Flash floods: how to predict them better?
Professor in Climatology and Water Resources, Roger Stone, discusses new technology that can detect flash flooding 24 hours ahead of time.PT2M0S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-19m2q 620 349 January 11, 2011
A leading weather expert claims technology is available to predict a flash flood similar to the one that devastated Toowoomba last night.
Professor Roger Stone, who is the director of the Australian Centre for Sustainable Catchments and the chairman of UN Commission for Agricultural Meteorology, urged Australia to invest in the storm technology because Australia's weather "is only going to get more extreme in the future".
Technology that can predict flash flooding, which occurs when torrential rain is dumped in a small area very quickly by an intense weather pattern, is currently in place in Ipswich, Professor Stone said.
He claimed the technology, believed to be called WDSS2, can give meteorologists a greater understanding if an intense storm cell is active and therefore greater warning if flash flooding is expected.
Professor Stone, who is also a Toowoomba resident, said he rushed home last night after spotting the approaching storm, which dumped 100mm of rain in his gauge in just 30 minutes.
"There is a very sophisticated technology which is currently located near Ipswich and it came from the US and it is better at interrogating some of these systems and helping us understand them better," he said.
"I think Australia should invest in the technology and not just for operation use but also for research use.
"It would help us understand these [storm] cells, these super cells that cause flash flooding and how they work and allow us to give more warnings."
Professor Stone said "these events will happen again" and the current technology used by the Bureau of Meteorology cannot properly advise towns of impending flash flooding.
Bureau spokesman Paul Lainio said warnings for flash flooding were posted in advance but admitted current technology did not allow meteorologists to predict the scale of the floods that could hit a town.
"It's not possible to predict the levels that will be reached," he said.
"We are talking water levels that occur very quickly and ... whenever these sort of things are possible, people need to take appropriate measures."
Professor Stone said weather experts had been expecting the rain drenching Queensland.
He said the La Nina weather pattern, in combination with a very warm Coral Sea, was causing the problem.
Ominously, Professor Stone warned Queensland and other eastern Australian towns to prepare for more extreme wet weather.
"We have to be very well aware and prepared. Nowhere in eastern Australia is immune from any of this and we still have two to three months of this to go, so we have to be very alert and prepared," he said.
"I also think Australia generally needs to be better prepared ... as Australia goes into extreme drought one year and then into these kind of weather patterns so we need to invest in the technologies that help us understand these [weather] patterns ... and we need to better prepared over all."
The Bureau of Meteorology still has flash flooding warnings in place.
Heavy rain continues to fall in Toowoomba, which is also covered in heavy fog.