Misleading flood information could 'put lives at risk'

The new study, published on Wednesday 15th March in Nature Communications, comes after scientists suggested 2017 could see a third El Niño event in as many years Credit: Reading University

Misleading flood information could be putting lives at risk, a Reading researchers have found.

El Niño data has seen misdirected disaster relief - with early flood risk predictions are often based on the assumption that some regions experience higher rainfall than normal during El Niño events.

However, researchers argue this provides an incomplete picture, and that hydrological data must also be used to fully understand how vulnerable an area is to flooding.

El Niño is a climate cycle in the Pacific Ocean with a global impact on weather patterns. Credit: Reading University

Scientists from the University of Reading analysed billions of river flow data from across the globe, where they were able to more accurately calculate the flood hazard facing people worldwide.

"While a region might be likely to get more rain than normal, whether or not this leads to flooding depends on hydrological factors, too.

“Yet those who have to make decisions based on flood risk currently have little choice but to apply black or white predictions, based typically on just rainfall, to what is a very grey area.

– Rebecca Emerton, hydrometeorologist at the University of Reading