XML files that are displayed using MapServer through www.globalfloods.eu. Output maps also are available in netCDF and could benefit from new systems like ncWMS and THREDDS Data Server. At present we have daily forecasts starting from 2008 freely available on www.globalfloods.eu.

Challenges are:

  • analyse existing work/data flows in GloFAS and propose alternative data storage, formats and services depending on the data type and usage
     
  • Monitoring of the events through entire life-cycle focusing on data/services interoperability (coupling GloFAS with monitoring, crisis management and recovery tools)
  • Identify new external services to be coupled with GloFAS (e.g. satellite tracking, activation, social media monitoring, crowd-sourcing)
  • To support a new way of combining GloFAS with other available services like OGC:SOS and/or OGC:WCS
  • To support new ways of harvesting data to create new functionality
Forecast and data visualisation

The forecasts are mainly disseminated through www.globalfloods.eu. The web-portal is currently based on Django, HTML5, OpenLayers 3 and some JavaScript patterns.

Challenges are:

  • Innovative ways of displaying the maps and time series. This could be for example more interactive tools, personalising displays etc.
  • To support new ways of storing and following events for improving the post-analysis (crowd sourcing, Common Alerting Protocol)
  • To support new methods of cartographic visualisation in web applications
  • To support development of new apps and their exploitation in different fields (transport, land use, agro-meteorological sensors, forestry) and for different user needs
  • To support the creation of a user-data-service, for example to get the annual averages (climate) for a certain area

Agenda

Saturday 16 January

08:45-09:15 Shuttles from the station to ECMWF (look out of someone with a #FloodHack sign, near the taxi ranks)

09:00 Breakfast and registration

10:00 Introduction to GloFAS and the challenges

11:00 Form teams and start hacking

13:00 Lunch

18:00 Tour of the ECMWF Data centre (incl super computer & data archive)

19:30 Dinner

Continue hacking through the night

Sunday 17 January

08:00 Breakfast is served

13:00 Working Lunch

14:00 Show & Tell

15:30 Judges deliberate

16:00 Cake and award ceremony

17:30 Doors close

17:30 Pub in Reading Town centre

More information on the system

GloFAS is a freely available tool to provide early warnings of major floods globally. It couples state-of-the art numerical weather forecasts with a hydrological routing to provide probabilistic forecasts of flood hazards in a global river network. GloFAS provides national institutes and international organisations (e. g. Red Cross, World Food programme) with crucial information of where extreme flows can be expected up to two weeks in advance.

GloFAS has produced daily flood forecasts in a pre-operational manner since June 2011 and has already shown its potential during the floods in Pakistan in August 2013 and in Sudan in September 2013. The system undergoes rapid development, and a new version was released on 2 December 2015.

The users of the GloFAS includes national and regional water authorities, water resource managers, hydropower companies, civil protection and first line responders, and international humanitarian aid organisations.

More information on GloFAS data and methods are available on the Data and Methods page.

The Hackathon is supported by the Copernicus Emergency Management Service - Early Warning Systems and we are very grateful for the provision of the prices.

 

View full rules

How to enter

The Hackathon will take place at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF, map link ) on 16/17 January from 9:00 (Saturday) -18:00 (Sunday).

Register here

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are provided on Saturday, breakfast and lunch on the Sunday. During the day you will also have the opportunity to visit the Centre's supercomputer - the 2nd fastest computer in the UK!

Bring your own laptop and other devices you want to work on as well as any necessary cables, chargers and other accessories. Power sockets and wifi will be available.

Use the hashtag #FloodHack on social media.

Judges

Craig Hogan

Craig Hogan
dev4good

Ben Ward

Ben Ward
Oxford Flood Network

Simon Hodgkinson

Simon Hodgkinson
Smart Earth Network

Davide Muraro

Davide Muraro
European Joint Research Centre (JRC), Institute of Environment and Sustainability (IES)

Karl Hennermann

Karl Hennermann
ECMWF, Copernicus Data Services, MapAction

Judging Criteria

  • Potential for innovation
  • Relevance / Usefulness
  • Technical merit
  • Design, user experience, "polish"
  • "Wow" factor