UCL News


Global Drought Monitor and European Wind Damage Forecasts Launched

4 January 2006

Professor Mark Saunders (Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre) has launched two new on-line weather services.

eurotempest1 The first monitors drought intensity worldwide, and the second provides real-time damage forecasts for winter storms over seven European countries.

Previous drought monitoring information has only been issued routinely on a regional basis. The Global Drought Monitor provides a clear summary of current hydrological drought conditions worldwide. It will help humanitarian relief by assisting warnings of potential food, water and health problems. It will also benefit the general public, government and industry by improving awareness of droughts and their impacts.

The easy-to-read maps are colour-coded giving the severity and extent of drought and the population affected, based on rainfall deficit in a particular region. Users can zoom in to a particular region or survey the entire globe, with assessment periods ranging from one to 36 months. The product is updated monthly and has a spatial resolution of approximately 100 kilometres.

The programme received funds from UCL Futures, funded by donations from UCL alumni. The drought monitor was launched at the UCL Futures launch event on 22 November 2005.

Professor Saunders has also led the development of EuroTempest, a groundbreaking online weather service providing real-time forecasts out to five days ahead for European winter storms and their localised potential wind damage. Sponsored by Benfield, Royal & Sun Alliance and GE Insurance Solutions, EuroTempest benefits insurance companies and all industry whose business performance is affected by high windspeeds. Wind damage forecasts are provided to postcode level for the UK, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands.

Professor Saunders said: "Monitoring and predicting extreme weather is notoriously challenging, yet the benefits of useful information are high. Underpinning the innovative Global Drought Monitor and EuroTempest services is an enormous research effort from a team based in the Departments of Space and Climate Physics, Earth Sciences and seconded to Benfield. We look forward to continuing to expand our unique services to further benefit industry, society and humanitarian relief".

Another online innovation from Professor Saunders team, Tropical Strom Risk (TSR), provides innovative forecasts of tropical storms throughout the world to help risk awareness and decision-making by industry, government and society. TSR won the 2004 London Market Innovation of the Year Award at the British Insurance Awards.

Image1: Global Drought Monitor

Image2: EuroTempest forecast potential wind damage from windstorm Erwin for the UK issued at 12:00 GMT on 7 January 2005. The forecast refers to 06:00 GMT on 8 January 2005 (a forward time of 18 hours). The potential wind damage level is shown colour-coded by postcode. Minor and very minor damage is forecast across northern England and southern Scotland. The probabilities of Erwin causing minor, moderate or major wind damage may be viewed per postcode for seven European countries at www.eurotempest.com. [eurotempest2.png]