Brussels, 26 September 2014
Keeping EU seaside communities safe from flooding
Caption: Local authorities in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region are using the MICORE projet’s Storm Impact Early Warning System to help them respond more effectively to flooding.
A room with a seaside view is a luxury for most. But when storms rage and waters rise, the same view can be terrifying. Two EU-funded projects are keeping people and their homes safe with the creation of an early warning system for coastal storms, and a system to help local authorities, builders and developers plan wisely.
Coastal areas are particularly at risk from flooding, with the impact of high population densities, erosion and rising sea levels due to climate change increasing the likelihood of high waters.
The damage can however be reduced if communities are able to prepare in advance for severe weather and potential floods, and if flood risk is considered when designing and building infrastructure and homes. This is where the MICORE and THESEUS projects come in.
The EU-funded project MICORE created an early warning system by simulating hazards caused by storm waves eroding coastlines. The software aims to help improve disaster forecasting and response methods, in turn increasing public safety.
The system was based on open-source code. It provides information on wave and tide conditions and more detailed morphological information for specific sites, from Ravenna in the Mediterranean Sea to Varna in the Black Sea; and from Poland’s Baltic coast to Belgium’s North Sea.
Atlantic coastlines along southern Spain (Cádiz) and Portugal (Algarve) are included, as well as Irish Sea coastlines. During the project, which ended in September 2011, prototypes were made available free of charge online, providing real-time information.
Project coordinator Paolo Ciavola of Italy’s University of Ferrara explained that the early warning system is flexible enough to be used for a variety of coastal areas. “We believe the approach we have developed is exportable,” he said. “For example, in Italy we initially tested it on one beach but we are now applying it to the 130 km of the Emilia-Romagna region, where local authorities supported us in maintaining it, making it one of the most successful stories of knowledge transfer from scientists to end-users. We have been cooperating with the United States Geological Survey and they are applying a similar approach in California. So the format is widely applicable.”
Some of the former project partners are now working together in the EU-funded project RISC-KIT to improve the software.
Guidance and advice
Europe’s regions are vulnerable to coastal flooding in different ways. After studying the scientific, social, economic and environmental aspects of such flooding, the EU-funded project THESEUS put together guidance and advice to help builders and local authorities keep homes and infrastructures safe no matter what the region’s geographical or physical characteristics.
This package of software tools includes a decision support system. Decision makers simply need to input the conditions they are dealing with. “The short, medium and long-term effects of building or developing with coastal communities can then be identified,” said THESEUS coordinator Barbara Zanuttigh of Italy’s University of Bologna.
The project’s handbook aims to help coastal managers apply the THESEUS methodology and select the best mitigation options. This is backed by a package of policy briefs to help decision makers identify strengths and weaknesses in existing policies, as well as key challenges they need to address.
European Research, Innovation and Science Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said: “Flooding affects thousands of Europeans each year and with climate change underway, it could affect many more in the future. EU research, funded under the Horizon 2020 programme, is helping to protect citizens and Europe’s economic wellbeing.”
Both MICORE and THESEUS were research projects funded by the European Union under its Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (2007-2013). Both brought together universities and research centres. MICORE received €3.5 million in EU funding for partners in nine EU countries (Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, UK), while THESEUS received €6.5 million in EU funding and brought together partners from 12 EU countries (Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Latvia, Netherlands, Poland, Italy, Spain, UK) with counterparts from Ukraine, Russia, Mexico, China, Taiwan and the USA.
On 1 January 2014, the European Union launched a new research and innovation funding programme called Horizon 2020. Over the next seven years almost €80 billion will be invested in research and innovation projects to support Europe’s economic competitiveness and extend the frontiers of human knowledge. The EU research budget is focused mainly on improving everyday life in areas like health, the environment, transport, food and energy. Research partnerships with the pharmaceutical, aerospace, car and electronics industries also encourage private-sector investment in support of future growth and high-skilled job creation. Horizon 2020 will have an even greater focus on turning excellent ideas into marketable products, processes and services.
For more information
Horizon 2020 website: http://ec.europa.eu/programmes/horizon2020/