Larry Weber. (U-I photo)

The University of Iowa has been selected to be a partner in a $360 million national consortium to work on improving flood predictions.

The U-I’s Larry Weber will lead the effort in Iowa and says they will build on what they have done here to combat flooding. “The Iowa flood information system that we’ve created for the state of Iowa, has been recognized by people across the country as the best in class and information for flooding. And we’ll be expanding that I will flood information system to the Upper Mississippi River Basin and the Mississippi River basin, and then eventually the entire nation,” Weber says.

Weber leads the university’s Hydroscience and Engineering program and says they have deployed sensors across the state while also developing new sensor technology to help in the monitoring of the onset of flooding. This technology will not get broader use as they share that technology with other partners that then could deploy similar technology in their own states.

He says they will also work on other areas of flooding. “A second area that will have a lot of work is going to be in creating new technologies for fast and reliable floodplain mapping. So providing those recurrence level maps for the 100-year flood, and that 500-year flood and floods in between,” Weber says.

Weber says water quality is something that’s included in the project along with the flood monitoring and floodplain maps. “The Weather Service is quite interested in working with their federal partners, to begin to create a real-time water quality forecast model for rivers and streams in the nation,” according to Weber. “And given the strength of our work here in Iowa and that area, we think that will contribute to that strongly as well.”

Weber says there are different types of flooding across the country that they will be dealing with.
“In our steeper mountainous streams, we get more flash flooding. So we may get rainfall that produces a flood, you know, that that that comes up in a matter of minutes or hours. That’s really quite different. Along a coastline, we get compound flooding, where we have storm surge from the ocean or from the Gulf, that provides a bottleneck to the rivers that are flowing to the ocean to the Gulf,” he says. That bottleneck can lead to flooding.

The five-year program will be headquartered at the University of Alabama. It is funded for five years by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Iowa will receive $21 million for its portion of the work.