SIATA: Early Warning System of the Aburra Valley

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Metropolitan Area of Aburrá Valley

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Main actors

Local Government, City Government, National Government, Private Sector, Public Utility

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Project area

Whole City/Administrative Region

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Ongoing since 2011/01

SIATA is a science and technology project framed in the context of risks associated with natural hazards, sustainability, and the development of smart cities. 

SIATA monitors environmental conditions, identifies threats and emergencies and informs the decision-making process of response agencies in situations of extreme weather events. The system provides access to information in real time to determine the likelihood of events such as heavy rains, floods, landslides, avalanches, air quality analysis, electrical discharge and areas where fires may occur.
SIATA is developed by a team of professionals that ensures the system adapts to the needs and risks of the region. The project has unique characteristics and represents one of the main environmental risk management strategies in Colombia.
SIATA is a project of the Metropolitan Area of the Aburra Valley (AMVA) and the Mayor's Office of Medellin and has the support and contributions of Medellin´s Public Enterprises (EPM) and Power generation, project construction and marketing of energy solutions (ISAGEN).

Sustainable Development Goals

Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Metropolitan Area of Aburrá Valley, Colombia

Size and population development
The Aburrá Valley is the natural basin of the Medellín River and one of the most populated valleys of Colombia and the Andean Region. It occupies an area of ​​1157 km2, with a population of 3,821,797 inhabitants.

Population composition
The Aburrá Valley concentrates 58% of the Antioquia´s Department population.

Main functions
In 1980, the Aburrá Valley was the first Metropolitan Area created in Colombia. It was established to bring economic integration and urban development planning to the 10 municipalities. The institution is the urban environmental and metropolitan public transport authority, and coordinates the strategic planning of the territory.

Main industries / business
Medellín, the largest city in the Aburrá Valley and the capital of the department of Antioquia, is the main economic center for the region and has different government agencies and corporate offices. The department represents 12% of the Gross Domestic Product of the country. It is projected as Latin American capital of innovation.

Sources for city budget
The main income base of the 10 municipalities is the taxation for industrial, commercial and housing occupation in the territory.

Political structure
The Metropolitan Board is composed by the mayors from the 10 member municipalities, a representative of the non-profit entities, a representative of the Medellin council, one of the 9 municipal councils outside of Medellín, a representative of the Ministry of the Interior and the Director of the Metropolitan Area of ​​the Aburrá Valley. Every four years there is a popular election of mayors and local legislative bodies.

Administrative structure
The Metropolitan Area of ​​the Aburrá Valley is an administrative entity under public law, composed of 10 municipalities: Medellín, Barbosa, Girardota, Copacabana, Bello, Envigado, Itagüí, La Estrella, Sabaneta and Caldas.

Early warning systems (EWS) are an integrated set of monitoring, forecasting and prediction activities, disaster risk evaluation, communication and preparation, and as well processes that allow governments and other agencies to reduce risks of disasters before extreme weather events.

 The objectives of SIATA are:

  1. Monitor: monitor regional conditions in real time. Measure different meteorological, hydrological and air quality variables using different sensors installed at strategic points in the region. This information is available in real time on the SIATA platform.
  2. Model: develop and implement hydrological and meteorological prediction models, specifically adjusted to the conditions of the Aburra Valley.
  3. Alerts and administration: deliver the information generated by SIATA to risk management agencies and citizens in a timely manner.
  4. Communication and education: communicate and educate people who live in areas prone to disasters or near monitoring stations. The goal is to familiarize them with the project and understand how they can make changes to protect their lives.

Below are some of the monitoring networks that SIATA has implemented. Real-time information and the SIATA application for mobile devices can be found at 

  • Air quality monitoring equipment for the Aburra Valley: this network has been operated by SIATA since August of 2017. It is composed of a set of stations that measure atmospheric pollutants in order to support local decisions and regional authorities address the issue.

  • Scientists Citizen´s Network: the project began in 2015 when SIATA, with funds from the AMVA, developed 100 low-cost sensors to install in homes and workplaces of metropolitan citizens. The objective is to obtain data that will enrich the research adapted to the real conditions of the territory and to encourage citizen participation in issues related to air quality. The first version was well received and that information has been of great benefit for research.

  • Rain network: 84 stations that report rain information in real time per minute.
  • Meteorological Network: 16 multi-parametric sensors that monitor rain, temperature, relative humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind speed and direction in real time per minute.

  • Disdrometer network: 6 sensors provide information on the intensity of a rain event.

  • Network of electric field sensors: 3 sensors created to measure the atmospheric electric field under an agreement with the Faculty of Mines of the National University.

  • Level network: 29 operational level sensors that provide data in real time, minute by minute, on the levels of ascent or fall of the Medellin River and its tributaries.

  • Hillside monitoring network: a developing network that records real-time data for humidity, temperature and electrical conductivity in the ground. It currently has 4 stations and seeks to alert communities that live in high risk areas, including massive slopes.

  • Accelerometer network: 32 accelerometers installed by the Medellin seismology group to measure seismic activity in the Aburra Valley.

  • Camera´s network: 9 cameras monitor the city's sky capturing images in real time to record the state of the atmosphere and document the formation and evolution of low and medium height clouds.

  • Thermal camera network: 3 thermal cameras located in strategic locations in the Aburra Valley monitor heat sources on the slopes, allowing the early detection of forest fires. This information is transmitted to the risk management agencies, in real time, through various communication channels.

  • Ceilometer Network: 3 laser sensors that continuously monitor the air quality in the Aburra Valley make it possible to determine the possible health risks that outdoor activities may represent during critical periods of contamination.

  • Pyrometer network: the pyrometer is an instrument used to measure the amount of total solar radiation reaching the surface and to determine if climatic conditions are favorable or unfavourable for air quality.

  • Remote sensors: In addition to the sensors that monitor variables at specific points, the project has three radars that complement the activities of SIATA:
  1. Meteorological radar: measures the intensity of precipitation, the place of occurrence and the speed and trajectory of precipitation in the region.

  2. Radiometer: measures variables such as temperature, humidity and the amount of water in the atmosphere, which are key factors for weather forecast and to understand the phenomena that occur.

  3. Wind profile radar: monitors the vertical structure of the wind through electromagnetic waves that interact with the humidity of the atmosphere, recording information from the surface up to 10 km high. This information determines the potential of rain and formation of storms and their propagation.
  • Forecast models: SIATA has implemented an experimental  numerical model of weather prediction known as the weather forecast and research model (WRF).
The objective is to establish a forecast of temperature, precipitation, humidity, winds and atmospheric pressure conditions for the Aburra Valley in the next 5 days.
The objective of the hydrological model is to indicate the response of the main basins of the Medellin River to the rain conditions that arise. This is being developed from the data obtained by the precipitation network.
Both models are integrated; the information obtained from the model that anticipates rain events (WRF) feeds the hydrological model that seeks to anticipate the response at river levels below the thresholds predicted by the WRF. In this way, the information is sent to the relevant entities at the right time for its correct use and implementation.
  • Communication and education: Commencing in 2011, SIATA has developed communication strategies focused on environmental issues, education in risk management and dissemination of associated information. 
This communication exercise has led to the recognition of SIATA by academic institutions, risk management agencies and some community groups. The technical evolution and maturity of SIATA, the growth of monitoring networks and partnerships with entities have encouraged the development of new strategies and objectives. The communications plan now has three strategic focuses: social appropriation of knowledge; science, technology and innovation; dissemination and diffusion, and strengthening of the digital strategy.

SIATA is financed with resources from the Metropolitan Area of ​​the Aburra Valley (AMVA), the municipality of Medellín, EPM and Isagen.

SIATA has been instrumental in providing  risk management agencies, authorities and citizens the necessary information to make short-term decisions and to argue measures that strengthen the management of institutions that improve the quality of life of citizens.
SIATA contributes to the development of an empowered and engaged citizenship. The project has communicated with approximately 40 thousand citizens by way of talks and workshops, participation in academic, business and city events, the formation of nurseries, ¨Scientists Citizens¨,  in educational institutions and individually in areas where community alarms have been installed.
The main challenges moving forward are:
  • To strengthen relationships with citizenship groups and civil society
  • To implement more educational and participative programs with business, public agencies, educational institutions and civil society.
  • To position SIATA nationally and internationally as a project of scientific excellence
  • To support and develop further the open data process

SIATA develops and manufactures most of the technology it uses. This allows employees to resolve technical difficulties and replicate solutions in other Colombian cities, as well as share information with other interested entities. SIATA is now used by the Ideam (Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies) and Civil Aeronautics, due to the valuable real-time and continuous weather information it provides.

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Eugenio Prieto Soto
Medellín, Colombia

Eugenio Prieto Soto

Individual | Director

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