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Preventing flood risks in urban areas: exporting French expertise to Brazil



A new generation weather radar was set up on June 14 in São Paulo, Brazil. Coordinated by the French company NOVIMET in partnership with Irstea, the project aims to improve the management of flood hazards, a major problem for Brazilians. Researchers have had to adapt their forecasting models to climate and urban settings.

With increasing levels of soil impermeability and unplanned urbanization in recognized flood zones, flood risks (flash floods, urban floods and landslides) are on the rise in the Sao Paulo region. To better predict this risk, the French company NOVIMET has developed a new high-tech radar called HYDRIX®, inaugurated in the heart of the Brazilian economic capital with the University of São Paulo (USP) and the Hydraulic Technology Center Foundation (FCTH).

This new generation weather radar is equipped with a patented software called ZPHI®, which enables very small-scale rainfall measurements. When combined with Irstea's flood forecasting models, which have been specially adapted for the occasion, this tool can be used to improve flood risk management in urban areas in Brazil.

Managing risks

In France, the particularly powerful surface runoff that caused over 20 deaths in southeast France in October 2015 and recent severe flooding resulting in significant material damage albeit with a lower death toll serve as reminders of the major challenges facing flood risk management.

Irstea and NOVIMET's partnership in the field of flood risks started in the Alpes-Maritimes, through the development of a tool providing real-time flow predictions using radar-acquired rainfall data. Irstea's forecasting models have been especially adapted to the context of São Paulo. These models are the result of different methods developed by Irstea, methods that have already been tried and tested in France and that are currently used by operational services.

Despite the significant progress achieved in the field, we still need to improve our prevention and forecasting methods and tools. This unprecedented international collaboration [1] between France and Brazil will benefit both countries. The data collected by the new HYDRIX® radar will also be used in future joint projects.

From left to right:

  • Prof. Carlos Augusto Morales (project coordinator)
  • Prof. José Roberto Castilho Piqueira (Director of the USP School of Engineering)
  • Prof. Laerte Sodré Junior (Director of the USP Institute of Astronomy, Geophysics and Atmospheric Sciences)
  • Prof. Ana Cristina Limongi-França (USP Assistant Prorector of Culture and extension activities)
  • Damien Loras (French Consul General in São Paulo)
  • Jacques Testud (CEO of NOVIMET)
  • Prof. Monica Porto (Assistant Secretary of the Department of Sanitation and Water Resources of the State Government of São Paulo)
  • Prof. Vahan Agopyan (Vice President of the University of São Paulo)
  • Prof. Mario Thadeu Leme de Barros (President of the Hydraulic Technology Center Foundation (FCTH) and project coordinator)

Irstea, a Carnot Institute

Certified since 2006 for all of its research activities, Irstea is part of the Carnot Institute network. This label of excellence is awarded by the French Ministry of Education, Higher Education and Research and currently characterizes 34 research institutes. It recognizes the quality of the research carried out in partnership with the public and private socioeconomic sector, with the aim of developing partnered research and promoting knowledge transfer. This partnership with NOVIMET is just one example of many such partnerships.

For further information

[1] Funded by FASEP (educational fund and financial support from the private sector), the French Ministry of Economics and Finance and the Consulate General of France in São Paulo.