ARLINGTON, TEXAS — A University of Texas (UT) Arlington water resources engineer is developing a first-of-its-kind prototype that would allow the City of Fort Worth to more effectively dispatch emergency personnel to save lives and property when flash flooding occurs. D.J. Seo, an associate professor in the Department of Civil Engineering, received a $310,000 grant from the City of Fort Worth, the National Science Foundation and the National Weather Service to use very high-resolution rainfall data from a new weather radar system for high-resolution monitoring and prediction of flash flooding. The research, a collaboration with the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and Colorado State University, is part of NSF’s Accelerating Innovation Research program.
Seo said Fort Worth emergency responders could see an effective lead time of up to 30 minutes in many flash-flooding situations. “The prototype will provide timely and location-specific information of what’s happening currently and in the immediate future when flash flooding occurs,” Seo said. “The City officials can use that information to help dispatch emergency personnel at the right time and to the right place.”
The weather radar system is part of a partnership among The University of Texas at Arlington, the Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere, a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center; the North Central Texas Council of Governments, the National Weather Service and many other cities and universities across North Texas.
Amy Cannon, an engineer with the Fort Worth Transportation and Public Works Department, said Seo’s research also would look at Zoo Creek and Edgecliff Branch in Fort Worth for real-time inundation mapping. “These are areas that need accurate, timely flood predictions. Dr. Seo’s prototype will give us an advantage in these flooding hot spots,” Cannon said. “Utilizing better information through the prototype will give us an advantage in helping protect people and property during flood events.”
Khosrow Behbehani, dean of the UT Arlington College of Engineering, said Seo’s work would have other benefits beyond flash-flood forecasting. “Once Dr. Seo’s modeling is completed, it could very easily be adapted to study the impact of development on rainfall-runoff response in an urban area. It also could examine the emergency preparedness of a city’s infrastructure for water hazards,” Behbehani said. “I could also see that urban areas can use this innovative system in the future to improve their water conservation programs. That’s especially important in North Texas when water conservation is needed in times of drought.”
The new CASA system provides very high-resolution rainfall and other data every minute compared with every five to six minutes with the existing systems. The new system focuses on a more concise area, giving forecasters detailed information to better monitor and track storms and precipitation. Because the CASA system is designed to observe the atmosphere closer to the ground, the system requires an extensive network of radars.
UT Arlington was the first institution in the North Texas region to install a CASA weather radar system. The system sits atop Carlisle Hall on the main campus. Similar systems have been installed or are scheduled to be installed at The University of North Texas in Denton and elsewhere in Fort Worth and Addison. Plans call for eight sites initially throughout North Texas.
Seo will collect real-time data from the CASA system and integrate that with information from geographic information system maps through hydrologic and hydraulic modeling.
“The strength of the CASA system is that it provides spatially detailed information at a very high temporal frequency,” Seo said. “What makes this research more exciting is that this is the first system of its kind in the country because North Texas is the first metropolitan area to deploy a network of CASA radars.”
Funded by a National Science Foundation grant, CASA is a consortium of nine universities, government agencies and industry partners. The North Central Texas Council of Governments is coordinating participation of area municipalities.