University of Alabama to lead NOAA institute to advance water and flood prediction—will use ASSURE Partner UAH Research Centers for UAS and IT Expertise

NOAA has selected the University of Alabama to host a new cooperative institute focused on accelerating research and enhancing collaboration. The goal of this new institute will be to improve the agency’s ability to provide actionable water resource information for forecasts, watches, warnings and related products to protect life and property and strengthen the national economy. 

The new research venture is called the Cooperative Institute for Research to Operations in Hydrology, or CIROH. 

“The new cooperative institute will work with NOAA to research and develop state-of-the-science water analysis, forecasts and guidance and the equitable delivery of decision-support services,” said NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad, Ph.D. “This program will train the next generation of scientists focused on addressing water issues and emergencies on all time scales, helping NOAA build a Climate Ready Nation that is responsive and resilient in a changing world.”

NOAA award comes with up to $360 million over five years

The selection comes with an award of up to $360 million over the course of five years, with the potential for renewal for another five years based on successful performance. Funding is contingent upon the availability of federal appropriations. NOAA selected the University of Alabama as the host for the cooperative institute after an open, competitive evaluation. The campus is also home to NOAA’s National Water Center, the nation’s research to operations center of excellence for water resources science and services.

CIROH will be led by the University of Alabama, and include 13 other graduate degree-granting institutions from Hawaii to Vermont to Canada. The consortium institutions are: University of Alabama Huntsville; Brigham Young University; Colorado School of Mines; Tuskegee University; University of Arizona; University of California San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography; University of Hawai‘i at Manoa; University of Iowa; University of Minnesota,Twin Cities; University of Utah; Utah State University; University of Vermont, and University of Saskatchewan. The new institute also includes 14 other research partners.

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said, “I am pleased to see NOAA’s increased commitment to addressing our nation’s water-related challenges. It is entirely fitting that the University of Vermont was selected as part of the consortium, given its proven track record of studying and improving water quality. The Cooperative Institute will enable scientists around the country to better understand the water cycle and help us to observe and predict it, which can save lives and protect property from extreme weather events.”

“I am thrilled that the University of Alabama has received this competitive award to facilitate a cutting-edge Cooperative Institute focused on hydrology,” said Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.  “UA has the unique environment and expertise to lead the nation in high-level water research between 28 partners. Thanks to the Alabama Water Institute’s leadership in assembling a world-class team, the growing scientific expertise and collaborations in Alabama will continue to benefit the nation. Additionally, NOAA’s efforts to create this innovative institute will, in turn, protect communities and promote wise investments across the nation through better water models, forecasts and predictions. This award is excellent news for Alabama and its findings will influence decisions made across the continent for years to come.”

“I’m excited to learn that the University of Alabama has been chosen to host the new Water Cooperative Institute,” said Representative Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies. “UA already houses the National Water Center, so this is a perfect fit for the expertise of the students, faculty and staff of the university. I look forward to seeing the research that comes from this new cooperative that allows us to plan for the weather challenges of the future.”

The cooperative institute will focus on four research themes:

Expansion and improvement of water resources prediction capabilities.

Advancement and acceleration of community water resources modeling.

Application of social, economic and behavioral science to water resource products and services. 

Advancement of hydroinformatics, which is the application of information and communication technologies to address increasingly serious issues of equitable and efficient use of water for different purposes.

“Flooding is a coast-to-coast threat, often generated by prolonged or extreme precipitation,” said Mary C. Erickson, acting director of NOAA’s National Weather Service. “This new cooperative institute and its research partners will help us develop and test new tools and methods to meet community needs for high-resolution water predictions and actionable scenarios to build local resilience.”

Erickson added that the institute’s close proximity to the National Water Center on the University of Alabama campus will enable the highest level of collaboration to accelerate innovation and research to operations.

NOAA supports 20 cooperative institutes consisting of 70 universities and research institutions in 28 states and the District of Columbia. These research institutions provide strong educational programs that promote student and postdoctoral scientist involvement in NOAA-funded research.

By Monica Allen

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