Space technology to predict floods and droughts

Date: 27/01/2015

The EGSIEM project, short for European Gravity Service for Improved Emergency Management, was rated best among 56 submitted proposals in the Industrial Leadership EO-1-2014 call (New ideas for Earth-relevant space applications), using space technology to predict floods.

Predicting floods is difficult today. EGSIEM brings together geophysicists from the University of Luxembourg and Bern that have developed a novel procedure to shorten the pre-alert time for floods, and droughts, in a consortium of eight renowned partners from Germany, Austria, France, and Switzerland.

Floods not only depend on precipitation, but also on soil saturation, which is difficult to measure. The project suggests the use of satellites that observe the distribution of water masses in the ground. Accumulating water will change earth masses, thereby slightly deflecting these satellites’ trajectory. This change can be measured. Prof. van Dam, initiator of the project at the University, explains: “This method helps us predict when and where soil is saturated with water. By combining this new data with available information, we would like to support the targeted prevention of natural catastrophes”.

The same principle can be used to measure available water reserves in the soil, thereby predicting droughts. The project’s challenge is to make the exploitation of this data much faster and accessible to civil society. In the future, the project’s outcomes might also be used for innovative water resources management in agriculture, for example.

The National Contact Point congratulates the University of Luxembourg and the consortium on the grant and wishes much success with the project!

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EGSIEM on the uni.lu website (in French)

EGSIEM on the University of Bern website

EGSIEM on the DLR website