Local modeling

New climate modeling predicts an increase in flash flood occurrences across most of the United States

NORMAN, Okla., April 26, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — The latest UN climate change report documents the efforts of researchers who have shown that some measures of global warming are now unavoidable, and current research efforts are focusing on mitigation and control strategies. ‘adaptation. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration describes this as a global problem, felt locally. Likewise, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researchers are providing the data, tools, and information to better understand and prepare for climate change. One of the effects of global warming is a change in the frequency of flash floods, as well as where they occur most often.

A truck is stuck on a flooded road. New climate modeling predicts an increase in flash flood occurrences across most of the United States

More people will need to learn not just how to survive floods, but… how to live better with ever-increasing flash floods

A research team led by the University of Oklahomawith the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory and collaborators from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, created simulations from coupled climate and hydrological models that demonstrate a widespread increase in flash flood occurrences across most of the United States.

The study is led by Yang Hong, professor of hydrology and remote sensing in the School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Sciences and the School of Meteorology at OU. He is Director of the Hydrometeorology and Remote Sensing Laboratory and Founding Director of the Online Masters Program in Hydrology and Water Security at OU. The findings of the research team are published in Nature: Earth and Environment Communications. Zhi Li, a doctoral student at the HyDROS Lab, is the first author.

“This study builds on the state-of-the-art model (EF5/CREST) ​​jointly developed by researchers at OU, NASA, and NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory and initiated a collaboration with climatologists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research,” Li says. “It realizes the concept of a ‘digital twin in earth system science’, in which one is our living climate and the other is our future. Climate change is never become so real to me until we successfully collaborate on such research.”

“There hasn’t been a real definitive study of what’s going to happen with flash floods in the future,” said Jonathan J. Gourley, a hydrometeorology researcher at the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory and contributor to the study. “We didn’t have such a robust observational record…so this study helped fill that gap. high-resolution hydrological modeling system, we can see what kinds of flash floods would be produced in the future.”

The research team used climate simulations and modeling of a 30-year period, 2070-2100, to predict the location and degree to which flash floods are likely to occur. The effect, which the researchers call “storminess,” describes the likelihood of weather conditions that can cause rapid rainfall and lead to flash flooding.

They found that if emissions continued at their current rate, flooding would become 7.9% “flasher” by the end of the century, meaning that heavy rains are likely to occur quickly and in extreme conditions. concentrated areas likely to cause flooding.

Likewise, their results show a more than 10% increase in flash flooding in the Southwestern United States, the largest increase in “clarity” among historical flash flood hotspots. The central United States is also emerging as a new flash flood hotspot, with an expected increase of 8.6%. Overall, their results show that future flash flood prone regions are moving north.

“More people will have to learn not only to survive floods, but also to live better with increasingly frequent flash floods,” Hong said. “20-year return floods will more likely occur every two to five years, which is particularly alarming for emerging hotspots that will face unprecedented challenges with aging infrastructure and outdated flood risk metrics. There is an urgent need to implement climate-resilient engineering infrastructure and develop smart hydrological early warning systems.”

However, there is still time to limit some of the more extreme impacts. Gourley says climate mitigation strategies could help.

“Now is the time to start thinking about better flood defenses,” he said. “Of course, decreasing greenhouse gas concentrations would be the ultimate solution, but in the meantime, we can think about ways to reduce vulnerabilities and improve flash flood safety education. “

“The majority of flash flood deaths are not flood finding people, but people finding floods, meaning they are on the move,” he added. “They usually drive on flooded pavement.”

The best way to stay safe during flash floods is to stay off the roads and avoid standing water.

“The continuous United States are expected to become more vulnerable to flash flooding under a high-end emissions scenario,” was published April 6, 2022in the review Nature: Earth and Environment Communications, DOI: 10.1038/s43247-022-00409-6

Image credit
Photo of a truck on a flooded road, taken by Joe Lawton. Image credit NOAA NSSL.

About University of Oklahoma Office of the Vice President for Research and Partnerships
the University of Oklahoma is a leading research university ranked by the Carnegie Foundation in the highest level of research universities in the nation. OU faculty, staff, and students tackle global challenges and accelerate the delivery of practical solutions that have a direct and tangible impact on society through research and creative activity. OU researchers expand fundamental knowledge while transcending traditional academic boundaries, collaborating across disciplines and globally with other research institutions as well as with policymakers and practitioners from industry, government and civil society to create and implement solutions for a better world. To learn more, visit ou.edu/research.

About University of Oklahoma
Founded in 1890, the University of Oklahoma is a public research university located in Norman, Oklahoma. OU serves the educational, cultural, economic, and health care needs of the state, region, and nation. For more information visit www.ou.edu.

Office of the Vice President for Research and Partnerships at the University of Oklahoma or.edu/research (PRNewsfoto/University of Oklahoma)

Office of the Vice President for Research and Partnerships at the University of Oklahoma or.edu/research (PRNewsfoto/University of Oklahoma)

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