Data Assimilation for the REsilient City (DARE)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Reading
Department Name: Meteorology

Abstract

Data assimilation is an emerging mathematical technique for improving predictions from large and complex forecasting models, by combining uncertain model predictions with a diverse set of observational data in a dynamic feedback loop. The project will use advanced data assimilation to combine a range of advanced sensors with state-of-the-art computational models and produce a step-change in the skill of forecasts of urban natural hazards such as floods, snow, ice and heat stress.

The research will use synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data to develop a tool for real-time detection of flooded urban areas. SAR sensors take images from space over a wide area and can see through clouds. The sensors have resolutions as high as 1m, and are able to image flooded streets. However, substantial areas of urban ground surface may not be visible to the SAR due to shadows caused by buildings. Furthermore, shadowed areas may be misclassified as water even if dry. Our new approach is to use a SAR simulator in conjunction with lidar data. The SAR simulator estimates regions in the image in which water will not be visible due to shadow, and masks these out from the ground surface considered, resulting in a more accurate flood extent. This type of information could be used by first responders to monitor vital infrastructure and understand the extent and depth of the evolving flood.

SAR images can also be used to extract water level observations, which may be assimilated into a flood inundation model, to calibrate the system and keep predictions on track. Our recent ground-breaking work demonstrates the possibility of earth-observation-based flood inundation data assimilation and forecasting over a rural area. In this new project we aim to carry out scientific and mathematical studies to increase the flexibility of our flood data assimilation system, so that it can be straightforwardly applied at any location in the UK (including urban areas). For example, the behaviour of the system is expected to change for larger floods, steeper rivers, faster flow etc. In addition, we will develop techniques to derive new types of water level observations from smartphone photographs, traffic and river CCTV cameras, that can also be assimilated to improve predictive skill.

A number of environmental hazards are caused by the weather (e.g., heat stress, high winds, fog). The skill of numerical weather prediction is strongly constrained by the accuracy of the initial data, as estimated by assimilating expensive observations. There are burgeoning sources of inexpensive datasets of opportunity (citizen science, sensor networks etc.) that could be used, however lack of knowledge about natural variability in urban areas hinders uptake of these data. This proposal addresses uncertainty due to urban natural variability in observation-model comparisons, by considering numerical weather prediction models on a range of scales, and observational data with different "footprints". We will apply these results to citizen science automatic weather station data, car temperature sensors and commercial aircraft reports made to air traffic control (used to derive observations of winds and temperature).

The impact of this research will be guaranteed by working with operational providers of flood warnings and weather forecasts (the Environment Agency and Met Office). Commercialization of aspects of the research will be pursued in conjunction with the Institute for Environmental Analytics.

A network of researchers and industry working with digital technology at the "Living with Environmental Change" interface will be formed. This will have a programme of workshops, webinars, training and industry study groups to cross barriers between academic disciplines, creating bridges between academia and industry and providing space for junior and senior researchers to explore ideas. Funded pilot projects will kick-start activities and help define the future research agenda.

Planned Impact

The project will provide new observations and research software tools for short term prediction and real-time detection of flooded urban areas that are expected to benefit the Environment Agency (EA) and EA/Met Office Flood Forecasting Centre (and their Scottish and Welsh equivalents): the UK public agencies responsible for flood risk guidance and management. The research could be developed into decision tools combining forecasts with geographical information to aid preparedness (e.g., protecting an electricity substation) and guide mitigating actions (e.g., deployment of flood alleviation schemes). Real-time information could be used by first responders to understand the extent of the evolving flood. Data assimilation reanalyses should improve estimates of past floods, allowing better design of new flood defences. Satellite information services such as Copernicus Emergency Management Services, and engineering consultants such as CH2M, JBA may also be interested in commercializing aspects of this research.

Our work on characterizing the uncertainty of urban observations will feed into Met Office operations. Current observing networks employed by the Met Office are very expensive (e.g. the satellite data used by the Met Office costs around £2 billion per year, although these costs are shared internationally). The research will provide the underpinning science that is needed for the use of new inexpensive urban observations and thus has potential for reduction in cost of the Met Office observing network in the future. Outcomes from the research will feed into improved public weather service (PWS) forecasts and are expected to promote better decisions along the existing and wide ranging forecast value chain. The 'Public Weather Service Value for Money Review 2015' indicates that the benefits of the PWS to the UK economy are around £1.5 billion per annum and it is impossible to describe all of the sectors affected in this short summary. However, market reports ll be produced during the project to explore and define research questions for new applications of urban meteorology. Some examples relevant to the resilience of urban infrastructure are: better forecasts of fog and high winds would allow better air traffic management; better forecasts of snow and ice would allow transportation managers to target de-icing activities more effectively, and ensure that they are well supplied with materials, equipment and staff at critical times; better forecasts of storms and floods would enable a reduction in damage, reducing costs for the insurance industry; better forecasts of heat stress enable better preparedness for hospitals and public health agencies.

Outcomes from the research will also provide information for policy-makers and their networks such as the London Climate Change Partnership and the UK Natural Hazards Partnership programme. The research will provide evidence for future observing network design and natural hazard modelling strategies, including how to get the best value for money from observations. The project will also produce market reports detailing the needs and opportunities at the digital technology/environment sector interface and road-maps for future research strategy of use to EPSRC and other funders.

The proposed network will feature a range of commercial and public sector partners, and is expected to spin up new partnerships between industry and academia, increasing intellectual capital for UK business and competitiveness in the global economy. Early career scientists will receive training in computer modelling, data assimilation and multi-disciplinary working: skills at the top of the NERC/LWEC "Most Wanted II" list. Public engagement events will aid public understanding and enthusiasm for science, as well as improving personal understanding of what to do when extreme weather hits.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Aston University (DARE project) 
Organisation Aston University
Department Department of Psychology
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Research on data assimilation relating to urban "big data"
Collaborator Contribution Research discussions and attendance at Stakeholder Meetings
Impact Project has only recently begun
Start Year 2016
 
Description CH2M (DARE project) 
Organisation CH2M HILL
Country United States 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Flood forecasting and observation research.
Collaborator Contribution Scientific discussions and stakeholder meetings, access to software and datasets.
Impact Project has only recently begun
Start Year 2016
 
Description Collaboration with DWD 
Organisation German Weather Service
Country Germany 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution WE have visited DWD and hosted a visitor from DWD, exchanged data and software with the DWD and are preparing a jointly authored journal article.
Collaborator Contribution DWD hosted our visit and sent a visitor to us, exchanged data and software and are preparing a jointly authored journal article.
Impact Initial outcomes are a seminar given to DWD. Multidisciplinary: Mathematics and Meteorology.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Collaboration with UK Met Office (DARE project) 
Organisation Meteorological Office UK
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We are working on research relating to the use of urban weather observations, and weather impacts such as flooding.
Collaborator Contribution The Met Office has provided a Linux desktop to access their system, supercomputing facilities, observational data, software and expert staff time for research discussions.
Impact The project has only recently started. Outcomes to date include a project stakeholder board meeting where plans were presented.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Environment Agency (DARE project) 
Organisation Environment Agency
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Research in flood prediction and observations.
Collaborator Contribution Science discussions and board membership
Impact Project has only recently begun.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Farson Digital Watercams 
Organisation Farson Digital ltd
PI Contribution We are carrying out research on flooding using river camera data to evaluate the use of these images in data assimilation.
Collaborator Contribution Farson have provided free access to archived data from 6 river cameras near Tewkesbury.
Impact None yet
Start Year 2017
 
Description Flood Forecasting Centre (FFC - DARE Project) 
Organisation Meteorological Office UK
Department Flood Forecasting Centre
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Research in flood prediction and observations.
Collaborator Contribution Attendance at meetings and scientific discussions.
Impact Project has only recently started
Start Year 2016
 
Description JBA Trust (DARE project) 
Organisation JBA Trust
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Research on flood inundation data assimilation and remote sensing
Collaborator Contribution Attendance at Stakeholder Meetings and scientific discussions, as well as access to proprietary software. Co-supervision and provision of data for Masters Project (summer 2018). Provision of data and co-creation of research for pilot project 2018-19.
Impact Masters thesis Lu (2018) - see publications.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Leeds city council traffic cameras 
Organisation Leeds City Council
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We are carrying out research on flooding using traffic camera data.
Collaborator Contribution Leeds city council have made camera data available to us free of charge.
Impact No outputs yet
Start Year 2017
 
Description London Climate Change Partnership (DARE project) 
Organisation London Climate Change Partnership
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Learned Society 
PI Contribution We are carrying out research relating to urban weather and flooding.
Collaborator Contribution Attendance at stakeholder meetings, and facilitation of knowledge exchange with further stakeholders
Impact The project has only recently started
Start Year 2016
 
Description Satellite Applications Catapult (CORSAIR) 
Organisation Satellite Applications Catapult
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We have been carrying out research on automatic flood delineation using synthetic aperture radar data provided by the Satellite Applications Catapult. Report to the catapult (March 2018)
Collaborator Contribution Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) images were provided under the CORSAIR programme.
Impact Mason, D. C., Dance, S. L., Vetra-Carvalho, S. and Cloke, H. L. (2018) Robust algorithm for detecting floodwater in urban areas using Synthetic Aperture Radar images. Journal of Applied Remote Sensing. doi: 10.1117/1.JRS.12.045011
Start Year 2016
 
Description Transport for London Jam Cams 
Organisation Transport for London
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We are carrying out research using Transport for London "Jam Cams."
Collaborator Contribution The traffic camera data is available open access, and we have been provided with some technical support by TfL to access the data.
Impact None yet.
Start Year 2017
 
Description DA Training - Portugal 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Dance was on the organizing committee for the Workshop on Sensitivity Analysis and Data Assimilation in Meteorology and Oceanography, Meliá Ria Hotel Aveiro, Portugal, 1-6 July 2018. The DARE project provided travel scholarships for 6 students (4 UK, 1 Japan, 1 Brazil) to attend a data assimilation training day held as part of the workshop. Each student wrote a blog for the DARE website.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.morgan.edu/adjoint_workshop
 
Description DARE website and blog 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The DARE website hosts a blog and other generally accessible material about our research and about related work in the Digital Technology/Living with Environmental Change (DT/LWEC) area.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017,2018,2019
URL https://research.reading.ac.uk/dare/
 
Description Tewkesbury Stakeholder Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We held a workshop for landowners of River Camera Sites in the Tewkesbury area including the Environment Agency, The Canal and River Trust, Hampton Ferry, Avon Navigation Trust, and Tewkesbury Marina as welll at the managing director of Farson Digital Ltd (the camera provider). This allowed us to thank the landowners, communicate our research goals, learn their uses for their cameras, as well as to hear about their experience of flood events.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description The Coombes Primary (S-VC 2018) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Sanita Vetra-Carvalho led an interactive outreach day on flooding for two year 3 classes (65 pupils) at The Coombes Primary C of E School in Arborfield, Berkshire on 12th of June 2018. Sanita delivered an hour long lesson on water cycle and floods to the children followed by running an interactive flood games for the children using Flash Flood game and SandBox table provided by the The River Wey Trust.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Year 11 conference (SV-C) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Year 11 students from the Forest School attended a mathematics workshop at the University of Reading. The event included interactive, hands-on activities teaching students about mathematics in different applications, as well as a careers talk about the benefits of studying mathematics at A level and beyond.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017