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Sep 30 / Dave Schumaker

Predicting the Extent of Floods in the Southwest

A research team with the University of Arizona has been playing with a new way to predict the extent of future flash flooding throughout the Southwest. Current maps from FEMA over estimate the extent of areas that are threatened by floods. The new method “combines a new numerical computer model with two additional methods, satellite-image analysis and field observations.”

Flash flooding in the desert. (Source: vsc.edu)In addition to providing better hazard information to the public, revising the floodplains maps could have major economic impact in the rapidly growing Southwest. Often, homeowners in areas deemed to be in a floodplain must buy flood insurance in addition to regular homeowner’s insurance.

“I think the important thing is that we have three methods that give darn near the same result, and it’s a way smaller floodplain than the FAN model FEMA has generally used,” said research team leader Jon D. Pelletier, an associate professor of geosciences at The University of Arizona in Tucson. “These three independent methods converge on the same answer. … That was really surprising to us.”

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