Summer at the National Water Center

Lauren Grimley posing for a group photo with the other participants of the National Water Center Summer Institute.

The NWC Innovators Program Summer Institute welcomed 32 students from 24 different universities to collaborate on projects designed to enhance water-related products and decision-support services across the country.

By Mikael Mulugeta

For seven weeks this summer, Lauren Grimley worked with researchers from various universities at the University of Alabama on a hyper-resolution modeling project as part of the National Water Center Innovators Program Summer Institute.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) created the National Water Center (NWC) as a national center for water forecast operations. Grimley, an Iowa Flood Center (IFC) graduate research assistant, said the opportunity helped her acquire skills that would advance her research on urban hydrology at the IFC.

Grimley, raised in Houston, Texas, received a BS in civil and environmental engineering from Calvin College and joined IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering in 2016. Her research focuses on urban hydrology, and she works with IFC Director Witold Krajewski to improve the Iowa Flood Information System (IFIS) online platform by building models for urban areas.

IFC students have participated in the NWC summer institute before; several IFC student researchers attended in 2015, the institute’s first year of operation. Krajewski pitched the idea of attending to Grimley, because the opportunity related to urban hydrology and hyper-resolution modeling, and she accepted.

Beginning on June 12, the summer program welcomed 32 students from 24 different universities to collaborate on projects designed to enhance water-related products and decision-support services across the country.

IFC graduate student Lauren Grimley (middle), spent seven weeks at the Univeristy of Alabama’s National Water Center Innovators Program Summer Institute.

Students formed groups that would focus on one of three project themes, including hyper-resolution modeling, communications, and flood mapping. Grimley’s group worked on hyper-resolution modeling with Fred Ogden, an engineering professor from the University of Wyoming.

Grimley’s team used AD Hydro, a hyper-resolution physics-based distributed model that runs via supercomputer. They ran the model on an urban watershed and recorded the results. They hoped to learn how to create models of difficult areas, such as urban or mountainous regions, and couple their models with larger-scale, nationwide models.

Creating effective models for urban areas is a high priority problem for researchers nationwide, says Grimley. As the IFC invests in its own urban models, she is eager to apply what she learned from Ogden and the other researchers to the existing IFIS model.

“The summer program familiarized me with two different models, and gave me experience with high-performance computing and coding experience,” says Grimley. “All of this will enable me to help the IFC develop a model that can handle urban areas.”

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