Google is confident the world can do more to prevent the loss of lives during floods, especially with the use of artificial intelligence (AI) which is gaining global prominence now.
The company wants to lead on this front, announcing on May 22 that its Flood Hub platform, which uses AI to analyze atmospheric precipitation and issue weather alerts, will now cover 80 countries worldwide, up from the previous 20. Of these, 23 are African nations.
Google says it has deployed machine learning algorithms on the Flood Hub platform, that helps it provide weather forecasts up to seven days ahead of time. This, it says, will protect 460 million people worldwide.
“The use of AI in flood forecasting holds great potential for the world by reducing flooding risks for the communities that need it most, safeguarding lives and property, and facilitating timely responses by aid organizations in the case of floods,” Yossi Matias, vice-president of engineering, research, and crisis response, told Quartz.
Google said it is expanding flood alerts through its Search and Maps mobile notifications, giving communities critical and timely flood information and allowing them time for precautions.
“Using AI allows us to achieve high accuracy. Our models improve dramatically as they train on more data and we are actively working to enable more quality data in order to cover more at-risk regions in more countries,” Matias said.
He explained that this will help prioritize recovery efforts and ensures adequate assistance for affected individuals in regions that lack basic infrastructure like roads and internet connection.
A 2022 study, published in the Nature Climate Change journal, found the cost of flooding in the US alone will soar from $32 billion (in 2022) to $43 billion in 2050. The annual economic loss from flooding is $30 billion in Asia and $8.2 billion in Europe. In the past 30 years, Africa has lost $14 billion to floods.