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Coping with climate variability and its manifestations in the daily weather requires the availability of timely and reliable climate information, as well as up-to-date information on the occurrence and severity of extreme events, possible impacts and their duration. For example, drought-related monitoring and reporting activities provide a baseline of information and provide a barometer of change in climatic conditions that may indicate the inception of drought. Strategic drought monitoring can be achieved using drought indicators. The most frequently encountered parameters of stream droughts are: the lowest stream flow of drought, cumulative water deficiency volume, and drought duration. The two last of them depend on some discharge so called truncation level (threshold flow). A number of criteria are assumed for determining of truncation level. They base either on hydrological premises treating the truncation level as a function of the selected flow characteristics or on economic premises, i.e. ones taking into account the needs of water users. Also water quality parameters are monitored, since composition affects the aquatic environment and the availability of water for different uses. Central government, local governments and water authorities are the most important for monitoring and managing water systems.

Communication systems aid decision makers at all levels in making critical management decisions on climate related human activities, in particular on water resources management. Communication, information sharing, and a contingency plan can thus reduce the impacts extreme climate events. An example is the European Drought Observatory (EDO) developed by JRC. It monitors, assesses and forecasts drought events across Europe. EDO aims to present up to-date drought relevant information such as the monthly updated Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI), daily updated modelled soil moisture anomalies and remote sensing observations on the state of the vegetation cover (i.e. anomaly of the fraction of Absorbed Photosynthetically Active Radiation (fAPAR), Normalized DifferenceWater Index (NDWI)) and one-week soil moisture anomaly forecast. On the other extreme, to improve the ability to predict and manage flood risk, several technical options exists:

  • including installation of a telemetric network and weather and hydrological RADARS;
  • developing Digital Elevation Models (DEM) to identify flood prone areas and analyse the propagation of floods;
  • establishing a monitoring system that provides real-time information on water levels and couple it with data on current precipitation and weather forecasts.

All of these allow for a faster and more precise prognosis of flood events and make an earlier warning to those affected possible. The development of such systems across administrative boundaries is crucial and requires the creation of a single flood reporting system to ensure efficiency. Significant investments for the installation and upgrading of operational flood forecasting systems are already on the agenda of national hydro-meteorological services. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) acknowledges that in many parts of the world forecasting remains the only effective measure which can be realistically implemented to protect life and property in the face of extreme meteorological events.

Enhanced ability to forecast peak discharges remains one of the most relevant non-structural measure for flood protection. Extended forecasting lead times are desirable as they facilitate mitigating action and response in case of extreme discharges. The incorporation of numerical weather predictions (NWP) into a flood warning system can increase forecast lead times from a few hours to a few days. An example of ongoing research and implementation of improved flood predictions is the development of the European Flood Alert System (EFAS). It is developed to increase the preparedness for floods in trans-national European river basins. It provides local water authorities with medium range and probabilistic flood forecasting information 3 to 10 days in advance.

Flood warning lead-times of 3–10 days are achieved through the incorporation of medium-range weather forecasts from the German Weather Service (DWD) and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), comprising a full set of 51 probabilistic forecasts from the Ensemble Prediction System (EPS) provided by ECMWF. Another study researches flash floods in Mediterranean Europe. Flash flooding is one of the most devastating hazards in terms of human life loss and infrastructures. Over the last two decades, flash floods brought losses of a billion Euros of damage in France alone. One of the problems of flash floods is that warning times are very short. Another fundamental monitoring activity is related to heat waves, which were responsible of dramatic mortality and morbidity effects on European populations, for example during summer 2003.

Adaptation Details

IPCC categories
Social: Informational, Structural and physical: Technological options
Stakeholder participation

This category of adaptation options involves public sector at various levels. Stakeholders can be involved at all steps of the monitoring, processing and decision making process. Stakeholders’ role is of crucial relevance for any process leading to a decision with consequences on social and economic systems.

Success and Limiting Factors

The current NWPs fall short of representing the spatial variability of precipitation on a comparatively small catchment. This perhaps indicates the need to improve NWPs resolution and/or disaggregation techniques to narrow down the spatial gap between meteorology and hydrology. Moreover, there is the need both for more theoretical development of flood forecasting systems and a convincing all encompassing strategy for tackling the cascading of uncertainties in an operational framework. Currently, hydrological and hydraulic forecasts based on NWP EPS do not lead to proper probability distributions of any forecast variable. Potential errors must be minimized during design and recognized during data interpretation. All the sources of uncertainty must be adequately taken into consideration for any decision and in some cases uncertainty of forecasts could simply be to high to make use of available models. Coordination between institutions that collect data is necessary and it is not easy to achieve and it is often one of the crucial limiting factors. Evaluations of the effectiveness of monitoring and, in particular, EWS are only rarely available, and are urgently required to inform good practices.

Costs and Benefits

Significant direct benefits typically derive from the combination monitoring, modelling and forecasting systems with EWS. Indirect benefits are associated to the implementation of this option, for example it helps to reduce losses in agriculture caused by droughts. If excessive quantities of certain parameters (e.g. nitrogen) are present or applied in irrigated water, production of several commonly grown crops may be upset because of over-stimulation of growth, delayed maturity or poor quality.

Implementation Time

1-5 years.

Life Time


Reference information


DG ENV project ClimWatAdapt, FP6 project ADAM Adaptation and Mitigation Strategies and DG CLIMA project Adaptation Strategy of European Cities

Published in Climate-ADAPT Feb 10, 2021   -   Last Modified in Climate-ADAPT Dec 12, 2023

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This translation is generated by eTranslation, a machine translation tool provided by the European Commission.