Saudi researchers develop a new model for predicting flash floods in the Middle East.
They cripple cities like Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, and take lives each year in the Middle East: flash floods come without warning, and are hard to predict (check out our flash flood survival guide), but now Arab scientists at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia are developing 4D models to predict flash floods, using their very own supercomputer, nicknamed Shaheen. Using detailed ocean models and maps, and water currents from the past, the KAUST researchers hope to predict the future course of circulation patterns, which can foretell where and when flashfloods will strike. This research can be applied to any areas where flash flooding is a risk.
“These regions were not extensively studied. We are working on simulating the circulation of the Red Sea in the next century,” says Ibrahim Hoteit, an oceanographist at KAUST in a Nature article.
Hoteit and his team are combining data from sea surface temperatures and sea levels – data made available from satellites – to make a more complete picture of water currents. Thanks to Shaheen (royal falcon), one of the world’s fastest supercomputers (like 4,000 home PCs combined), the results are expected to give more accurate forecasts of weather patterns in general, in the Middle East.
This research will no doubt influence climate change understanding in the poorly studied region of the Middle East. Some believe that as global warming increases, flash floods will become more dangerous.
See an amateur video of a scary flash flood in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to get an idea of the “power” of a flash flood.
Hoteit at KAUST is also using the same models to predict storms in the Gulf of Mexico.
Flash floods, meanwhile, is a focus of the research in the applied sense. According to data, they killed 100 people in Saudi Arabia alone, and that year caused extensive damage in Sinai, Egypt nearby. KAUST researchers hope their work will lead to an early warning system.
This Green Prophet suggests that the scientists leave politics for the newspapers and work together with Israeli scientists like Colin Price who also have very advanced methodologies for predicting Middle East flash floods, using lightning. Perhaps they already are, and haven’t yet made their collaboration public.