Google AI Can Now Forecast Floods in U.S. and Canada

BY Andrew Rossow

October 10, 2023

In a bid to counteract the devastating impact of increasing global flood events, Google is enhancing its flood prediction tools for users in the U.S. and Canada to address early disaster prevention and effective response. 

According to Google Research, Google’s Flood Hub, a real-time flood prediction AI platform, is poised to deliver enhanced public alerts. Integrated with Google Search and Maps, it offers live flood forecasts and visualizations. This will empower communities and disaster response organizations with timely and critical data, enabling them to take proactive safety measures up to seven days prior to any imminent threat. 

Through the AI tool, Google users can now key in virtually any location globally into the platform to monitor flood risks and strategize emergency response plans.

Floods are the most common natural disaster, causing thousands of fatalities and disrupting the lives of millions every year,” commented Yossi Matias, Google’s Vice President of Engineering and Research. He highlighted AI’s “transformative role” in addressing the effects of climate change, noting that Google is working to build more AI-based predictions and forecasting tools that “provide actionable information” to help people plan ahead and stay safe.

Google’s Flood Hub made its debut in May, serving more than 80 countries, spanning from Africa and Europe to Central and South America. Its primary focus was territories especially vulnerable to flooding, ultimately covering around 460 million global inhabitants. 

Now, with this expansion, over 12 million people across 800 locations in the U.S. and Canada stand to benefit from real-time riverine flood data.

At the core of this forecasting system are two AI models utilizing public data sources:

The Hydrologic Model gauges river water flow, while the Inundation Model anticipates affected regions and potential water levels. This predictive capacity enables Google, along with its partners like the United Nations and local governments, to disseminate alerts up to a week before a potential flood.

Given the ever-mounting global climate challenges, early warning mechanisms are becoming indispensable. As FEMA and the National Flood Insurance Program highlight, even areas previously considered safe from floods aren’t immune.

Google’s commitment to battling climate adversities isn’t just limited to flood predictions. They’re continuously refining their AI-centric environmental tools, including enhanced wildfire alerts and boundary tracking in Google Search and Maps to bolster fire management efforts, Project Greenlight, and Tree Canopy.

Editor’s note: This article was written by an nft now staff member in collaboration with OpenAI’s GPT-4.

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