New research shows that seismometers (earthquake sensors) can also correctly detect floods, which means that they could work as part of early warning systems.
The finding was part of a study of the July 2021 Ahr Valley disaster, where a flood claimed the lives of 200 people in the German community. Researchers found that the seismometer station close to the area recorded some info about the flood.
It is the hope that adding the device to flood warning systems could help prevent flood deaths and damage because of more speedy responses.
“If the data stream from that station had been available and analysed as our research now shows, essential real time information on the magnitude and velocity of the flood would have been available,” Michael Dietze, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Göttingen and the study’s lead author said.
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Although this is the first research arguing for the case of seismometers being used to detect flood signals, others believe that it could really play a key role in the future. Given that the recorded rainfall has increased recently, it may be time to use better equipment to save lives.
Dietze explained that existing water level stations may not be enough to prepare us for future flooding events. However, existing earthquake sensors could be a true game changer. In addition, seismometers are built to record data from ‘safer distances’, unlike hydrological stations, which were knocked off their foundations during the Ahr river flood of 2021 because of their closeness.
Early warning is just a part of natural disaster safety, as well. So, it is important that experts study how the event is happening. Seismometers can help read more than just water levels, as they can also estimate the flood velocity and what it is carrying along its raging path.
This research is timely as the whole world is facing serious flooding crisis, all at once. We will need all the help we can get in saving lives.
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