July 12, 2007
BOULDER—As summer unfolds, the risks of drought and localized flooding increase in many regions. Floods and droughts are among the most damaging and deadly natural events in the United States and throughout the world.
In a typical year, floods kill more Americans than hurricanes, tornadoes, or lightning. The loss of life can be even greater in densely populated, low-lying regions overseas. Droughts extract a punishing economic toll, especially on agriculture, and spawn dangerous conditions for wildfires.
Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) are available to address questions about floods and droughts. Their research specialties include
Richard Carbone, NCAR Senior Scientist
Carbone is an expert on weather prediction, with a focus on thunderstorms and other forms of precipitation. By analyzing tens of thousands of radar images, he and his collaborators have discovered a systematic daily pattern of summertime rainfall across North America and other parts of the world that may hold clues to localized flooding. He is the founding director of NCAR's Institute for Integrative and Multidisciplinary Earth Studies.
Michael Glantz, NCAR Senior Scientist
Glantz studies the interaction among climate, society, and the environment. His research covers desertification, African drought, food production, the use of climate-related information for economic development, and early warning systems for climate and weather events and other natural disasters. Glantz directs NCAR's Center for Capacity Building, which focuses on increasing the capability of institutions and people to cope with the impacts of climate, water, and weather in developed and developing countries.
David Gochis, NCAR Scientist
A hydrometeorologist, Gochis is helping to develop a flash flood forecasting system in the Denver area that will alert residents when particular rivers and streams are likely to flood. He also researches the North American monsoon, a pattern of mid- to late-summer rains that fall each year in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. The monsoon, which is important for farming, ranching, and wildfire control, may hold useful clues for predicting weather in several parts of the United States.
Ilan Kelman, NCAR Postdoctoral Fellow
Kelman specializes in the impacts of flash floods, droughts, and other natural disasters on society. He studies how floods can claim lives and collapse infrastructure, and how policy and behavioral changes, such as early warning systems, could reduce these effects. He also examines the impacts of drought on buildings and other infrastructure, and how society can better prepare for long dry spells.
Matthew Kelsch, UCAR Meteorologist
As a hydrometeorologist, Kelsch specializes in weather events involving water, such as floods, droughts, rain, hail, and snow. He has studied some of the biggest flood events in U.S. history, including those connected to hurricanes and tropical storms. Kelsch conducts courses on floods and other weather events for weather experts, including forecasters.
Jian Lu, NCAR Postdoctoral Fellow
Lu focuses on the potential impacts of climate change on drought. He has a particular interest in the southwestern United States, having co-authored a recent study in Science that projected severe droughts in the region because of global warming. Lu also studies the impacts of climate change on the world's hydrologic cycle, with an emphasis on monsoons and El Nino.
Kathleen Miller, NCAR Scientist
Miller, an economist, studies the impacts of climate change on precipitation and drought, and how society can respond to those impacts. She works with water utilities across the country, advising them on how warming temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns will alter mountain snowpack, stream flows, and evaporation rates, thereby affecting water supplies. She also examines precipitation changes and societal responses around the world.
Kevin Trenberth, NCAR Senior Scientist
Trenberth is an expert on climate change and how it is altering the world's hydrologic cycle. He has conducted extensive research into floods, droughts, and changes in precipitation patterns, concluding that global warming is likely to result in both more intense storms because of increased water vapor in the atmosphere and more prolonged droughts because of increased evaporation. Trenberth also studies global weather and climate patterns, with an emphasis on El Niño, hurricanes, and worldwide observations of the impacts of warming temperatures.
David Yates, NCAR scientist
Yates, a hydrological engineer, is collaborating with water utility officials in California and other states to prepare for the impacts of climate change. Warmer temperatures and more intense storms are expected to affect water supplies as well as water quality. Yates is also working with David Gochis (see above) to create a forecasting system in the Denver area that will alert officials about flash floods.
NCAR - Societal Aspects of Weather – Floods
Descriptions and links to additional resources focused on coping with the threat and aftermath of floods.
NOAA Hydrologic Information Center
Data and warnings on current river conditions and flash floods from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; background on historic floods.
NCAR - Societal Aspects of Weather - Seasonal - Summer Heat & Drought
Descriptions and links to additional resources focused on planning for and responding to summer heat waves and drought.
National Drought Mitigation Center
The NDMC is one of the nation's chief sources of current detail and background materials on drought and its consequences.
Related sites on the World Wide Web
View all Tip Sheets
The National Center for Atmospheric Research and UCAR Office of Programs are operated by UCAR under the sponsorship of the National Science Foundation and other agencies. Opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of any of UCAR's sponsors.