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Significant underestimation of flood risks

In order to better assess flood hazards, hazard maps should include historical data. This is what researchers at the CEDIM – Center for Disaster Management and Risk Reduction Technology at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) are advocating. CEDIM has presented a first report on the flood disaster in Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia. Regarding the role of climate change, the combination of more available water in the atmosphere and increasing persistence of large-scale weather patterns holds an increasing potential for extreme precipitation events.

Last week’s flood disaster claimed more than 170 lives in Germany (as of July 21, 2021). People are still missing. The damage to buildings and infrastructure can only be roughly determined and is in the double-digit billions – of which at least two billion euros alone for transport infrastructure. In the meantime, the German Insurance Association (GDV) has calculated the insured damage to buildings and infrastructure. (GDV) has estimated the insured damage at four to five billion euros in Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia alone. How did the floods, which mainly affected Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia, come about? How can flood hazards – especially rare, extreme events – be better estimated in advance? These are the questions that CEDIM’s Forensic Disaster Analysis (FDA) Group has been addressing, and it has produced its first report.

As the researchers explain, enormous amounts of precipitation led, for example, to the water level at the Ahr (Altenahr) significantly exceeding its previous record of 2016 (3.71 meters, discharge: 236 m³/s). However, due to flooding, the gauging station failed at a value of 5.05 meters (discharge: 332 m³/s). The Rhineland-Palatinate State Office for the Environment used model calculations to calculate a level of up to seven meters for the night of the catastrophe; based on this, the experts estimated a discharge of between 400 and 700 m³/s.

Several factors led to the extremely high precipitation totals

From a meteorological perspective, several factors led to the extremely high precipitation totals. In addition, the highly indented terrain of the affected regions, especially in the district of Ahrweiler, with partly deeply incised river valleys, increased the surface runoff. The already nearly saturated soil due to partly heavy precipitation in the preceding days further aggravated the situation.

 

“Within 48 hours, more rain fell in parts of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate than usually falls there in the entire month of July; the majority even fell within only about ten hours.”

– Professor Michael Kunz, CEDIM Spokesperson

 

To estimate the flooded areas in the hardest-hit areas of Kreis Ahrweiler and Rhein-Erft-Kreis, the research team combined satellite data with aerial photos from (amateur) drones and helicopters, as well as photos from social media. According to these estimated flooded areas, there are just over 19,000 buildings in the affected areas with a value of around nine billion euros. Combined with empirical data from past flood disasters (infrastructure damage, natural hazards, and other damage), the researchers estimated total damage between eleven and 24 billion euros (first CEDIM estimate: July 21, 2021). It should be noted, however, that flooded areas represent only a portion of the total affected area.

More available water in the atmosphere and increasing persistence of large-scale weather patterns increase risk

According to the Karlsruhe disaster researchers, whether a single extreme event or the sequence of several extremes can already be attributed to climate change can neither be precisely proven nor completely denied, especially when it comes to events on short time and spatial scales that are strongly influenced by local factors. However, for the large-scale processes in the atmosphere that lead to the development of extreme events, the following is true: The combination of more available water in the atmosphere as a result of temperature increase and an increasing persistence of large-scale weather patterns with a tending northward shift of the jet stream, the strong wind band in the upper troposphere, has a high hazard potential. “As a positive trend is expected for these three factors, the potential for extreme precipitation events will also increase in the future,” Kunz explains.

Significant flood events in the Ahr Valley as early as 1804 and 1910

“There have already been two particularly significant flood events in the Ahr Valley in the past, in 1804 and 1910, but a comparison with historical records suggests that this year’s values should be classified lower than those of 1804,” says CEDIM deputy spokesperson Dr. James Daniell. For the 1804 flood event, the discharge was already estimated at about 1,100 m³/s by the University of Bonn. This year’s event may have been hydrologically similar in magnitude to the 1910 event with a discharge of 500 m³/s. “The current flood maps for the Ahr valley are currently based on discharge statistics with data since 1947, as homogeneous measurement series have been available since that time. However, this means that the two historical events have not yet been taken into account in the hazard assessment,” says Dr. Andreas Schäfer, lead author of the report. For example, the current estimate of a hundred-year flood as a design basis for flood protection for the Ahr River is 241 m³/s.

CEDIM’s FDA Group urges the inclusion of historical data in flood hazard maps, including data from before continuous measurement records, to better assess flood hazards. “Admittedly, when analyzing and interpreting the data, we must generally keep in mind that both infrastructures and flood protection measures have changed in recent years. As a result, it’s harder to compare readings directly, and we should focus less on water levels,” Daniell explains. “We can use gauge levels from 1804 and 1910 as indirect indicators to identify flood years. However, measured data on discharge, on trends over time, and on precipitation totals are more important for interpretation. Ultimately, however, both historical variables – gauges and discharge – should be included when developing hazard maps.”

News Processing Technologies

Reduced CO2 emissions through “Green Car Policy”

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Responsible and sustainable action is firmly anchored in the WAGO Group’s corporate strategy. The company’s connection and automation technology is an important component of the infrastructure necessary to advance digitalization and energy efficiency, and thus contribute to global challenges such as decarbonization. The company wants to fulfill this responsibility together with customers and partners, but also within the company. Therefore, we have decided to consistently convert our vehicle fleet to alternative drives.

With a “Green Car Policy”, no pure gasoline or diesel engines will be permitted in the future. The medium-term goal is to purchase only zero-emission vehicles by 2025. By the end of this year, plug-in hybrids and electric cars will already account for 40% of the total fleet. The company’s pool vehicles, which are available for business trips at the German plants in Minden and Sonderhausen (Thuringia), will already be 80% electrified. In perspective, further concepts for sustainable mobility are to be incorporated into the policy.

“The consistent conversion of our vehicle fleet is a further step for us to make the energy transition possible together. If you want to act sustainably in the long term, you have to look at all aspects of your business. Here we can make a further contribution to saving CO2 for our company and achieve results quickly.”

– Axel Börner, Chief Financial Officer

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Innovative tooth brushing robot

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In principle, teeth and gums can also be perfectly cared for with a normal toothbrush. However, dentists repeatedly find that most people find it easier to achieve good results with electric assistance, and are therefore increasingly advising electric brushes. TÜV SÜD product expert Andrea Mertl explains what consumers should look out for and how products are tested on the German market.

The figures speak for themselves: three quarters of all dentists in Germany are convinced that correct brushing is easier with an electric toothbrush; one in three even believes they can tell from their patients’ dentition whether they are using an electric brush or not. Today, around 40 percent of all people over the age of 14 in this country already use an electric toothbrush. Since this brushing method has long been taken for granted even by more and more kindergarten children, the market share will continue to grow significantly in the coming years. In addition, many electric fans from the very beginning are switching to new models. Here, it is not only product improvements in terms of program selection or battery charging capacities that are enticing – those who still use a retro model with an electric cord or battery operation should switch for safety or environmental reasons. New features such as a smartphone app that documents cleaning time and quality or recognizes which areas are being neglected via a connection to the camera also encourage new purchases.

Andrea Mertl is responsible for testing electric toothbrushes at TÜV SÜD: “Many manufacturers advertise that their products provide good brushing performance. With our tests, we check this on the basis of various aspects and ensure that the electric toothbrushes also clean gently, are user-friendly to use and comply with the specifications regarding safety and environmental protection.”

Innovative toothbrushing robot

An extensive test scenario has been defined for these reviews. A specially developed brushing robot has already been in use since 2017, simulating brushing performance on black-colored artificial dentures. A white paste represents plaque and impurities to be removed from the tested models. How well this is achieved is analyzed by software, which assigns scores for the criteria of interdental spaces, tooth necks, smooth surfaces and overall surface area during its evaluation. After these automated tests and, of course, a thorough safety check in which, for example, the cord and charging station are also closely examined, human test subjects of all ages come into play. They test several products from different manufacturers with different product features and from different price ranges. Only after this elaborate procedure does the company award its test seal.

Rotary model or sonic toothbrush

Basically, electric toothbrushes are based on two different technologies. Rotary models and sonic toothbrushes are still on the market, and within these groups there are of course differences in terms of functionality. Very good results can be achieved with both variants: Rotary brushes have a small, rotating round brush head that works on each tooth individually. The brushes brush with an alternating left-right movement – a semi-circular rotation of the brush head.

Sonic toothbrushes usually have larger, oval brush heads and clean a larger area at once. Nevertheless, the brushes do not clean with sound, but with vibrations that occur at a very high frequency. Meanwhile, the integrated transducers generate sound waves between 250 and 300 hertz that drive the brush head. This creates a buzzing sound, which originally gave this type of toothbrush its name. Since less pressure is required with this system, gentle cleaning is even easier and interdental spaces are also better reached, more and more users are giving preference to sonic brushes.

Special form of sonic brush: ultrasonic toothbrushes

Still relatively new on the market are ultrasonic toothbrushes, which use a special toothpaste and send tiny microbubbles into the deepest crevices of the teeth at up to 96 million vibrations per minute to loosen plaque and bacteria. While the results achieved are excellent, optimal cleaning takes significantly longer than with other systems. Moreover, at the moment this technology is still exclusively represented in the upper price segment and is mainly recommended for people with gum problems, braces or bridges.

“Whether a toothbrush with smartphone connectivity is really necessary is up to each buyer to decide. However, our experience shows that electric toothbrushes generally make good oral hygiene much easier. In any case, we advise to go for tested safety and to pay attention to the corresponding labeling when buying.”  

– Andrea Mertl

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More space in the control cabinet thanks to compact controller family

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Now B&R is launching a new compact controller family called X20 Embedded. The devices combine performance and numerous integrated interfaces in a housing just 55 mm wide. This makes the controllers half the size of comparable devices.

Thanks to the powerful processors from the Intel Atom series, the new controllers are also suitable for demanding applications with short cycle times. The devices can even be used to control fully-fledged robot applications. Machine builders thus save costs and space in the control cabinet.

The controllers come standard with two USB ports, integrated flash memory and two Ethernet ports. Daisy-chain cabling can be easily implemented with the integrated switch. Therefore, there are no additional costs for the network infrastructure.

Integrated interfaces

Hardware interfaces for POWERLINK and RS485 are also integrated in the devices. Via the RS485 interface, the user can, for example, connect frequency converters directly to the controller without any additional hardware. The power supply is also integrated. Despite the high performance, the controllers do not require a fan or battery and are therefore maintenance-free.

Optionally, any other fieldbus protocols can be added. For this purpose, the controllers are optionally available with an interface slot. All B&R interface cards can be combined with devices from the X20 embedded series. Likewise, all X20 I/O modules can be added to the controller as usual. 

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