NOAA 2004-R528
Contact: Jana Goldman

NOAA News Releases 2004
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A new integrated forecast and warning system for floods and landslides from hurricanes impacting tropical mountainous islands is ready to be tested by scientists from NOAA and its federal partners. Details of the envisioned system were presented today during the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

“Hurricanes Mitch and Georges and other tropical storms caused widespread destruction and loss of life in the Caribbean, U.S. Gulf Coast, and four Central American nations because of flooding and landslides,” said Joseph Golden, a senior meteorologist at NOAA’s Forecast Systems Laboratory in Boulder, Colo. “We wanted to devise a flood/landslide warning system to help save lives and protect property in these vulnerable areas.”

The system would include satellite and surface-based observations to track and broadcast dangerous levels of precipitation, atmospheric and hydrological models to predict short-term runoff and streamflow changes, geologic models to warn when and where landslides and debris flows are imminent, and the capability to communicate this information to the appropriate government offices.

“This is a collaboration between NOAA, the U.S. Geological Survey, and NASA over the past few years,” Golden said. The three agencies will develop a prototype for floods and landslides and test it over Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Puerto Rico was chosen as a test site because there is a National Weather Service office, NEXRAD (Next Generation Radar) that can measure both precipitation and wind, and an extensive rain gauge network operated by USGS. The Dominican Republic has had two devastating landslide events so far this year.

“There was a great loss of life during these storms, primarily because of flash flooding and landslides of overly saturated earth,” Golden said. “Much of the population affected was in the rural areas where information is difficult to obtain and to disseminate. We think this system will help alleviate those problems.” A workshop was held in August in San Juan, Puerto Rico to develop a science plan.

During his presentation, Golden presented a preliminary proof-of-concept study for the May 21-24, 2004 floods and debris-flows over the island of Hispanola to demonstrate how the suite of data, models, and color graphics create guidance products that can be given to local weather offices and emergency managers to be used in issuing fast response warnings.

Golden said the next step is to publish a science plan from the workshop and use it to secure funding from international funding agencies.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through research to better understand atmospheric and climate variability and to manage wisely our nation's coastal and marine resources.

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