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Technical Perspective: Progress in Spatial Computing for Flood Prediction

Imagine you are considering buying a long-term place with a view of mountains or ocean. For due diligence, your partner asks about flood risk in the area. FEMA maps show the place is outside the 100-year flood zones (1% annual chance). However, you have heard that climate change is making extreme events more extreme and some places have seen multiple 100-year floods within a few years. Next, you browse information about climate change and its impact. These provide the projected climate change and precipitation (for example, rainfall, snowfall) under different policy scenarios, but not projected flood risk maps. How will you assess long-term flood risks for candidate places? This is an important societal use-case of and a challenging problem in spatial computing.3,4

Flood forecast and risk assessment started as early as Egyptian civilization. The Nile monsoon floods nourished nearby fertile lands but also erased mud-based farm boundaries motivating the invention of land surveying, which was later formalized as geometry and trigonometry across the Mediterranean sea.


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