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Prediction of floods and other hydrometeorological events relies on hydrological and meteorological forecast models that numerically solve the basic equations that describe the hydrological cycle in the atmosphere. These predictions are based on observational measurements, for example of rainfall and river flow. In recent years, the quantity and complexity of the tools and data sets has increased dramatically for three reasons:

  • remote sensing observations from satellites and from ground-based radars that provide complete three-dimensional coverage of the atmospheric and land surface state, vastly increasing the quantity of data;
  • ensembles forecasting methods, that combine multiple numerical weather prediction and hydrological models through stochastic downscaling techniques to quantify the uncertainty in the forecast, multiplying the computational costs;
  • increasing recognition of the need to understand the entire forecasting chain, from observations through to civil defence response, resulting in complex workflows able to combine different data sets, models and expertise in a flexible manner.

HMR fields
  Click on the image to enlarge

Hydro-Meteorological Research (HMR) is closely linked to operational forecasting. Researchers rely on data archives maintained by operational agencies and increasingly make use of operational modeling tools. However these data sets and tools are the property mainly of national agencies are often not easily obtainable at a European level. A second major underpinning for research is ad hoc collections of data from field campaigns and experimental instruments. Such non-standard data can be difficult to locate and can only be exploited with detailed meta-information describing when, where and how the data was collected.

Scattered data

The scattering of hydrometeorological data tools among national and ad hoc collections is a substantial barrier to progress in research. On the one hand, weather systems freely cross national boundaries, and national archives of limited use. This has long been recognised in meteorology, and indeed the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) effectively coordinates international exchange of much meteorological data. Unfortunately this does not include much of the high resolution data required for hydrometeorological research. On the other hand, the chaotic nature of the atmosphere requires large numbers of events must be considered in order to develop robust forecasting methods, especially when the most damaging extreme events are targeted.

The need for large data sets and complex numerical models is not unique to hydrometeorological research. Under the name e-science, a number of initiatives have been undertaken to provide the needed Information and Computing Technology (ICT) infrastructure, including EGEE (Enabling Grids for E-sciencE), SEE-GRID-SCI (South East Europe -GRID e-Infrastructure for regional e-Science), and the German C3-Grid.

The substantial investment in e-science has so far had little impact on hydrometeorological research. The goal of DRIHMS is to systematically build a bridge between the HMR and ICT communities; to identify requirements of HMR users and match them to capabilities of the newly developed ICT infrastructure.

The methodology of DRIHMS is to convene two small meetings of expert groups, involving the proposers and invited experts, in the first case from the HMR community, and secondly from the ICT sector. The work of these groups will be supplemented by surveys and questionnaires, where input from the broader communities is sought, leading to a draft version of a white paper delineating a new strategy for Grid and other e-science technologies in hydrometeorology. An open conference will be organized, supplemented by web-based communication, to discuss the results of the consultation phases and the draft version of the white paper with the stakeholders.

Finally a public open conference will present the DRIHMS white paper to the scientific community, so that specific projects can be initiated to implement the strategy.

DRIHMS is organized by two leading institutions from each of HMR and ICT, but is driven by a broader group of hydrometeorological researchers, as evidenced by accompanying letters of support. DRIHMS is a first but vital step towards a new paradigm for hydrometeorological research, and being driven by specific needs of the user community, represents the best path towards adoption and exploitation of the developing e-science infrastructure by this community.