Floods are the most common and deadliest of natural disasters putting communities at risk. For the past few years Google Research has invested in developing and applying AI modeling to advance the field of flood forecasting, as part of our efforts to help communities around the world address the effects of climate change with AI-based early warnings for natural disasters.
The Google flood forecasts are provided to the public in multiple ways, in partnership with organizations, governments and with the WMO. Global flood information is publicly available on the Flood Hub (g.co/floodhub) for the use of the public, NGOs, governments and researchers. As part of our efforts, we actively collaborate with local humanitarian organizations that utilize our flood information to accelerate their ongoing anticipatory actions supporting local communities. Here are four examples from the past year:
Google and Give Directly in Mozambique — supporting anticipatory action
In early 2023, we partnered with GiveDirectly, an aid organization supporting communities in need via unconditional cash transfers, in the poorest areas of the world. Together, we tested how riverine flood forecasts and digital cash infrastructure could enable communities to receive payments within a day of a flood warning, to help them better prepare before a potential disaster. We piloted our collaboration in Mozambique during Cyclone Freddy in March 2023, where GiveDirectly provided cash transfers to over 4,100 households with the support from Google.org, based on the Google flood forecasts. This pilot provided us with meaningful insights regarding the level of geospatial detail and lead time aid organizations need to distribute cash to the communities expected to be affected. As Vera Lummis, Senior Manager of Digital Innovation at GiveDirectly, says: “Through our partnership with Google Research, we can combine new insights from AI-based forecasts with local early warning systems to better reach people at the frontlines of the climate crisis.” This collaboration is planned to continue in 2024 with enhanced tools and larger coverage in Bangladesh and Nigeria.
Google and GiveDirectly teams in Mozambique
Google and UNOCHA — generating flood alerts in Nigeria based on Google forecasts
The UNOCHA Centre for Humanitarian Data is focused on increasing the use and impact of data in the humanitarian sector. As a first collaboration between UNOCHA and Google, between August to October 2023, the Centre provided flood alerts in Nigeria based on Google’s flood forecasts. During this pilot, the UNOCHA team evaluated the Google flood forecasts and found great value in the outputs, particularly the combination of hydrological and inundation forecasts to estimate expected flood impact. The Centre alerts were aimed at notifying the UNOCHA office in Nigeria and the relevant humanitarian stakeholders so that they could further disseminate the flood information to first responders and people on the ground. After the pilot, the two organizations plan to work on more projects in 2024, such as forecasting severe flood events and rapid mapping for ongoing floods. Leonardo Milano, Data Science lead at the Centre for Humanitarian Data, said: “I’m very much looking forward to the next phase of this collaboration to expand flood anticipatory action and to the potentials for real time flood monitoring for early warnings.”
Flood Hub coverage in Nigeria during September 2023
Google and ICRC in Somalia — supporting ongoing humanitarian work
Somalia was recently affected by devastating riverine flooding, which was made worse due to the El Niño effect. Between October and December 2023, Google provided The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) team with inundation risk maps and daily flood forecasts from our testing system, in 20 locations of interest. ICRC used this information to prioritize humanitarian operations, alerting populations and authorities, floodproofing health centers and more.
Example of daily forecast in Dhobley, Somalia
Google and monday.com — implementing tools to make alerts actionable
monday.com’s emergency response team partners with NGOs to enhance their impact during emergencies via digital products. In June 2023, monday.com partnered with Google to utilize the Flood Hub forecasts to develop an extensive early flood warning system for the Red Cross Assam, India. Through this collaboration, thousands of Red Cross volunteers are now able to transform these forecasts into actionable tasks to alert and prepare the affected communities. “This work is a testament to the importance of these types of collaborations to help communities around the world manage climate-related threats,” says Anton Driz, Emergency Response Manager of monday.com. We continue to work closely with monday.com to identify more areas where we can collaborate, and improve the technical integration between the tools.
Looking ahead, we are expanding our coverage on the Flood Hub to more areas and countries and constantly improving its functionality and adding more flood information. Google is excited to broaden these collaborations globally and encourage more organizations to utilize the Google flood forecasting in their ongoing relief work supporting flood affected communities around the world.