Mobile phone towers that predict floods

New software turns mobile phone masts into weather stations
New software turns mobile phone masts into weather stations

The mobile phone network could help to predict the location of the heaviest rainfalls- and thus the most damage from storms and floods.

Scientists at Tel Aviv University have found a reliable new way to help predict the intensity of the next big flood, using mobile phone towers.

Their software, which analyses mobile phone signals, can give weather forecasters accurate information over a much wider area than ever before.

Water good idea

Mobile phone towers emit radio waves that are absorbed by moisture in the air, a factor that can be used to improve warnings of flood levels. "By monitoring the specific and fluctuating atmospheric moisture around phone towers, we can cheaply, effectively and reliably provide a more accurate 'critical moisture distribution' level for fine-tuning predictions of big floods," says geophysicist Professor Pinhas Alpert.

In addition, the researchers were able to accurately estimate the size of impending floods before they struck. "Accurate predictions of flooding were difficult before because there haven't been enough reliable measurements of moisture fields in remote locations," says Alpert.

If data from multiple mobile phone networks could be used, the scientists say that it could help with the bigger picture of understanding climate change patterns in general.

Because hundreds of thousands of mobile phone towers are already in place, the Tel Aviv University invention can potentially be adopted quickly.