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UH Part of Consortium to Manage National Water Hazards, Resources

April 7, 2022, 1:00 PM HST
* Updated April 7, 11:57 AM
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Major storm damage in Hanalei, Kauaʻi, in 2018. (Photo credit: UH Mānoa Coastal Geology Group)

The University of Hawaiʻi is now part of a team of hydrologic researchers throughout the United States and Canada, whose mission is to help the nation get water and weather ready.

UH was named a member of a consortium awarded $360 million by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration throughout the next five years to improve the nation’s ability to predict water-related hazards and manage water resources.

The Cooperative Institute for Research to Operations in Hydrology is a consortium of 22 institutions of higher education and several nonprofit organizations and government and industry partners. According to a UH press release, the team will help realize NOAA’s vision of a water-and-weather-ready nation by developing and delivering national hydrological analyses, forecast information, data, guidance and support services to inform essential emergency management and water resources decisions.

Photo courtesy of University of Hawaiʻi

The UH-Mānoa Water Resources Research Center will coordinate the UH effort. The new NOAA institute will focus on the National Water Model, which provides vital information for purposes such as for flood forecasting.

“Currently, the skill of the Hawaiʻi implementation of the (National Water Model) is generally not sufficient to provide useful information to the National Weather Service to support their forecasting and extreme event warning responsibilities,” said Water Resources Research Center Director Thomas Giambelluca, the project lead for UH, in the press release. “In this project, the (Cooperative Institute for Research to Operations in Hydrology)–Hawaiʻi team will conduct research to improve the Hawaiʻi-specific and more general performance of the current and future versions of the (National Water Model). UH-Mānoa brings a wealth of expertise to the consortium regarding tropical weather and hydrological processes, especially for the Hawaiʻi region.”

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The first round of UH projects will focus on:

  • Making the Hawaiʻi Climate Data Portal a resource for the National Water Model.
  • Evaluating the National Water Model in Hawaiʻi.
  • Improving streamflow predictions via ensemble assimilation of streamflow data into the National Water Model.
  • A library of Hawaiʻi storm case studies.
  • Probability of precipitation.
  • Inundation modeling for Hawaiʻi.
  • Drought in Hawaiʻi.
  • Visualizing vulnerability to extreme weather.
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The institute will also help bolster UH’s water-related course offerings and graduate studies opportunities.

“In a time where climate change and other human-related actions are severely impacting water resources and weather around the world, hydrological research has become paramount to creating sustainable and resilient management solutions,” said UH Vice President for Research and Innovation Vassilis L. Syrmos in the press release. “The University of Hawaiʻi is pleased to be part of this important NOAA consortium and is well-represented by UH-Mānoa’s Water Resources Research Center and its cadre of multidisciplinary experts in weather- and water-related research.”

According to the release, the Cooperative Institute for Research to Operations in Hydrology will advance water research in support of NOAA’s Office of Water Prediction and reinforce the work of the National Weather Service and National Water Center.

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The institute also will create curriculum programs across its consortium members and partners to prepare the next generation of water professionals.

“Local-to-national scale workforce training programs will translate (Cooperative Institute for Research to Operations in Hydrology) advances into practice,” the press release said. “Extensive outreach and engagement will connect (the Cooperative Institute for Research to Operations in Hydrology) to stakeholders helping communities build resilience to water-related risks.”

The consortium is led by the University of Alabama and based out of the Alabama Water Institute.

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