New Technology Could Predict Floods Days in Advance

A collaborative project from IBM and UT Austin might be the answer to escaping deadly floods, America's most common natural disaster.

Earlier this week, we told you about a new iPhone app that alerts users when earthquakes are coming, a timely release in light of recent quakes in Japan and America's East Coast. Now comes even more technology to help humans finally defeat natural disasters: Researchers from IBM and the University of Texas at Austin say they have devised a way to predict floods, America's most common natural disaster.

Using advanced analytics software and weather simulation models, the researchers were able to accurately predict the movements of Texas' Guadalupe River at more than 100 times the normal speed. The difference between this new technology and past flood prediction systems is that past systems have focused solely on the main body of the river, ignoring the tributaries where flooding often begins.

"Unlike previous methods, the IBM approach scales-up for massive networks and has the potential to simulate millions of river miles at once," Ben Hodges, an associate profesor at the UT Austin Center for Research in Water Resources, said in a statement. "With the use of river sensors integrated into web-based information systems, we can take this model even further."

Hodges and the rest of the team say their work might eventually allow them to warn people of flooding days ahead of time, giving them a chance to flee flood plains with their valuable possessions and head for dry land. In theory, if and when this technology can be applied everywhere, we should live in a world in which flooding never kills another human being.


photo via (cc) Flickr user U.S. Geological Survey