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Wireless rainfall reporting system could help predict landsllides accurately: researchers

Taipei, Aug.26 (CNA) A Taiwanese research team has developed a wireless rainfall reporting system that could help authorities issue more precise mudslide warnings and prevent a recurrence of recent tragedies in which mountain villagers were buried alive by unexpected landslides.
In describing the system Wednesday, researchers said the automatic rain measuring and reporting system can be deployed and maintained easily in remote mountainous regions at a relatively low cost.
Taiwan currently still relies on volunteers to report rainfall levels recorded at various precipitation gauge stations, which meteorologists then use to issue landslide warnings.
"The new system does not need humans to operate it. It can easily transmit rainfall information back to the central control system or the Central Weather Bureau," King Chung-ta, a professor in National Tsinghua University's Department of Computer Science said Wednesday.
King, who played a key role in the development of the wireless rain gauge reporting system, said the system can also be linked up with Google Maps or Microsoft's Sensor Map to display real-time rainfall data at specific locations.
The key to the system lies in using multi-hop transmission technology to overcome the possible inaccessibility of mobile phone services, King explained.
"Aided by multi-hop routing, the system can deliver rainfall data to a base station where the data can be turned into short messages for delivery to the central control center to help it more accurately forecast landslides," King explained.
Because the equipment and the installation cost of the new system are both cheaper than the cost of setting up a traditional precipitation collection station, King argued that the new system should be deployed extensively in the 1,500 areas around Taiwan vulnerable to mudslides.
"By so doing, we can collect more comprehensive rainfall data to help local meteorologists make more precise weather forecasts and mudslide alerts," King said.
That would prevent having hundreds of people buried alive in mudslides in remote mountainous villages as occurred earlier this month in Kaohsiung County after Typhoon Morakot dumped a staggering amount of rainfall in the area.
While the Central Weather Bureau accurately predicted the coming of the typhoon, critics said the brueau fell short of doing a good job in offering timely mudslide alerts in potentially vulnerable areas.
The research team, composed of researchers from National Tsinghua University and Feng Chia University, began developing the system three years ago with funding from the Ministry of Economic Affairs.
King said the team has developed a prototype which has proven effective in trials on the Feng Chia University campus and at other outdoor locations.
"We hope the government can cooperate with the industrial sector to mass produce this new equipment and deploy it extensively to enhance the accuracy of landslide warnings," he said, adding that the cost for mass producing the device is estimated at no more than NT$2,000 (US$60.6) per piece.
(By Sofia Wu)

Updated : 2021-04-19 19:38 GMT+08:00