Our research

The research behind these activities encompasses maths, computer modelling and earth systems science. With its partner agencies, the University of Reading is one of the world’s leading centres for research to identify and predict the hazards we will face as a result of climate change.

Typically flooding occurs when there’s too much water and it has nowhere to go, generally if there is no rain then it is very unlikely to flood. Under specific conditions, you may get groundwater flooding, flash flooding or perhaps coastal flooding from storm surge.

But predicting where, when and how severe floods will be remains difficult. So that we can predict floods we need to know when and where it will rain, or when the snow is melting and how this water moves through, and under, the landscape to rivers, and eventually downstream to places where people live and work. This is very much the interest of the Water@Reading research group. This group covers a broad range of topics from forecasting and early warning of floods and droughts, satellite applications for hydrology through to working with communities and science communication.

We work with the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) to study global weather forecasting. This is the home of the European Flood Awareness System, EFAS, that delivers early flood warnings to many authorities in Europe. This work has had a real impact; we are now better prepared for floods, work that has now extended to helping humanitarian aid response to extreme weather events with its Global Flood Awareness System (GloFAS). Working with ECMWF’s data store and super computers allows us to provide a whole range of predictions that can communicate the forecast uncertainty so we can say which scenarios are most likely to happen and also understand what the worst case could be. This helps to evaluate the risks and make more informed decisions about whether we should evacuate a whole village or shut a floodgate.

The University of Reading has an international reputation for environmental research and action in Partnering for the Planet but this is just one of four themes that make up the University’s research portfolio.