Global prediction of extreme floods in ungauged watersheds

Grey Nearing*, Deborah Cohen, Vusumuzi Dube, Martin Gauch, Oren Gilon, Shaun Harrigan, Avinatan Hassidim, Daniel Klotz, Frederik Kratzert, Asher Metzger, Sella Nevo, Florian Pappenberger, Christel Prudhomme, Guy Shalev, Shlomo Shenzis, Tadele Yednkachw Tekalign, Dana Weitzner, Yossi Matias

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Floods are one of the most common natural disasters, with a disproportionate impact in developing countries that often lack dense streamflow gauge networks1. Accurate and timely warnings are critical for mitigating flood risks2, but hydrological simulation models typically must be calibrated to long data records in each watershed. Here we show that artificial intelligence-based forecasting achieves reliability in predicting extreme riverine events in ungauged watersheds at up to a five-day lead time that is similar to or better than the reliability of nowcasts (zero-day lead time) from a current state-of-the-art global modelling system (the Copernicus Emergency Management Service Global Flood Awareness System). In addition, we achieve accuracies over five-year return period events that are similar to or better than current accuracies over one-year return period events. This means that artificial intelligence can provide flood warnings earlier and over larger and more impactful events in ungauged basins. The model developed here was incorporated into an operational early warning system that produces publicly available (free and open) forecasts in real time in over 80 countries. This work highlights a need for increasing the availability of hydrological data to continue to improve global access to reliable flood warnings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)559-563
Number of pages5
Issue number8004
StatePublished - 21 Mar 2024
Externally publishedYes


FundersFunder number
European Commission


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