PP5: WISP (Weather impact ‘What-If?’ Scenario Portal)

Summary

The overall aim of this Programme Package is to develop a knowledge network and an interactive tool-kit via the internet for integrating the range of outputs from the various programme packages. The web portal will provide the facility for mapping possible future extreme weather events in a range of scenarios, and to evaluate and present a range of coping methods.

This Programme Package provides an integral activity because the mapped output will serve as an essential tool for raising awareness of extreme weather event impacts during and beyond the lifetime of the project; for engaging stakeholders in the wider CREW research programme; and for delivering a tailored, operational tool to meet end-users requirements in preparing for a more resilient community.

Rationale

The overall aim of this Programme Package is to develop a prototype web-portal (WISP) for mapping likely current and future extreme weather events and their impacts in order to develop and support improved local community resilience.

In the UK, extreme weather events (EWEs) are increasing in frequency and severity. The wider community, ranging from individuals and households through to policy makers, must be aware of their exposure to the effects of EWEs, on the disruption that EWEs can bring, and have in place contingency plans to help an immediate recovery and to secure longer term survival. Consequently, in order to cope effectively with EWEs, evidence on the probability and the impact of the EWEs will need to be provided and delivered in an accessible format and medium (i.e. the internet).

This Programme Package provides an integral activity because the mapped output will serve as an essential tool for raising awareness of EWE impacts during and beyond the lifetime of the project; for engaging stakeholders in the wider CREW research programme; and for eventually delivering a tailored, operational tool to meet end-users requirements in preparing for a more resilient community.

The development of a web-portal, i.e. specifically using the Internet, for serving and disseminating model output is relevant to the growing expectation and realisation that the Internet is a powerful medium, and becoming de facto, for information exchange and sharing of knowledge.

Objectives

  • To identify end-user-driven design specifications for an operational GIS tool for mapping extreme weather events and impacts
  • To assess the feasibility for producing a UK-wide GIS-based web portal for mapping all extreme weather events modelled within SWERVE (PP4)
  • To integrate socio-economic impact modelling (PP3) with a GIS framework for facilitating and evaluating ‘what-if’ scenarios

Methodology

Workpackage 5.1 – Scoping of the GIS mapping tool

A systematic identification of existing data and models, provided in Programme Packages PP3 and PP4, will form the basis for physically collating example model output for presenting ‘mock’ EWE web-mapping products. End-user requirements for GIS tool design will be determined through an iterative process of presentation and feedback based on regular Stakeholder Assemblies throughout the project lifetime (see overall programme GANTT).

At the first Stakeholder Assembly (Month 6), the initial ‘mock’ products will be presented to elicit a steer for a first working prototype tool for modelling and displaying all EWEs modelled in SWERVE (PP4).

Workpackage 5.2 – GIS mapping tool development (WISDOM)

A draft GIS-based tool will be delivered in Month 15, based on the scoping exercise in 5.1., the model will also integrate early elements of the socio-economic impact modelling. Further feedback on required developments will be sought in conjunction with the other Programme Packages through stakeholder interviews and feedback.

Beyond the second Stakeholder Assembly (Month 15), the progress of the GIS portal will reflect ongoing collaborative development with the socio-economic and health impact modelling in PP3. A second expanded tool will be delivered in Month 21, and a third, final version in Month 30. Subsequent end-user feedback will not lead to further physical developments within the project lifetime, but will serve to provide the basis for reporting a comprehensive, end-user-driven design specification for a GIS-based impact scenario tool; this will also include issues of data availability, licensing and logistics for nationwide coverage, and any relevant findings relating to the feasibility for an operational system (which are intended to be delivered beyond the current project).

A GIS-based interface will be developed for accessing maps of future EWE scenarios, and to allow stakeholders to run a wide range of ‘what-if?’ scenarios to assess the likely impacts of different future weather events on the local community. This will be generic mapping tool, called WISDOM (a GIS-based What-If? Scenario Model) and will be developed to underpin a web-based portal version. WIDSOM will be developed in close collaboration with PP3 and PP4, in terms of accessing the underlying weather event models; and with PP1 and PP2 to determine its usefulness and effectiveness to stakeholders. During its development WISDOM will be engineered in order to investigate the feasibility of running it operationally via a web-portal, called WISP (described later).

WISDOM will have a customised GIS-interface to allow users to select and extract subsets of spatial data for their area of interest and to carry out basic mapping of extreme weather events as well as their impacts on the local community. During the project, at least one sector will be used to develop a case study example (e.g. insurance), and will be limited to a specific geographic areas, for example, 4-5 south-east London districts. WISDOM will have the potential to be developed, beyond this current project, into a series of stakeholder/sector-facing products (e.g. insurance, utilities, the Environment Agency, emergency services, etc.).

WISDOM will deliver the following output:

  • 1. Single event mapping: maps will have been produced from the models in PP4 (e.g. weather: precipitation, temperature, evapotranspiration, and; events: flooding, heatwaves, subsidence, wind, and lightning). These will be collated centrally and made available to the end-user via an interface that will display the magnitude and probability of an event. The spatial resolution of the maps will be constrained to peer-accepted limits. Other event models could be added beyond the current project.
  • 2. Event probability mapping: in collaboration with WP3/PP4, the format of the presented data will be determined to convey the uncertainty in predictions in a meaningful way to the end-user, either using a ‘traffic-light’ system: red=extreme, amber=moderate, green=low; or a more continuous graduation (e.g. percentiles).
  • 3. Combined event probability mapping: will be achieved my taking the output from WP3/PP4 and gaining iterative developmental feedback from periodic stakeholder engagement.
  • 4. ‘What-if?’ scenario modelling: potential end-users will be involved in determining a common set of questions that might be posed, whilst identifying improbable scenarios. The interface will limit scenario combinations to these options in the first instance, but the fundamental design of the software will allow more scenarios to be added in the future. This will be carried out in close collaboration with the wider Project Programmes[1].
  • 5. Reports: automatically-generated summary reports will be produced based on postcode or postcode sector references. The exact nature of the output will be determined in collaboration with the other Programme Packages and stakeholder feedback.

Workpackage 5.3 – Prototype GIS-based web portal (WISP)

The goal is to deliver the functionality of WISDOM over the internet. However, to do so will rely on the use of emerging technologies that are likely run slowly and present perceived barriers when engaging stakeholders. This is why WISDOM is being developed as an independent interface tool that is guaranteed to run on locally-installed PCs, and allow the stakeholder integration activities set out on other PPs (e.g. in the later stages of PP2 and PP3). WISP will have the same functionality, but will have built-in compatibility to run over the internet; if successful, the stakeholders will use the web-version and not the stand-alone version. In either case, this interaction should not affect the action research outcomes.

The objective of WISP, therefore, is to develop and implement an information system which is web-based – to deliver the functionality of WISDOM to any end-user without the need for specialist software; all that would be needed is internet access and a web-browser. A range of options are available to do this through ‘Spatial Data Infrastructure’ (SDI) and Web Mapping Service (WMS) technology. The advantages of a web-portal would be that any data required to run the models can be stored or accessed via a remote server and need not be held by the end-user. Direct access to underlying data can be prohibited/restricted if necessary.

In parallel with WISP, PP6 will setup a data collation/dissemination portal for the overall project, which will allow up- and downloading of all (digital) project data to a dedicated server. Access to the data will be password protected and available via the web (similar to a Wiki, but with a structured database management system (DBMS) to organise the data and metadata).

The same Server will provide the basis for developing the web-based mapping portal (WISP). Research activities will focus on: data specification and exchange rules; appropriate data structures; the creation of underlying spatial Relational DBMS structures and data dissemination services; and making available (with appropriately restricted access) the gathered products in various formats. Research will be carried out to develop a web-based platform designed to collate, transfer and broadcast pertinent project information both locally and nationally amongst the immediate project partners and to a wider stakeholder audience. This will facilitate information exchange between the various partners and also ensure that the most up-to-date information and data is always available.

The development of the information system will comply with the principles of INSPIRE and the standards of the ‘Open Geospatial Consortium’ (OGC). Further to this, the design will also be aligned with the ‘Global Earth Observation System of Systems’ (GEOSS) initiative. It is anticipated that, where feasible, Weather-WISP will be developed based upon the principles of open-source software technologies (reducing ultimate license costs to a minimum). The whole application and database will be hosted on a Linux dedicated server with full backup and protection.

Examples of Internet resources following this model can be found at Cranfield’s World Soil Survey Archive and Catalogue (Wossac) website http://www.wossac.com/ and SoilScapes viewer (http://www.landis.org.uk/soilscapes).

Workpackage 5.4

As with all Programme Packages, we shall endeavour throughout the project to maintain good written records of all aspects of development, e.g. data specifications and exchange rules, data structures, and systems design protocols, as well as stakeholder feedback on interface design, functionality and efficacy (which will be of use to the researchers engage in geo-technologies and spatial data dissemination). These will then be drawn together in a dedicated writing-up phase in the final three months of the project to produce a technical report for an end-user-based design specification of a GIS web-mapping portal. Material suitable for published outputs, such as journal articles, books, and briefing notes developed both within exploited accordingly.

Deliverables

  • A working prototype GIS-based web portal for mapping all extreme weather events modelled within SWERVE
  • An integrated socio-economic and health impact modelling tool, within the GIS framework, for facilitating and evaluating ‘what-if’ scenarios
  • An end-user-based design specification for a GIS web-mapping portal for mapping extreme weather events and impacts

The WISP web domain has been costed for an initial 10 year licence. The server, along with project data and web software, will physically be located at Cranfield University and will remain secure beyond the initial three year project; this will facilitate long-term plans post-project. To achieve actual post-project usage and development, the CREW consortium propose to seek ongoing funds both during and beyond the lifetime of the immediate project in order to extend both the geographic limits outside the current study area of SE London, and the number of perils used in the ‘what-if?’ scenario modelling. With appropriate resources the web-based portal is planned to provide the basis for an operational model beyond the 3-year research work.

Innovation

The innovation is the development of a web-based tool for mapping extreme weather event impacts by engineering a database service tailored to deliver relevant end-user requirements, integrating the output of community engagement, socio-economic impact modelling, and linking climate-change models for extreme weather event probability mapping.

Many websites provide access only to ‘graphical representations’ of spatial data to the wider public; this data is often immediately out of date given ongoing developments of underlying models. If successful, WISP (PP5) will develop a protected server database, accessible initially to all CREW research establishments, that will allow models to be run via a web-based software interface. The interface will seamlessly retrieve raw data from the various source institutes from across the web (or they can upload it themselves), and will display derived model output to the end user. The interface can protect the raw data owners/originators by restricting or disallowing direct access to it, but providing an innovative system architecture for ensuring that the most up-to-date information/data is always available for use by the models.

The underlying system architecture developed in PP5 will be transferable to other research consortia with similar requirements, advancing the way spatial data is both accessed and manipulated over the Internet.


[1] PP5 will draw upon PP3/PP4 models and use wider CREW information, data and models collated in the central repository managed in PP6 and will ensure that the specifications for this data are clearly defined and compatible for the purposes of delivery. This integration will be the responsibility of the PP5 PI but will be formulated and be agreed by PIs and stakeholders at PMC meetings (or by other agreed mechanisms, e.g. emails or web fora).

Rob Bexley

Researcher and Activist at Various Causes
I'm in constant pursuit of environmental changes that can help keep our planet safe for the long term. Contact me via email at crewweatherextreme@gmail.com

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