Posts

Thoughts go out to Harvey flood victims

Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with those impacted by the devastating floods caused by Hurricane Harvey.

Texas National Guard soldier helping with flood rescue.

 

Iowans remember the 2008 floods that wreaked havoc across our state. Through the chaos, we came together and built back a more resilient Iowa.

Iowa Flood Center experts reflect on the extreme flooding in Texas:

IFC Director Witold Krajewski compares Harvey flooding scenarios to Des Moines. View his interview with ABC Channel 5.

IFC Associate Director Nathan Young compares Iowa’s 2008 flood experience with that of the flooding in Texas. View his interview with KWWL-TV.

IFC Director Witold Krajewski describes the flooding in Texas as it relates to the 2008 catastrophic flood event in Iowa. View his interview with KFXA/KGAN-TV.

IFC climate research expert Gabriele Villarini offers some perspective on the flooding in Houston,Texas in response to Hurricane Harvey. View the interview with KCRG-TV.

Villarini Wins Young Investigator Award

By Mikael Mulugeta

Villarini on scooter

Villarini has won the first 2017 Water Young Investigator Award.

Gabriele Villarini, associate director of IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering, has won the 2017 Water Young Investigator Award.

The award recognizes Villarini, a UI associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, for the excellence of his research in water science. Villarini’s work has played an integral role in changing the way the scientific community uses and validates remote-sensing products, examining aspects of time series of floods and extreme rainfall, and for introducing useful concepts and applications of scaling properties of hydrological fields.

“This is the first year this award has existed, and I am very excited to be the first one selected to receive it,” says Villarini. “I want to thank the selection committee and my nominator, Professor Witold Krajewski.”

The Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI), an academic open-access publisher headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, presents the Water Young Investigator Award to a researcher in recognition of her/his significant contribution to the advancement of the fields of water science, technology, management and governance. To be considered for the award, researchers must be under the age of 40 or 10 years or fewer removed from receiving their PhD.

UI President Acknowledges IIHR for Flood Research

https://now.uiowa.edu/2017/03/presidential-message-devaluing-public-universities-harms-research-innovation?utm_source=IANowAlumni&utm_campaign=IANowAlumni-4-16-2017&utm_medium=harreld_messageIowa Now,Published on: March 23rd, 2017

New UI study finds flood risk rising in northern states including Iowa

http://www.kcrg.com/content/news/New-U-of-I-study-finds-flood-risk-rising-in-northern-states-including-Iowa-409369865.htmlKCRG-TV9,Published on: January 2nd, 2017

How has the Iowa Climate been Changing?

By Shianne Gruss,

At a recent University of Iowa STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) workshop, several middle and high school teachers from across the state addressed this question, as well as how to encourage their students to begin asking the same thing.

The workshop, titled “Hot Topic: Climate & Iowa,” was developed in part by IIHR Assistant Researcher Engineer Gabriele Villarini to fulfill the broader impacts component of his 2014 NSF Career Award. “My personal interest when it comes to science is science with a purpose,” says Villarini, who is also an assistant professor in the UI Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “I try to answer the questions ‘who cares?’ and ‘who can benefit from it?’ We can do all this great science, but at the end of the day if it remains in published papers, the impacts are limited.”

Ted Neal, UI College of Education, instructs teachers on how to teach climate science at a special STEM workshop, April 25-26, 2015.

Ted Neal, UI College of Education, instructs teachers on how to teach climate science at a special STEM workshop, April 25-26, 2015.

While Villarini possessed historical data for Iowa precipitation, discharge, and temperature, what he lacked was the know-how to turn those data points into relevant lesson plans. Fortunately, Ted Neal, clinical instructor of science education in the UI College of Education, has been teaching pre-educators, educators, and K-12 students the importance of STEM learning for years. “Gabriele and I figured out what each of us could bring to the table, then we merged that stuff together,” says Neal.

That “stuff” included 50 plus years of Iowa climate data at more than 60 locations, lessons on mapping floodplains, and coding basics using “R,” a statistical computing software. “The key objective was to discuss the issue of climate in Iowa and also to provide the teachers with tools, so that they would be able to tackle this issue themselves,” says Villarini.

Cindy Hilsabeck, a 6-8 science teacher at Starmont Middle School in Arlington, particularly enjoyed Neal’s 3D-mapping of flood plains. “We have some flooding issues in one of the towns near our school, and I’m hoping to attempt this project—perhaps with Ted’s help!” she added.

Like many of the participating teachers across Iowa, Hilsabeck recently picked up teaching earth science because of budget cuts and expanding education requirements. She says the workshop provided her with training on major concepts. “I try to keep applications relevant to the students, and Iowa climate is truly relevant to them!”

Climate is just one of the required subjects included in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which could very well replace the Iowa Core in upcoming years. The Iowa Board of Education is expected to discuss the adoption of NGSS at its next meeting, scheduled for June 11–12. The proposal will then continue to the Iowa Legislature.

Middle and high school teachers from all over Iowa came to the workshop, "Hot Topic: Climate & Iowa," April 25-26, 2015.

Middle and high school teachers from all over Iowa came to the workshop, “Hot Topic: Climate & Iowa,” April 25-26, 2015.

“One of the things we wanted to make sure was that what we were proposing was directly relevant to these new standards for teaching science in schools,” says Villarini. The standards include four topics: Physical Sciences; Life Sciences; Earth and Space Sciences; and Engineering, Technology, and Applications of Science. As part of the NGSS, teachers are required to develop lessons that address a question through scientific investigation.

Both Villarini and Neal stressed the importance of teachers and students addressing climate change in the classroom.

“Climate change is a hotly debated topic,” says Villarini. He explains that by experiencing data first-hand, rather than purely reading scientific articles, a person can make a more informed decision about such a highly contested subject.

According to data compiled by the Iowa Climate Change Advisory Council, the changing climate has affected the state in a number of ways. Iowa has already experienced many changes, ranging from more precipitation, which has led to extreme flooding events, to higher temperatures and humidity; from agricultural challenges, such as increased soil erosion and runoff, to changes in animal migration patterns; and finally from the public health effects of air pollution to those of a warmer climate.

Neal believes these changes, and general attitudes toward them, are actually overwhelming students these days. “Kids actually get bogged down,” he says. “They just throw their hands up and say, ‘There’s nothing I can do about it; it’s too big for me.’ But there are things we can do about it. And that’s where I think we need to go with this to get kids interested. We need to be letting kids look at the real data and make a decision based on science and data, not based on politics or religion or my mom said that climate change isn’t happening, because that’s not going to move our kids forward.”

There are plans underway to repeat the workshop, “Hot Topic: Climate & Iowa,” later this year and in 2016 at other locations around the state.

 

Downpours on upswing: Research finds flooding on the rise in central U.S.

http://www.omaha.com/news/metro/downpours-on-the-upswing-research-finds-flooding-on-the-rise/article_6167cb8a-797f-5fd6-b522-7c969a81242c.htmlOmaha World-Herald,Published on: April 14th, 2015

Scientists confirm that Midwest floods are more frequent

http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=133987&org=NSF&from=newsNational Science Foundation,Published on: February 9th, 2015

Midwest flooding more frequent

Originally appeared in IowaNow, 2015.02.09. Story by GARY GALLUZZO.
[divider]
_AG19679 (2)

Iowa River flooding, June 2014.

The U.S. Midwest and surrounding states have endured increasingly more frequent flood episodes over the past half-century, according to a study from the University of Iowa.

The UI researchers based their findings on daily records collected by the U.S. Geological Survey at 774 stream gauges in 14 states from 1962-2011, a data-collection period in common for all the stations.

They found that 264 (34 percent) of the stations had an increase in frequency in the number of flood events, while only 66 stations (nine percent) showed a decrease.

Gabriele Villarini

Gabriele Villarini

“It’s not that big floods are getting bigger, but that we have been experiencing a larger number of big floods,” says Gabriele Villarini, UI assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and corresponding author on the paper, published Feb. 9 in the advance online edition of the journal Nature Climate Change.

The findings likely come as no surprise to millions of people in the Midwest and bordering states. During the past several decades, large floods have plagued the region in 1993, 2008, 2011, 2013 and again in 2014. The floods have caused agricultural and economic losses in the billions of dollars, displaced people and led to loss of life.

Iman Mallakpour

Iman Mallakpour

“There is a pattern with increasing frequency of flood events from North Dakota south to Iowa and Missouri and east into Illinois, Indiana and Ohio,” says Iman Mallakpour, UI graduate student in civil and environmental engineering and lead author on the paper.

“We related this increasing number of big floods to changes in rainfall and temperature. There was an overall good match between the areas with increasing frequency of flood events and areas experiencing increasing frequency of heavy rainfall events,” adds Villarini, who is also assistant research engineer at IIHR – Hydroscience & Engineering.

He notes that seasonal analysis revealed that most of the flood peaks in the upper Midwest occur in the spring and stem primarily from snow melt, rain falling on frozen ground and rain-on-snow events. Interestingly, spring—in addition to being a season with increasing frequency of heavy rainfall—also has the strongest increase in temperature over most of the northern part of the region studied, he says.

The findings jibe well with current thinking among climate scientists about how the hydrological cycle is being affected by global warming. In general, as the atmosphere becomes warmer, it can hold more moisture. One consequence of higher water vapor concentrations is more frequent, intense precipitation.

Villarini says the current study did not attempt to link the increase in the number of episodes to climate change.

“What causes the observed changes in precipitation and temperature is not something we have addressed because of the difficulties in doing so just based on observational records,” Villarini says.

The study region included: Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, West Virginia, Kentucky, North Dakota and South Dakota.

The methodology used in the study involved establishing a threshold level of two flood events per year, on average, for each of the 774 stream gauges in the study, so as to focus on the larger flood events. In order to avoid counting the same event twice, the researchers allowed for the recording of only one event within a 15-day period.

The paper titled, “The Changing Nature of Flooding across the Central United States,” can be found on Nature’s website.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Institute for Water Resources, the Iowa Flood Center and IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering funded the work. Funding also came from the National Science Foundation, under NSF CAREER Grant #AGS-1349827.