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Flood And Drought Assessment In A Human-dominated Water Cycle


Department of Civil and Structural Engineering

About the Project

This is an ideal project for a resourceful and driven individual. The successful candidate will develop and hone first-rate analytical, computational and communication skills that will enable them to choose their subsequent career path, whether in academia or industry.

Decision-makers and water users (water utilities, industries, farmers) need academics and analysts to provide relevant information about the potential impacts of water extremes (droughts, floods) in a changing world. Fit-for-purpose hydrological models that link climate variables (precipitation, temperature) to these extremes need to account for the fact that humans have become an integral part of the water cycle.

This project will use and link together existing models to propose a diagnostic framework for the coupling of a weather generator with a coupled human and natural hydrological model, that integrates both natural processes and water management aspects (water use, storage, transfers, etc.).
A first step in the project will couple an existing weather generator with a high-profile hydrological model, featured in Nature and Science in large part thanks to its ability to represent parts of the human systems. After this, there will be room for the student to tailor the project to their interests, and focus on some questions among the following topics:
1) Diagnostics of weather generators: how can we choose a weather generator to pair with a given hydrological model to get the best representation of flood / drought risk? And to understand whether this weather generator will be relevant to simulate future climates?
2) From weather to streamflow generation: streamflow generation at sites that are key for water managers is easier and less computationally intensive than coupling a weather generator with a complex hydrological model. So how can weather generation inform streamflow generation?
3) Diagnostics of water management strategies: what are their impacts on flood and drought risk? Can the coupling of weather generators and hydrological models reveal a larger range of conditions in which human infrastructure could fail? Can optimisation of these strategies reveal the trade-offs between resilience to water hazards and other uses of the water infrastructure?

This project will include national but also international cooperation opportunities, with groups at Cornell University and the University of New Hampshire in the United States, among others.

Pre-requisite qualification
Suitable for candidates holding or anticipating award of an MSc, or 1st/2.1 undergraduate degree in an engineering or numerical/physical sciences discipline. A taste for programming is essential and prior experience is a plus.

Funding Notes

This project is NOT FUNDED, although Departmental/University scholarships are available for applicants who can demonstrate strong evidence of research potential.

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