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Last year's Pakistan floods could have been predicted

Washington , Tue, 01 Feb 2011 ANI

Washington, Feb 1 (ANI): Catastrophic monsoon rains that swept Pakistan last year could have been predicted days in advance if weather-forecasting data had been shared and processed, according to US researchers.


The study, which used data from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasting (ECMWF), found that the floods could have been predicted 8-10 days beforehand if the data had 'been processed and fed into a hydrological model, which takes terrain into account'.


The July floods killed thousands of people and disrupted the lives of an estimated 20 million people in Pakistan.


"The disaster could have been minimized and even the flooding could have been minimized. If we were working with Pakistan, they would have known 8 to 10 days in advance that the floods were coming," said lead author Peter Webster, a professor of earth and atmospheric science at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta and lead author of the study.


The London-based ECMWF, however, said it does not 'give out weather forecasts and weather warnings to the general public or media'.


"ECMWF provides numerical forecasts to its member and co-operating states and they are responsible to prepare forecasts for the public and advise the authorities in their own countries," said ECMWF scientist Anna Ghelli.


"We noticed that the signal was there five days in advance, but the lack of a cooperating agreement between the forecasting centre and Pakistan meant warnings didn't make it to the Pakistani people or Pakistan's own meteorological agency," she added.


The US meteorologists used data from the ECMWF to analyze whether or not the rainfall was above average for Pakistan and if the huge surges in the Indus River would have been predictable if flood forecasters were monitoring the country.


They found that while the rainfall total for 2010 was slightly above average for the region, the July deluges were exceptionally rare, with rainfall amounts exceeding 10 times the average daily monsoon rainfall.


They also found that if a flood forecasting model had been in place, the floods would have been predicted in time to issue warnings.


Webster said that processing raw data into weather forecasts and combining them with hydrological models is only half the work.


To have any effect, the resulting flood forecasts must be successfully disseminated at the village level, authorities must also understand them," he said


The findings will be published in Geophysical Research Letters. (ANI)


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