Nov 13: Webster

Long-term Flood Risk Projections Informed by Climatic Variation and Human-Induced Shifts in Hydrologic Response

Prof. Veronica Webster

CEE Dept

A large portion of the U.S. population, infrastructure, and industry is located in flood prone areas; however, structural and nonstructural strategies used to reduce the economic, social, and environmental impacts of floods continue to be based on static estimates of flood risk despite the documented influence of urbanization and climatic variation on flood peaks. Thus, the current challenge is to create a statistical framework to project future flood risk that accounts for natural climate variability, potential climate change, and impending land use changes. In particular, this research seeks: (i) to determine the relative impacts of climatic variation and anthropogenic activities on flood risk under future scenarios of climate change, land use, and emissions, and (ii) to extend traditional statistical flood risk models to account for such influences. A combination of observation-based statistical models that use extant data and physically-based hydrologic models that simulate flood series under future scenarios have been employed for a number of gauged watersheds through the Northeastern U.S. Results for select watersheds will be presented and associated challenges with physically-based hydrologic modeling of extreme flow events will be discussed.