Frequently Asked Questions on EFAS and the information EFAS provided during the flood events affecting the Rhine and Meuse river basins
In view of the numerous questions received in relation to EFAS and the recent flood events affecting the Rhine and Meuse river basins, a Frequently Asked Questions document has been prepared outlining the main aim of EFAS and what information was provided by EFAS during these flood events.
What information did EFAS provide in relation to the recent flood events affecting the Rhine and Meuse river basins?
On 9 and 10 July, flood forecasts by the European Flood Awareness System (EFAS) of the Copernicus Emergency Management Service indicated a high probability of flooding for the Rhine River basin, affecting Switzerland and Germany.
The following day, subsequent forecasts also indicated a high risk of flooding for the Meuse River basin, affecting Belgium. The magnitude of the floods forecasted for the Rhine River basin increased significantly in this period.
The first EFAS notifications for the Rhine River basin were sent to the relevant national authorities starting on 10 July. The first EFAS notifications for the Meuse River basin were sent to the relevant national authorities starting on 12 July. With the continuously updated forecasts, more than 25 notifications were sent for specific regions of the Rhine and Meuse River basins in the following days until 14 July.
When, and on which basis does EFAS issue flood notifications?
EFAS produces twice-daily updated hydrological predictions for riverine and flash floods across Europe. These are analysed by trained hydrologists and, based on standardised criteria, EFAS flood forecast information, called ‘EFAS flood notifications’, are issued.
EFAS flood notifications are issued based on the type of flooding (e.g. riverine or flash flood), its probability of exceeding specific notification criteria (e.g. probability for the predicted river discharge to exceed a 5-year return period) and other criteria such as the size of the river.
What type of information is contained in EFAS flood notifications?
EFAS flood notifications contain an indication of the potentially affected larger region or river/tributary section and a very short and basic information on the predicted probabilities to exceed a certain flood return period. Furthermore, there is an advisory message to follow a link to access the more detailed, regularly updated flood forecast information displayed in the EFAS web portal. An example of a typical flood notification is shown below:
What are the usual next steps after EFAS has sent a flood notification?
Once an EFAS notification has been received, the relevant national authority is advised to connect to the EFAS map viewer for a more detailed forecast information, and to analyse the situation together with the available national or local early warning information, to decide on the next actions.
Who receives EFAS flood notifications?
EFAS flood notifications are sent out to all the “EFAS partners” (see here for a list of EFAS partners: ) in the potentially affected river basin and the European Response and Coordination Centre (ERCC), the heart of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, in order to create early awareness on the high risk of flooding in the coming days. An ‘EFAS partner’ is any national, regional or local authority with a legal obligation to provide flood forecasting services or that has an institutional mandate in flood risk management within its territory. In the case of trans-national river basins, EFAS notifications are also shared with national authorities that might not be immediately affected by the forecasted flood (e.g. EFAS notifications for the German section of the Rhine are always also shared with the relevant Dutch and Belgian authorities). EFAS notifications related to flash floods are only sent to the relevant national or regional authority.
Are EFAS flood notifications available to the public?
EFAS notifications are not aimed at warning the public as the notifications contain expert information that should be combined with the relevant available national and local information to provide the best possible basis for decision making.
To respect the national competence for warnings and the single-one-voice warning principle, EFAS Flood notifications and other related forecast information cannot be shared publicly unless the relevant national authority decides to share the information.
Archived EFAS forecast data including an overview of EFAS flood notifications (e.g. ) and a list of all flood notifications indicating the river section or region, the lead time, the forecast date and the main affected country are publicly available after 30 days. (example:
Are EFAS Flood Notifications without any obligation?
Yes. EFAS notifications aim at providing complementary forecast information. The relevant national authority may or may not use the provided forecast information, and is likely to also take into account other information in deciding on any measures to be taken.
Does EFAS monitor what is being done after the notification has been issued?
EFAS monitors the flood situation but does not monitor actions taken by national authorities based on EFAS flood forecast information or national warning system information, as such actions fall outside EU competence.
Does EFAS request acknowledgement of receipt from the relevant authorities once a notification has been received?
Partners who receive an EFAS Flood notification are not requested to send acknowledgement of receipt. In a flood situation, forecasting and emergency response authorities are extremely busy with processing and integrating all relevant information coming from a variety of sources and usually only reply to notifications if further questions arise. Regular feedback on EFAS flood notifications is requested in the aftermath of an event to continuously adapt and improve the system.
Does EFAS forecast floods only for large rivers?
EFAS aims at predicting floods for large rivers and their tributaries but provides as well flash flood predictions for smaller scale rivers. In the case of the Meuse and Rhine river flood events both, predictions for the large scale river sections of the Rhine and Meuse as well as the flash flood predictions for many of the small scale tributaries of these river basins indicated a high probability of flooding or flash flooding, respectively.
Are EFAS forecasts precise and reliable?
EFAS does not make any claims as to the completeness of the information provided. On the contrary, EFAS forecasts are complementary to national warning and information systems, and it is the competence of national or regional / local competent authorities to draw the necessary conclusions from all available information.
EFAS is a European scale forecasting system that aims to provide additional forecast information at the larger scale (river basin wide, European scale) including flash floods and with longer forecast horizons then most national systems to raise early awareness about the risk of flooding. The reliability of EFAS forecasts are assessed using a number of different technical skill scores that are published and available on the website and the map viewer.
General info about EFAS, the Copernicus Emergency Management Service and early warning
What is EFAS?
The European Flood Awareness Systems (EFAS; www.efas.eu) of the Copernicus Emergency Management Service (CEMS; https://emergency.copernicus.eu/) is the first operational pan-European flood forecasting and monitoring system. EFAS provides a wide range of complementary early flood forecasting information based on models, satellite and in-situ data, to support national and regional authorities with flood risk management duties in arranging preparatory measures before an event strikes. In addition, EFAS provides a unique overview across Europe and neighbouring countries on currently observed and forecasted flood events.
Why and when was EFAS founded?
In 1999 the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission started a research study for a European scale flood forecasting system (EFFS) in collaboration with national authorities and experts from different Member States.
The disastrous floods in Elbe and Danube rivers in 2002 confronted the European Commission with non-coherent flood warning information from different sources and of variable quality, complicating planning and organisation of aid. The EFFS, developed at the JRC, provided successfully ad-hoc simulations of the ongoing floods and a forecast on how the flood waves could be expected to travel down the Danube river.
In response to this event and following a Communication of the Commission on the Elbe and Danube floods, the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission was assigned with the task to further develop EFFS into a fully operational, European-wide flood forecasting model. The first developments towards such a European Flood Awareness System (EFAS) were initiated in 2003, together with experts from Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, and Slovakia and using forecasts from the German weather service.
In 2004 a collaboration agreement with ECMWF was signed, allowing the JRC to also incorporate ECMWF ensemble prediction data and its higher resolution deterministic forecast into EFAS in real-time.
From 2005 to 2010 EFAS was tested in real-time mode, together with the newly established EFAS partner network, consisting of national and regional flood forecasting authorities, and later also with the European Civil Protection.
In 2011 EFAS became part of the Copernicus Emergency Management Service initial operations and in support to European Civil Protection. The operational components have been outsourced to Member State organisations.
EFAS is running fully operational since autumn 2012.
What other services relevant for flood risk management are available under CEMS
The rapid mapping component of the Copernicus Emergency Management Service (CEMS) provides mapping products based on satellite imagery and is usually activated for a certain area by an authorised user (typically regional/national authority responsible for civil protection). For this event,_ the rapid mapping component of CEMS is providing critical flood maps and damage assessment since 13 July for the floods in Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland. An EFAS based pre-tasking of the rapid mapping component was launched on 14th July for the Upper and Lower part of Rhine Basin and on 15th July for the Meuse River basin in order provide timely flood observations to the civil protection authorities. All mapping products can be found at this link: https://emergency.copernicus.eu/mapping/ems/copernicus-emergency-management-service-forecasts-notifies-and-monitors-devastating-floods
Who is responsible for preventing, preparing and responding to natural and man-made disasters in EU Member States?
The primary responsibility for preventing, preparing for (including early warning and public warning), and responding, to natural and man-made disasters lies with the Member States.
On what basis is the European Commission supporting Member States in the field of early warning?
Art. 8 (c) of the of the Regulation 2021/836 amending Decision No 1313/2013/EU on a Union Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM) has attributed a mandate to the European Commission in the field of EWS to complement and support the work of the Member States developing, e.g. transnational detection and early warning systems, such as the European Flood Awareness System, mainly for transboundary floods.