Raging, murky waters after several days of rain versus infertile land affected by drought. Credit: © Francesco Scatena / Shutterstock

Droughts and floods are causing increasing damage worldwide, often with devastating short- and long-term impacts on human society. Forecasting when they will occur, monitoring them as they develop, and learning from the past to improve disaster management is vital. Droughts and floods can be measured, monitored, and modeled in a variety of ways, whether historic patterns, current events, or predicting future trends. A new book in the Geophysical Monograph Series, Global Drought and Flood: Observation, Modeling, and Prediction, presents recent advances in the modeling and remote sensing of droughts and floods. We asked the authors about how droughts and floods are observed and recorded, and how this information is used.

Why did you decide to write a book on measuring, monitoring, and modeling droughts and floods?

This book is a collection of models and tools based on numerical simulation and/or remote sensing. The contributors to this volume have been very active in publishing their research results and products through peer reviewed papers and various presentations at conferences and workshops, such as AGU, EGU, and AMS. Seeing so many high-quality sessions on global drought and flood related research and applications gave us the idea to formulate a collection of the most recent versions of these studies directly from modelers and remote sensing product producers.

What are some advantages and challenges of remote sensing and modeling for understanding drought and flood, and how could they be further improved?

While each product has its own unique features and advantages, challenges widely exist in current models, methods, and products.

The most common advantage of the models and tools presented in this collection is that they have been the core or part of online platforms (for example, GFMS, GloFAS, and SMOPS), steadily providing routine products and service in drought or flood issues.

While each product has its own unique features and advantages, challenges also widely exist in current models, methods, and products.

The most challenging problem is still the uncertainty in model predictions and remote sensing retrievals that adds the difficulty in use for various users, although improvements have been made over the years as described in various chapters in our book. Further improvements can be expected by employing more powerful observation and computing capabilities, as well as emerging artificial intelligence methods to enhance physical and statistical approaches.

How is information about drought and floods used by humanitarian, government, and development actors?

Drought and flood information on a global scale is highly valuable to many international and national humanitarian, government, and development sectors, such as the United Nations World Food Programme, International Committee of the Red Cross, the Chinese Ministry of Emergency Management, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the United States.

There is potential for optimizing the synergies within and among organizations for disaster mitigation across affected areas.

The decision-makers in these organizations need to pre-allocate and prioritize mitigation resources for multiple simultaneous severe events happening in different regions and locations.

There is potential for optimizing the synergies within and among organizations for disaster mitigation across affected areas, drawing on information made available by the models and systems presented in our book.

How could this information be better communicated between the scientists collecting the data and the actors making policy decisions?

Communicating between scientists collecting the data and actors making policy decisions has significantly improved in recent years because both sides are willing to talk and help each other. Better communication and understanding can be further improved by encouraging and promoting interactions between producers and users, particularly allowing a two-way information exchange; for example, scientists need to receive constructive feedback from stakeholders on the usability of their products, both their successes and shortcomings.

Where are additional efforts needed to better utilize drought and flood information?

The most important value of the models and data presented in our book is hazard risk assessment, which requires not only flood and drought information but also associated damage and loss information.

The historical data for extreme events are in dire shortage almost everywhere in terms of hazard risk assessment all over the world.

A detailed (high spatial-temporal resolution), long-term global drought and flood event database, including frequency, intensity, duration, causation, and damage/loss is urgently needed for developing improved responses.

Global Drought and Flood: Observation, Modeling, and Prediction, 2021, ISBN: 978-1-119-42721-6, list price $169.95 (print), $136 (e-book). AGU members receive 35 percent off all books at Wiley.com. Log in to your AGU member profile to access the discount code.

—Huan Wu (wuhuan3@mail.sysu.edu.cn,  0000-0003-2920-8860), Sun Yat-sen University, China; Dennis P. Lettenmaier ( 0000-0003-3317-1327) University of California, Los Angeles, USA; Qiuhong Tang ( 0000-0002-0886-6699), Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China; and Philip J. Ward ( 0000-0001-7702-7859), Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Netherlands

Citation: Wu, H., D. P. Lettenmaier, Q. Tang, and P. J. Ward (2021), Tools for improved drought and flood response, Eos, 102, https://doi.org/10.1029/2021EO163600. Published on 29 September 2021.
This article does not represent the opinion of AGU, Eos, or any of its affiliates. It is solely the opinion of the author.
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