What’s Up With All These Storms & Floods??


For July 10, 2019                              

Please share with your neighbors & friends

Hi WN@TL Fans,

It rained on Monday in Washington DC. A lot. As much as four inches in three hours. The capital of our nation experienced an inundation.

It was a storm surge from above rather than from the surf.  It flooded the infrastructure below, including parts of the White House basement, and the Metro.  It soaked the utilities tunnel that runs under the US Capitol and that was the fastest air-conditioned route to get from the House Office Buildings over to the Senate side, at least when I was a congressional staffer 19 summers ago.

Of course last August 20, Cross Plains got fire-hosed with 15 inches of rain in 24 hours. West Middleton got 12 inches. Basements were awash, heirloom treasures turned to trash.  Tenney Park lagoon rose up and reclaimed East Johnson Street.

All of this continues the now three-decades-running debate over global warming, global climate change, and climate weirding.

The one thing that’s clearly weirder than the climate is the politics, but I regress.

This week (July 10) Daniel Wright of Civil & Environmental Engineering poses a question a lot of us have been asking in these times of distress: “What’s Up with All These Storms & Floods?

Here’s how he describes his talk:

“Recent decades have seen a substantial increase in the number and severity of rainstorms in Wisconsin and elsewhere. This increase is driven by global warming, and is likely to continue into the foreseeable future. With all these increases in extreme rainfall, floods must also be getting worse, right?

“In this episode of Wednesday Nite @ The Lab, we’ll see that the story is more complicated. Some human actions have had clear impacts on floods—urbanization, for example, significantly exacerbates flooding, while dams and reservoirs are able to mitigate these risks to some extent. Advances in weather forecasting have reduced flood-related fatalities, but economic growth has greatly increased the overall economic risks from flooding.

“When it comes to climate change impacts on floods, the story is complex and not well understood. The reason for this is that floods are “recipes” that consist of multiple ingredients—not just rain but also land cover, soil moisture, snow, and river channel properties. We will discuss what we know and don’t know about how these ingredients are changing, and explore the implications for the future of flooding in both urban and rural areas of Wisconsin and beyond.”





About the Speaker:

Professor Wright holds bachelors and masters degrees in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of Michigan.

He worked a Regional Sanitation Engineer with the Peace Corps in Bolivia from 2006-2008 and as a hydropower engineer in Chile from 2008-2009.

He earned his PhD from Princeton University, where he studied urban rainfall and flooding with Dr. James Smith.

He worked as a disaster risk management consultant at the World Bank from 2013-2014, focusing on flood and landslide risk reduction in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Before joining the Civil and Environmental Engineering faculty at UW-Madison, Dr. Wright was a NASA Postdoctoral Program fellow at Goddard Space Flight Center.

He received a National Science Foundation CAREER Award in Hydrologic Sciences in 2018 and is a member of NASA’s Precipitation Measurement Mission Science Team.

His research interests include hydrometeorology and hydroclimatology, the role of rainfall variability and uncertainty in floods and other environmental hazards, and applications of satellite and ground-based rainfall measurement.



Next week (July 17) Jaime Cordova of Genetics, and who is a NASA Solar System Ambassador, will be here to help us mark the 50th anniversary of humans on the moon with his talk, “The Next Giant Leap: Apollo and Life Sciences Research for the Journey to Mars.”

The Apollo Program:  Talking ‘bout my generation.

But where will we be in 2033?

Hope to see you soon at Wednesday Nite @ The Lab.

Thanks again!

Tom Zinnen
Biotechnology Center & Division of Extension


UW-Madison:  5.8 million owners, one pretty good public land-grant teaching, research and extension university.

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