AbstractsBusiness Management & Administration

A probabilistic impact-focussed early warning system for flash floods in support of disaster management in South Africa

by Eugene Rene Poolman

Institution: University of Pretoria
Year: 2015
Keywords: Weather hazards in South Africa; Weather Impact Forecasting System (SWIFS); Forecasting weather conditions; The forecasting model component; Rainfall forecast; UCTD
Record ID: 1482144
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/2263/44331


The development of the Severe Weather Impact Forecasting System (SWIFS) for flash flood hazards in South Africa is described in this thesis. Impact forecasting addresses the need to move from forecasting weather conditions to forecasting the consequential impact of these conditions on people and their livelihoods. SWIFS aims to guide disaster managers to take early action to minimise the adverse effects of flash floods focussing on hotspots where the largest impact is expected. The first component of SWIFS produced an 18-hour probabilistic outlook of potential occurrence of flash floods. This required the development of an ensemble forecast system of rainfall for small river basins (the forecasting model component), based on the rainfall forecast of a deterministic numerical weather prediction model, to provide an 18-hour lead-time, taking into account forecast uncertainty. The second component of SWIFS covered the event specific societal and structural impacts of these potential flash floods, based on the interaction of the potential occurrence of flash floods with the generalised vulnerability to flash floods of the affected region (the impact model component). The impact model required an investigation into the concepts of regional vulnerability to flash floods, and the development of relevant descriptive and mathematical definitions in the context of impact forecasting. The definition developed in the study links impact forecasting to the likelihood and magnitude of adverse impacts to communities under threat, based on their vulnerability and due to an imminent severe weather hazard. Case studies provided evidence that the concept of SWIFS can produce useful information to disaster managers to identify areas most likely to be adversely affected in advance of a hazardous event and to decide on appropriate distribution of their resources between the various hotspots where the largest impacts would be. SWIFS contributes to the current international research on short-term impact forecasting by focussing on forecasting the impacts of flash floods in a developing country with its limited spatial vulnerability information. It provides user-oriented information in support of disaster manager decision-making through additional lead-time of the potential of flash floods, and the likely impact of the flooding. The study provides a firm basis for future enhancement of SWIFS to other severe weather hazards in South Africa.