NOAA Provides Expertise for Colombian Extreme Rainfall Early Warning System

September 19, 2007

NOAA scientists recently participated in a workshop in Medellín, Colombia to improve forecasting for the Aburrá Valley, a long and narrow region characterized by very steep, lush terrain. With annual precipitation rates of approximately 1500 mm to 3000+ mm (60 to 120 inches), it is prone to flooding and debris flows, which threaten large numbers of people living along the edges of drainage basins. At the invitation of the Aburrá Valley's Area Metropolitana (the regional environmental and planning authority), Tim Schneider (Earth System Research Laboratory) joined Pedro Restrepo (NWS – Office of Hydrologic Development) and Curt Barrett (NWS – International Activities) to participate in the Medellín workshop on 11-12 September 2007, to share their expertise to help promote and develop an early warning system that will have a direct impact on disaster reduction for the Aburrá Valley region.

Many current NOAA programs seek better understanding of weather and climate on regional scales in order to help mitigate related impacts. Curt Barrett shared information on building early warning systems. Tim Schneider gave an overview of the Hydrometeorological Testbed (HMT) program; NOAA's regionally implemented national testbed strategy to aid flood forecasting and water resource management. Pedro Restrepo spoke about the NOAA – USGS Debris Flow project; a demonstration flashflood and debris-flow early-warning system for recently burned areas in southern California.

Over the coming month, workshop participants will draft terms of reference and implementation plans for an Early Warning System for the Aburrá Valley region. This early warning system could serve to integrate the limited existing infrastructure into a real time network. It also has potential to become a model utilized by the World Bank through a World Bank/NOAA Memorandum of Understanding that has been prepared with this project and similar projects in mind. Participation in this workshop was an opportunity to inform and educate the international community about NOAA's research and regional efforts to improve the availability and quality of weather and water information to benefit society. This activity applies lessons learned from NOAA's Hydrometeorological Testbed to a flood prone region of the world, and serves to solidify a one-NOAA effort through cross line office involvement.

Contact: Tim Schneider