Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Written by: Breanna Shea

The University of Iowa College of Engineering is home to a new research center—the Center for Hydrologic Development (CHD)—that is designed to improve the country’s ability to predict and manage water-related hazards.

Funding for the center comes from the new $360 million Cooperative Institute for Research to Operations in Hydrology (CIROH) housed at the University of Alabama and funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The UI expects up to $21 million from CIROH in the first five years (2022-27).

Larry Weber, director and co-founder of the new research center and professor of civil and environmental engineering, expects the center to play a critical role in helping the National Weather Service achieve its goal of a weather-ready nation. “The new Center for Hydrologic Development will build on the work of the Iowa Flood Center and provide a mechanism for researchers and students to expand flood center innovations beyond Iowa,” said Weber, who is also co-founder of the Iowa Flood Center.

The new center will focus on several key areas of research supporting CIROH’s commitment to advance the forecasting of floods, droughts, and water quality to improve decision-making.

IFC will contribute its expertise in hydroinformatics and experience building web-based platforms like the Iowa Flood Information System that provides flood alerts and forecasts for over 1,000 Iowa communities.

The center will play an especially important role in hydroinformatics (water information systems) research with CIROH. “We look forward to helping NOAA advance web-based visualizations of critical water-related data,” said Ibrahim Demir, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and chief architect of the Iowa Flood Information System.

“We have significant experience in hydroinformatics through our design of the Iowa Flood Information System, the Iowa Water Quality Information System, and many other similar publicly-accessible platforms,” added Demir.

Under CIROH funding, the new center will support a team of graduate students and postdoctoral scholars seeking experience in cutting-edge hydrology and informatics research.

“People are becoming increasingly aware of the impacts of climate change on their local community, especially the increasing number of extreme events such as flooding,” said Witold Krajewski, professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of the Iowa Flood Center. “Students, postdoctoral scholars, and other researchers funded by the CHD will have a unique opportunity to study these events and contribute to national efforts to better understand, communicate, and prepare for floods, droughts, and other natural hazards.”

“Establishing the Center for Hydrologic Development at the University of Iowa will ensure we remain national leaders in hydrologic research and education. As a key CIROH partner, we will have a conduit to share our innovations with NOAA to fast-track the wide-scale implementation of our new tools. It doesn’t get much better than that,” said Weber.

The CHD will build on more than a century of hydrologic research and education at IIHR—Hydroscience and Engineering, established in 1920. The new center also will complement the work of the Iowa Flood Center, founded in 2009 as the first and only center in the nation focused solely on flood-related research and education.

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