Place: 4274 Chamberlin (refreshments will be served)
Speaker: Dan Wright, UW Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Abstract: 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. Many logically assume that floods are also becoming worse as a result. In this seminar, 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 properties. We will discuss what we know and don’t know about how these ingredients are changing, and see several recent examples of how new data and tools can be brought to bear to understand the complex relationships between rainfall, floods, and how they are co-evolving in a changing Wisconsin.