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University of Iowa News Release

 

Sept. 28, 2007

UI engineers receive $1.36 million grant to improve rain, flood forecasting

Sometime during the spring of 2008, University of Iowa engineers likely will become the envy of local meteorologists.

That is when engineers at the University of Iowa College of Engineering's renowned IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering center will acquire four mobile radar units, thanks to a $1.36 million grant recently received from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to improve rainfall and flood forecasting.

Professors Witold F. Krajewski (pronounced "cray-EFF-ski") and Anton Kruger, plan to develop a mobile radar network to make high-resolution meteorological and hydrological observations. Their goal is to better understand relationships between storms and the dynamics of watersheds.

"At first, our plan calls for the operation of four radar units around our existing, high-quality network of 38 rain gauges in the Iowa City area," Krajewski says. "The data from this excellent rain gauge system will be compared to radar data to help us evaluate the new system. Once we know the performance characteristics of the radar network, we will move the network to other areas to support research on flooding and other hydrologic and environmental processes.

"The radars will form a remote-sensing, Internet-connected, real-time system. Also, the radars will overlap, giving them various advantages, including a reduction of error," he adds. "In some sense the capabilities of the four radars will be greater than the NEXRAD system widely used by professional meteorologists. For example, the system will be able to sense distortion in the shape of raindrops, and because distortion is related to size, we'll be able to more accurately determine the intensity of rainfall in a storm."

Krajewski notes that while the radar system will be based in Iowa City, it will be available to support researchers in other areas of the country. Research groups will coordinate with UI the use of the mobile network in various field experiments around the country. "But most of the time, the radars will be here in Iowa City so that rainfall data will benefit the local community," he says.

He also notes that he and his colleague Kruger currently have multiple sensor systems set up in Ames, Iowa, and in Kansas for projects that might also benefit from high-resolution radar. Mostly, though, he predicts the radar units will stay near the UI.

"We've done remote sensing of rainfall for years, and we have had this concept for several years. All that time, we've wanted our own radar system, and now we're finally about to get it. It's a dream come true," he says.

Krajewski and his UI colleagues are internationally known for microwave, visible light and infrared remote sensing techniques. The researchers also operate other instruments that remotely observe key components of the water cycle: precipitation, soil moisture and evapotranspiration.

In 2005, Krajewski received a three-year, $413,000 NSF grant to deploy an observing system of rain and streamflow necessary for testing a general theory on how flooding depends on spatial patterns of rainfall, topography, and vegetation in the Whitewater Basin of Kansas. The research is aimed at improving the prediction of floods for basins that lack observational infrastructure. In 2006, Krajewski and his UI colleagues began a collaborative project with Iowa State University researchers on a five-year, $1.3 million NASA grant to evaluate remote sensing techniques for estimating soil moisture and designed to help scientists better predict global water and energy cycles.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Witold F. Krajewski, IIHR, 319-335-5231, witold-krajewski@uiowa.edu; Gary Galluzzo, University News Services, 319-384-0009, gary-galluzzo@uiowa.edu