SATELLITE TECHNOLOGY TO SUPPORT COMMUNITIES AT RISK OF FLOODING

May 27, 2024 | Featured Articles

Ireland’s Centre for Applied AI is using artificial intelligence and satellite technology to develop an early warning system for communities at risk of severe flooding. Researchers claim the model has the potential to provide local authorities with time to take emergency measures in limiting damage to homes and businesses, evacuate residents and protect livestock, ahead of periods of heavy rainfall.

Researchers used data collected by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-1 satellite to map historical flooding events in flood-prone areas of Ireland. The maps were then fed into an AI model designed to predict the extent of future flooding events in these areas.

The model is accurate, researchers say, up to approximately 20 metres. Areas which were studied as part of the project include Carrick-on-Shannon in Co. Leitrim, Middleton in Co. Cork, Athlone in Co. Westmeath, and Limerick City.

The flood prediction model forms part of CAMEO – the €9m project led by UCD to develop an Earth Observations (EO) services sector in Ireland and explore the potential impact of EO data in the areas of climate, agriculture, and the marine. The project is funded by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, and Enterprise Ireland under the Disruptive Technology Innovation Fund.

Many parts of Ireland have experienced significant flooding events in recent months, with flooding following Storm Ciarán, Storm Debbie, and Storm Babet badly affecting residents and businesses, in particular, in the west and south-west of the country.

Flooding in Ireland is certain to worsen in the coming years due to climate change. According to environmental experts and researchers, increasing concentrations of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere are now leading to more intense precipitation events during winter, worse floods in historically vulnerable areas, as well as in areas that never flooded previously.

The Irish Fiscal Advisory Council has warned that extreme flooding events resulting from climate change could cost the State around €500m each year by the end of the decade. However, the report also estimates that a one-in-ten-year flooding event in Dublin could cost the Exchequer up to €2.9bn with more than 14,500 properties at risk.

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