WMO Organizes Webinar on Assessment of Flash Flood Occurrences in India

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India's IMD acts as the Regional Centre for the South Asia FFGS, covering Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, providing the nation’s nearly 1.6 billion people with effective flash flood guidance and forecasts. It also provides Member countries with regional daily flash flood guidance and continuous training of operational forecasters.

New Delhi (ABC Live India); Climate change has accentuated natural hazards, including flash floods caused by the melting of snow and ice in many regions of the world.

The 2021 Uttarakhand flood, also known as the Chamoli disaster began on 7 February 2021 in the environs of the Nanda Devi National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the outer Garhwal Himalayas in Uttarakhand state.

This destroyed two hydropower plants, burst open dams, and led to a large number of casualties and widespread environmental damage in an ecologically fragile area.

In June 2021, the International Charter 'Space and Major Disasters'  published a study that confirmed a large rock and ice avalanche as the cause of the disaster. The result was based on data from earth observation satellites, as well as seismic records, numerical model results, and eyewitness videos. The authors estimate the avalanche at about 27 million cubic meters, consisting of 80% rock and 20% glacier ice. The glacier ice turned into water over the course of the 3.2km elevation difference from the peak, which further worsened the impact by causing a debris flood wave.

In response to the growing hazards, a Flash Flood Guidance System (FFGS) snow hydrology webinar was organized by World Meteorological Organization (WMO)Hydrologic Research Center (HRC) and India Meteorological Department (IMD) to discuss the importance of tracking the seasonal snowpack conditions as it pertains to the assessment of flash flood occurrence.

FFGS offers a variety of products created for forecasters and disaster managers, including snow products, such as snow cover area, snow water equivalent, and snowmelt. It currently provides early warnings to three billion people – 40% of the world’s population – across more than 60 countries.

In his opening speech, Dr. Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, Director General of IMD and Permanent Representative of India with WMO emphasized the importance of the FFGS and the prediction of snow melting in a timely manner. Dr. Mohapatra appreciated the contributions of WMO, HRC, Regional Centre and all the member nations for successful implementation and operationalization of the SAsiaFFGS in South Asia.

The IMD acts as the Regional Centre for the South Asia FFGS, covering Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, providing the nation’s nearly 1.6 billion people with effective flash flood guidance and forecasts. It also provides Member countries with regional daily flash flood guidance and continuous training of operational forecasters.

During the webinar, available FFGS snow components and products were presented, alongside case studies from various regions to demonstrate the utilization and validation of snow products. It highlighted the importance of tracking the seasonal snow condition as it pertains to the assessment of flash flood occurrence.

This webinar provided the opportunity for participants to share their experiences, ask questions and determine any challenges and to provide training to further understanding of FFGS snow products and use in the operational work. In addition to South Asian countries, participants from the South East Europe region attended the event, reflecting the high level of interest.

Both regional South Asia and Southeast Europe FFGS is funded by the United States Agency for International Development/Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (USAID/BHA) and implemented by the WMO and the Hydrologic Research Center (HRC), while National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is a satellite data provider into the System.

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