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The challenge

Accurate streamflow forecasting

The Bureau of Meteorology is Australia's national weather forecasting and flood warning agency, supporting these functions through a range of real-time data and modelling approaches over different time scales.

Reliable streamflow forecasts with lead-times from hours to 5-7 days are critical to manage floods and to optimise river and water resource operations.

Seasonal streamflow forecasts provide information on longer timescales, which is required for understanding effects of climate variation on flows and water demand. This can be used to optimise water management, manage risks, and inform water trading and water futures markets. Seasonal climate and streamflow forecasts can also provide vital information for government to prepare for extreme drought and other crises.

Advances in weather observations and forecasting, particularly for rainfall and hydrological modelling, provide an opportunity to improve accuracy, extend lead times and to quantify uncertainty.

Our response

An innovative approach to streamflow modelling

We have increased the accuracy and precision of short-term, medium-term and long-term streamflow forecasting by developing innovative methods for linking climate and water data, statistical hydrology, weather forecasting, hydrological modelling, and statistical and dynamic models. Many of these methods are being adapted for use in Australia and internationally.

Together with the Bureau, we have developed software, systems and toolkits to translate science to operations for both short-term and seasonal forecasts. These resources integrate new sources of climate and water data, including better forecasts of precipitation and new hydrological modelling and forecasting techniques.

The results

Modelling tools and streamflow forecasts for water management

WIRADA extended the Bureau's capability to deliver event-based flood warnings to continuous streamflow forecasts out to seven days and seasonal forecasting of river flows for months and seasons ahead. These products are readily accessible so water managers, primary producers, emergency planners and other water data users now have the tools and data to make informed decisions based on the latest science.

The streamflow forecasting services are available on the Bureau of Meteorology website:

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