University of Wisconsin–Madison

From Forecasts to Action (F2A): Enabling Proactive Societal Responses to Hydrological Extremes

Funding Agency: NASA

Award Period: 2022-2025

Novel approaches are desperately needed for vulnerable communities subject to hydrologic and water-related crises. Post-disaster assistance is a crucial component of disaster relief, however the potential for reducing humanitarian impacts through anticipatory, pre-disaster planning and actions cannot be overstated.  Short-term early warning systems are common, yet hydrologic forecasts at monthly or seasonal scales are relatively underused to guide preparatory actions, despite their potential value. Empirical evidence suggests that pre-disaster actions can reduce loss of life and property and result in cost savings for relief and governmental organizations. Such interventions often flow through water management systems, such as water distribution, reservoir operations, agriculture/irrigation, energy, sanitation, and treatment.  This highlights the central role of water resources decision-making in hazard resilience. 

The International Federation of the Red Cross has recently developed operational early action protocols (EAPs), conditioned on forecasts and risk analysis, outlining trigger criteria and identifying early actions. Concurrently, an extensive number of subseasonal-to-seasonal climate forecast products are now available which may be coupled with state-of-the-art land surface modeling frameworks to derive hydrologic forecasts. Thus there exists significant potential to tailor subseasonal-to-seasonal hydrologic forecast products, enhanced with Earth observations, to appropriately trigger a suite of water resources oriented preparedness actions and decisions across multiple lead times. 

This project focuses geographically on floods and droughts in Peru. The Earth observations, forecasts, models, and alternative EAPs proposed here will provide managers with an improved set of tools to better protect lives and livelihoods, specifically a clear protocol for what action to take and when to trigger action.    

Major methods include:  

1) integrating customized ensembles of subseasonal-to-seasonal meteorological forecasts (e.g. SubX, NMME) with a hydrologic forecast system to produce multi-scale hydro-climatic and streamflow ensemble forecasts  

2) constructing alternative EAPs (e.g. triggers, actions) based on these ensemble forecasts to reflect the large and uncertain decision space