State-of-the-art Visual Analysis Increases Flood Protection Options

The impact of flood barriers during times of flooding can now be assessed in a shorter time and even better than before. This is enabled by the current further development of a sophisticated Visual Analysis System providing emergency systems with important assistance in making decisions at times of severe flooding. The further development – like the Visual Analysis System itself – was made possible by funding from the FWF, among other sources, and is now being presented in an international specialist journal. This innovation enables emergency services to use scarce time and computer resources more efficiently, resulting in improved protection measures.

Visual Analysis Fights Flooding. © Jürgen Waser

Computer simulations are an efficient way of optimising decisions. In order for emergency services to be able to use them as well, a team headed by Prof. Eduard Gröller and Dr. Jürgen Waser at VRVis Forschungs GmbH has been working for quite a while on the use of simulations and visualisations to support flood management measures. This led to the inception of the Visdom software system, which provides support with the positioning, structure and impact of flood barriers. The crucial aspect: Visdom does not require a computing centre, but can be used on handy end devices directly at the flood locations. Thanks to the continuous further development of Visdom, the team has now succeeded in achieving an important innovation.

Analyse Wise

The background to the innovation is that complex computations can tie up valuable resources, especially in crisis situations where time is of the essence. Consequently, Prof. Gröller's team at VRVis Forschungs GmbH developed a new feature for Visdom and is now presenting it in an international journal. "It is a fact that many simulations reach unacceptable values for certain parameters long before they have completed their run. In this case, further computations are no longer expedient. But recognising these values – in stressful crisis situations – is a great challenge. This is why we have developed so-called Run Watchers", explains Prof. Gröller. Run Watchers are predefined criteria that are automatically applied to each time step of the simulation. Values remaining below are signalled by a green or yellow colour code. If the critical value is reached, Run Watchers issue a red colour signal. At the same time, it is possible – if desired – to automatically terminate the run of this simulation.

A specific scenario would be to compute the impact of a flood barrier on the surrounding water level, for example. It is important here to compute the expected course of the flood over hours or days. If the simulation shows that this particular barrier has a negative impact after only a few hours of simulated time, this is signalled immediately by the corresponding Run Watcher. The simulation is automatically – or manually – terminated and an alternative scenario can immediately be computed.

International Collaboration

In developing the Run Watchers, Prof. Gröller's team not only relied on theoretical considerations in their computations, but collaborated closely with the Flood Control Centre in Cologne and the Institute of Hydraulic Engineering and Water Resources Management at the Vienna University of Technology (Prof. Blöschl). As Dr. Jürgen Waser, coordinator and Senior Scientist of the Visdom project, commented: "Experts in flood management provided us with constructive and critical feedback on our development. The system overall was considered to be very helpful. There were suggestions as to how certain visualisations could be optimised to summarise possible decision options. These will now be implemented." In fact, over and above this, the Flood Control Centre also showed an interest in a joint further development on a commercial basis.

Visdom's high level of practical application is rooted in several fundamental projects of the Austrian Science Fund FWF on the simulations and visualisations employed. Further funding from the Vienna Science and Technology Fund then enabled these projects to be developed further into systems that are now optimally customised to the requirements of the emergency services. In this way, science and research are making a tangible contribution to improving the protection of the population in flood-prone regions.

Original publication: Run Watchers: Automatic Simulation-Based Decision Support in Flood Management. A. Konev, J. Waser, B. Sadransky, D. Cornel, R. A.P. Perdigão, Z. Horváth and M. E. Gröller. IEEE Transactions on visualization and computer graphics. Vol. 20, No. 12, pp 1873 – 1882. Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/TVCG.2014.2346930


Scientific contact
Prof. Eduard Gröller
VRVis Zentrum für Virtual Reality und Visualisierung Forschungs-GmbH
Donau-City-Strasse 1
1220 Vienna, Austria
T +43 / 1 / 58801 - 18682
E groeller(at)

Austrian Science Fund FWF
Marc Seumenicht
Haus der Forschung 
Sensengasse 1
1090 Vienna, Austria
+43 / (0)1 / 505 67 40 - 8111

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