Quantify the Roles of the Different Key Factors in the Houston Flood During Hurricane Harvey Grant uri icon


  • Coastal flooding threatens environmental sustainability globally. Recently, Hurricane Harvey unleashed catastrophic flooding and associated losses on Harris County, Texas. In particular, the area north-west of Houston was overwhelmed by the release of water from the Barker and Addicks Reservoirs. Mitigation of the impacts of coastal urban flooding relies on untangling the hydrological processes under a series of factors - namely, urbanization, weather prediction, and reservoir flow regulation. Therefore, the research goal of this project is to quantify the roles of the different key factors in the Houston area flooding that occurred during Hurricane Harvey.The specific research objectives are: 1) Quantifying the role of urbanization in exacerbating the flooding; 2) Evaluating the skill of precipitation forecasting, and its impact on streamflow prediction; and 3) Investigating the effectiveness of reservoir flow regulation during the event.The research will take advantage of a high-performance hydrological model with a newly implemented reservoir component. The research using this integrated modeling framework will help close existing knowledge gaps, and will improve future decision making under extreme flood events. First, the additional streamflow attributed to urban development during Harvey will be quantified by comparing hydrological model outputs under a series of historical land covers. Second, the performance of the operational precipitation and streamflow forecasts will be evaluated, and their associated uncertainties will be quantified. Third, the reservoir module of the hydrological model will be optimized under various land cover and precipitation forecast scenarios, such that a better understanding about flow regulation under various uncertainties can be gained. Furthermore, the project not only seeksto untangle the complex interactions among urbanization, weather prediction, and reservoir flow regulation, it also seeks solutions amidst combined uncertainties. The research approaches and results are target to not only benefit future decision making in the Houston area, but also to bring insight for mitigating floods in other megacities along the world''s coastlines. The educational objective is to enhance environmental sustainability education through involving students at all levels - from K-12 to undergraduate and graduate students. These activities will center on different aspects of Hurricane Harvey, and will engage students according to age and education level.This award reflects NSF''s statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation''s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

date/time interval

  • 2018 - 2020