Real-time, property-level surface water flood forecasting

Our research has developed the world’s first property-level surface water forecasting tool to save lives and livelihoods worldwide.

Cities across the globe are increasingly vulnerable to surface water flooding due to rapid urbanisation, infrastructure developments and more intense rainfall.

Flood losses can be mitigated with accurate flood forecasting, but existing systems are often not fit for purpose, limited by their spatial resolution and analytical abilities.

Almost two decades of research and validation in 50 cities across five continents has led to the commercialisation of novel technology to potentially save lives and livelihoods worldwide.

Image: Saikiran Kesari on Unsplash

Our impact

Improved forecasting capacity for surface water flooding

  • Technology is embedded in UK Cabinet Office portal in July 2020 – a world first for an emergency planning system
  • Expertise contributed to Defra’s Surface Water Action Plan 2018

Improved emergency response during flooding

  • London Fire Brigade co-developed flood risk metrics and bespoke flood nowcasting tool
  • Global impacts via a University spinout company, Previsico
  • Partnership with IBM enables global adoption for maximum societal and economic impact
  • Creation of eight jobs in two countries in 12 months, rising to 23 jobs by end of 2020

The research

We have pioneered research into real-time, street-level surface water flood nowcasting – a much-needed capability in a changing climate where weather is becoming increasingly ‘uncertain’ and ‘unfamiliar’.

Our foremost contribution is the novel method which has been developed with local, national and international partners and found to be the first real-time surface water flood nowcasting technology in the world.

To date, our research has advanced knowledge in flood modelling, communicating flood risk information, evaluating the accuracy of flood nowcasting and its application to manage ‘hotspots’ for disadvantaged and vulnerable populations such as hospitals, care homes and schools.

This has resulted in the global commercialisation of third-generation technology, crucially aligned to UK Government's long-term resilience plan and the UN framework for disaster risk reduction.

This is ground-breaking work that will immensely assist our resilience community in making informed decisions for planning and response to flood events and impact.

Luana Avagliano Head of ResilienceDirect - Cabinet Office

Research funder

  • NERC

Development partners

  • Multiple local and national public sector resilience organisations

Meet the experts

Photograph of Robert Wilby

Professor Rob Wilby

Professor of Hydroclimatic Modelling