NAGiS: Hungary’s database for the future establishes a high regional standard

C1 component event brings EEA Grants HU04 programme to a close

November 23, 2016 | By Nathan Johnson

The EEA Grants-funded “Adaptation to Climate Change” programme (HU04) held a bilateral meeting in Budapest, Hungary on November 7–8, 2016, to discuss programme component C1, the National Adaptation Geoinformation System (NAGiS) of Hungary. Approximately 70 people took part in the two-day event, which included participants from Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and the United Kingdom.

With the NAGiS system now off the ground and operational, the meeting presented an opportunity to share lessons about the system’s development, demonstrate its use, and to explore opportunities for further development and improvement. Links to individual presentations are also provided below.)

The original intent behind NAGiS was to “develop a multipurpose geo-information system that can facilitate policy-making, strategy-building and decision-making processes related to the impact assessment of climate change and the adoption of necessary adaptation measures in Hungary.” The NAGiS system provides multiple layers of data for a number of sectors: climate, digital terrain, water, forestry, land use and biodiversity, agriculture, health, tourism, demographics and economy. A 10x10 mapping system allows for the highly detailed presentation of complex data that can be expanded or narrowed through specialised search functions.

Day 1: Morning session

Brief welcome speeches were delivered by representatives from the Norwegian Directorate for Civil Protection (DSB) and the Regional Environmental Center (REC), after which Judit Balint form the REC presented a comprehensive overview of the EEA HU04 programme.

Peter Kajner from the Geological and Geophysical Institute of Hungary (GGIH) was up next to introduce the NAGiS essentials: the development process; the structure of the NAGiS portal; highlighted topics of the database; and potential uses of the system. NAGiS consists of three separate units: a basic portal (nagis.hu); a map portal (map.mfgi.hu/nater); and a database portal.

The complex array of data available on the portal allows for wide-ranging use and interpretation, but there are a number of factors that users should bear in mind, such as: For what use has a particular set of data been created? What are the assumptions behind the data? What are the different results that can be interested? What are the uncertainty level of given results? How do the results differ according to different scenarios, or ‘alternative scenarios’? Users are cautioned that the database is not to be used as a “crystal ball” for predicting the future. Most importantly, Kajner explained, it is highly recommended that NAGiS experts be consulted when planning local actions or developing a climate adaptation strategy.

After a short break, a further four presenters were scheduled for the morning session: Marton Czirfusz from the Centre for Economic and Regional Studies, Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA KRTK); Ferenc Horvath from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Centre for Ecological Research; Zita Bihari from the Hungarian Meteorological Service; and Gabriella Szepszo, also from the Hungarian Meteorological Service. Each of them presented projects implemented under the HU04 programme, within which they have developed different sectoral data layers for the NAGiS.

Marton Czirfusz spoke about using NAGiS in the context of long-term socio-economic forecasting in Hungary, focusing on four key areas: demography, economy, land use, and attitudes towards climate change. One of the key questions raised for future study is: “How do our socio-economic spatial models change if we take into account variables of climate change, and what is the cause-effect relation?”

Ferenc Horvath talked about climate vulnerability of Hungary’s main agro-ecosystems. Horvath’s study group, using various climate scenarios (e.g. ALADIN, RegCM), examined possible environmental impacts on four main types of land (crop lands, grasslands, natural forests, and cultivated forests) for the periods 2021-2050 and 2071-2100.

Zita Bihari’s talk focused on vulnerability and impact studies on healthcare, tourism and critical infrastructure. The main objectives of this project were: to develop a methodology for quantifying the effects of climate change in various sectors; and the integration of produced data layers into the NAGiS database. Specific topics of research carried out within the project included: excess mortality related to heatwaves; risk of road accidents related to wet winter days; and effects of climate conditions on tourism.

Gabriella Szepszo from the Hungarian Meteorological Service, presented the project which developed climate scenarios for different timeframes for use with the NAGiS database. The main objective of the project was the development of a climate model data to provide future climate information for NAGiS; quantification of climate projection uncertainties; provision of climate model data for impact assessments; and training and support to users to apply projection results and uncertainty-related information.   

Day 1: Afternoon session

Several other speakers gave presentations during a busy afternoon session. DHI’s Zsuzsanna Nagy shared results of how NAGiS data can be utilised for different issues, using surface-water data as a model of demonstration. Specifically, she presented details of a case study on a storm water management concept supporting a climate adaptation strategy in Tat and Tokod, two Hungarian municipalities that also took part in an EEA Grants-funded pilot project. Steps of analysis included: data collection; a monitoring campaign; model building and calibration; analysis of the current system; and analysis of the impacts of future developments, suggestions for reconstruction and how to optimise operation. Work on the case study was carried out in cooperation with Norwegian partners (BIOFORSK and Nibbio), EDV and experts from EDUVIZIG.

Peter Kajner (GGIH) was up next to present the results of NAGiS testing to determine climate change vulnerability in Hungary’s Sárvíz River Valley and the region/city of Aba. The river valley region, according to Kajner, is highly vulnerable to a number of climate change-related threats, such as heat waves, drought, changes in groundwater levels, flash floods and forest fires. While the region features bountiful natural areas teeming with wildlife, roughly 60 percent of area is intensively farmed, which has inevitable negative consequences for the natural areas. The NAGiS system through testing in the area, and has been ultimately useful in developing regional development recommendations.

Andris Viksna is Head of the Forecasting and Climate Department at the Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre. Viksna spoke about initial efforts in his country to develop a system for monitoring adaptation to climate change. Citing tourism and health as future climate-related problem areas for Latvia, the speaker praised the level of detail available on the Hungarian NAGiS portal, and mentioned how difficult it can be in many countries, including Latvia, to acquire third-party data for such a comprehensive database.

Andras Horanyi, an expert in short-range numerical weather prediction and regional climate modelling, spent 21 years (1990-2011) with the Hungarian Meteorological Service before relocating to London to work with the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S). Horányi concluded the afternoon presentations with a thorough overview of C3S activities, and offered many helpful suggestions to NAGiS developers and users on how the project can achieve maximum potential. Copernicus itself monitors the state of the Earth System environment through six operational services: an atmosphere monitoring service; a marine environment monitoring service; a land monitoring service; a climate change service; an emergency management service; and a security service. With a special focus on mitigation and adaptation, one of the main tasks of C3S is to “build upon national investments and complement national service providers.” Another is to support the market for climate service in Europe. Providing web assistance, public outreach, coordination with national outreach, liaising with public authorities, holding conferences and seminars, and providing training and education are other activities through which C3S assists European efforts to cope with the effects of climate change.

Day 2: Presentation, discussion, conclusion

The event resumed on Tuesday with a half-day of database presentation, user comments and participant Q&A. The first part of the session featured an in-depth overview of the NAGiS portal by Laszlo Orosz from GGIH. Orosz introduced the three main portals of the NAGiS database, described the capabilities of each, and demonstrated how to access and make the most out of the information available. With more than 400 portal visits per month, the database caters both to experts and lay users. Many layers, including the maps, are accessible to the public, while special access privileges are required for other layers of the database.

With many searchable topics, the portal offers a wealth of data drawing from as early as 1960. Nonetheless, the purpose of NAGiS is “not to provide a history, but a diagnosis of possible outcomes,” Orosz explained.

Peter Kajner, also from GGIH, joined Orosz, to explain some finer points of use and interpretation of the NAGiS database, and offered several helpful examples to the participants of how to use the search functions, arrange map layers, and show, for example, how to export and print search results.

Three more brief presentations followed from NAGiS database users: Gabriella Szepszo, Ferenc Horvath, and Edit Hoyk (MTA KRTK). Each had comments and recommendations on how to improve the database. Szepszo reviewed a number of development possibilities, specifically to do with: uncertainty information in impact studies; building cooperation between users and meteorologists; and how to deal with more complex information. “We should not be afraid of the users,” she remarked, “but should have dialogue with them and educate them.”

“NAGiS is a step forward, for sure,” said Horvath. “It is practical and can do lots of things, and I find the metadata search capability most useful. It also has a good, flexible search engine.” What is missing, according to Horvath, is a link function to visualise maps. Also, limited access makes it difficult for some to conduct further analysis, he added.

Edit Hoyk provided several specific examples of where improvements could be made with regard to combining layers, legend details, search functions, incomplete sections of data, and the need to harmonise usability functions to suit the “layman’s knowledge” of most decision makers. Specifically, Hoyk indicated that enhanced forestry data would be useful for monitoring changes of land use.

Following the presentations, several of the participants had questions, which the presenters answered to the best of their knowledge. “Mapping and adaptation is something that never ends,” Gabriella Szepszo responded to one question concerning the open-ended nature of work on an internet database. Other questions were related to user access, viability of future funding for continued operation and improvement, public awareness raising about the database, and sharing of experience for developing similar database systems in other countries and regions.

Following this fruitful discussion, Judit Balint and Karl Kerner concluded the event—and the programme—with remarks of gratitude for everyone’s cooperation, camaraderie and hard work in bringing everything to a resoundingly successful conclusion. “Let’s keep this bird flying,” Kerner concluded on an encouraging note. 


ACTIVE TAGS: Water management | Hungary | Local initiatives | Adaptation and mitigation | Flooding | Drought | Latvia | Iceland | Norway | Portugal | EEA Grants