See how rainfall levels can now be measured more accurately via adapted mobile base stations to support more-accurate weather forecasts.

In its newly-released State of the Climate report, the World Meteorological Organisation recognizes extreme weather events as the “new norm”, inciting even greater urgency to address the impact of climate change.

Early flood warnings, weather predictions and accurate rainfall readings are therefore critical in water resource management and disaster preparedness. The problem is that traditional rain gauges are often spaced too far apart to collect detailed data. In the tropics, rainfall can be difficult to quantify and forecast due to its great variances over space and time.

Having a greater variety and density of data sources can make modelling more accurate, and predictions more precise. In the Netherlands and Germany, projects have been successfully undertaken to tap on ubiquitous mobile base stations as “opportunistic” rainfall sensors that obviate the cost and resources of installing more rain gauges.

The rainfall data provided by the base stations relates only to signal strength, and does not contain any personal or customer data.

Opportunistic rainfall measurement

Recently, this cost-effective approach was announced by Singapore’s Hydroinformatics Institute (H2i) and telco StarHub for rainfall monitoring pilot to be launched in Q2 2022 in the island’s south-western district.

The solar-powered StarHub mobile base stations around the island can be adapted to supply rainfall data 24/7.

The two firms will mine data on the impact rain has on mobile signal strength levels to provide the country’s public utilities agency with an additional source of rainfall intensity to improve forecasting and national preparedness for heavy rains across the island.

If successful, the project could be extended to the Proof-of-Value stage and cover more of the island, and eventually lead to a full national roll-out. This is the first time that such a system is being trialed in Singapore.

Explained the project’s principal investigator Dr. Keem Munsung, an H2i radar specialist: “The large network of (solar powered) base stations outnumber existing rain gauges, cover a much wider area than weather radar networks, and collect data around the clock. The beauty of this solution is that we get ready data that enhances information from existing rain measurement systems without the need to create additional infrastructure or make additional investments. The data will simply be further mined using machine learning, and then translated into rainfall intensity insights that can be visualized on a dashboard.”

According to StarHub CEO Chong Siew Loong, the collaboration to “expand the use of our existing signal attenuation data for an important and meaningful purpose” can “help Singapore to become more green and sustainable. Beyond staying committed to our climate goals, we are glad that our technology and infrastructure can make a palpable difference to build a safer environment for all.”