Iowa professors release new flood risk study - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Iowa professors release new flood risk study

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WSIL -- Flooding is a hot topic in our region, especially after the record-breaking flooding last year. But a recent study shows that flooding trends in our region may be going up.

"The approach has been, lets look at the past to move forward," explains Dr. Gabriele Villarini, Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Iowa.

Moving forward is the idea behind a new study released by professors from the University of Iowa. They've looked at water and flood data from the last 30 years and noticed some areas experienced a slight increase in the number of days above flood thresholds, including our region.

Flooding isn't uncommon around here, but Dr. Villarini explains there are multiple factors that can create flooding events, including current river stage and, of course, rain.

"Even if you already have more water in your system, the same amount of precipitation coming from rainfall events is going to lead to bigger flood events," he says.

That includes flood events like May 2011 and, most recently, January 2016. Significant rain rose river levels above flood stage, but the flood study needed to include more than just extreme events.

"Can we understand what causes the changes in the overall wetness?" Villarini asks. "So the idea is, okay, we are to take the rainfall and the overall, both extreme as well as the overall rainfall has been changing, increasing or decreasing depending on where you're at."

While some years are wetter than normal and others are significantly drier, weather records at WSIL do show a gradual increase in yearly rainfall totals and could be a factor in increased flood events.

The research, however, won't stop, and Villarini hopes his findings can help communicate flood risks and to keep moving forward.

Others factors that went into the study were soil moisture, land use and dam construction. Villarini says they hope to continue the study and attempt to forecast flooding trends.

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