Disaster risk reduction

Early warning systems and emergency response to severe weather

Early warning is a major element of disaster risk reduction. It prevents loss of life and reduces the economic and material impact of disasters. Although based on good science, prediction and technology, effective early warning systems need a people-centred approach tailored to local conditions and to involve a wide range of stakeholders.

Best practice systems have strong linkages and effective communication channels between all of the elements and need to actively involve the communities at risk, facilitate public education and awareness of risks, effectively disseminate messages and warnings and ensure that there is a constant state of preparedness.

The Met Office provides a number of services that help authorities prepare for and respond to emergencies that are caused, or influenced, by the weather. These include:

  • severe weather warnings
  • plume predictions
  • tidal alerts

Linked to these services is advice, available from teams of Met Office forecasters, specialist scientists and advisors, on the interpretation and impact of the weather during an emergency.

An early warning system has been developed in the UK to assist Met Office forecasters in issuing severe weather warnings. Read more on our weather warnings

Operational delivery of hazard based warnings

The Hazard Centre, a forecast production unit within the Met Office, provides specialist forecasts to the UK emergency services and other government departments, as well as to the international community and has continuous operational capability. This enables the Met Office to provide an immediate response to customers requiring meteorological information to deal with a variety of environmental incidents.

The Hazard Centre deals with situations such as:

  • Pollution release and dispersal
  • Ice accretion on power lines
  • Landslides
  • Space weather

Early warnings of severe flooding

The Flood Forecasting Centre is a partnership between the Met Office and Environment Agency to combine meteorology and hydrology expertise into a specialised hydrometeorology service. With a dedicated team located at the Met Office, the FFC are producing flood forecasts that are clearer, more consistent and targeted, giving responders who have roles and responsibilities in handling emergency situations longer lead times and greater accuracy so that they can be better prepared for flooding. This provides people more time to take action to protect themselves and their homes and businesses from flooding.

With this expertise we can work with other Met Services and Hydrology Centres to provide a similar service for effective flood forecasting and warnings.

Read how we deliver early warnings for severe flooding

Food security

Climate scientists are confident that the climate is changing and agree on some of the ways it is changing, such as the increasing global average temperature. But the details of what this means on a local scale and the impacts of those changes on other systems, such as agriculture or markets, are more complex.

Some projections suggest that 100-200 million additional people could be at risk of hunger due to climate change by 2050. So despite uncertainties in the climate science, it's vital that food security planning decisions are based on the available evidence.

Food - Food insecurity and climate change Read more on food insecurity and climate change (PDF, 1 MB)

Our Hadley Centre scientists can provide expert advice on various climate change scenarios providing decision makers with world-leading reports to make well-informed decisions.

Water Stress

The Met Office uses climate models, in conjunction with impact models, to make integrated assessments on the effects of climate change and climate variability on water resources. A key area of work is understanding the role of historical land-use and climate change on water resource availability to make better projections of the impact of future change on water resources.

Water - Adapting to climate-change induced water stress in the Nile Basin Adapting to climate change induced water stress in the Nile Basin (PDF, 360 kB)

Last updated: 10 March 2014

Saving lives on Lake Victoria - Mobile Weather Alert service
The Met Office supported a project led by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), with the Uganda Department of Meteorology and global telecommunications company Ericsson, to set up a Mobile Weather Alert service on Lake Victoria, Africa.