Summer Institute aims to improve flood modeling

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Summer Institute aims to improve flood modeling

The University of Alabama is hosting a "Summer Institute" aiming to develop new modeling and data tools for weather prediciton.  Photo courtesy of Joseph Gutenson

Jake Warner

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Aiming to solve this problem, The University of Alabama is hosting a seven-week “Summer Institute” for students participating in the National Flood Interoperability Experiment which aims to develop new modeling and data tools for use in predictive weather modeling.

This opportunity is made possible by a grant from the National Weather Service in conjunction with the new National Water Center in Tuscaloosa.

“NFIE was conceived by Dr. David Maidment from the University of Texas back in May of 2014, right after he made keynote remarks at the initial opening of the National Water Center,” said Andrew Ernest, UA professor of engineering and director of The Environmental Institute. “I’ve been working with David, folks from the National Weather Service and other key researchers across the country since then to make it a reality.”

Coordinated by the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, Inc., a research collective comprised of over 130 universities and other organizations in the hydrologic community, the program seeks “to help build a new high resolution, near real-time hydrologic simulation and forecasting model for the United States,” according to its website.

“The framework, currently under development, will allow us to predict floods several days in the future at very high spatial resolution,” said Sagy Cohen, professor of geography at the University. “These so called ’street-level’ predictions will be a considerable improvement over the existing national flood warning system (by a factor of over 700).”

Additionally, NFIE will coordinate its efforts with the Tuscaloosa County Emergency Management Agency and the Tuscaloosa Fire Department in order to improve on communications with first responders and the general public in the case of emergency.

For the duration of the program, which started two weeks ago, graduate students will conduct a variety of research projects under the guidance of professionals from all over the country.

Emily Clark serves as the training coordinator for CUAHSI.

“NFIE is an opportunity for the best and brightest students, both domestic and international, to work with the great resources provided by the National Weather Service and really advance hydrologic technology,” she said.