Scratching the surface water for better predictions

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As a surface water hydrologist, Kristie Franz studies water in streamsthat moves across the land and through and rivers. "I take over where the meteorologists leave off. Once the precipitation hits the ground, they kind of forget about it," laughed the assistant professor in Iowa State University’s Department of Geological and Atmospheric Sciences.

Franz is aiming to improve the ability to predict "stream flow events." Information about expected flow volumes and peak flows in a riverStream flow information is essential for reservoir operations, river navigation, water supply, recreation, environmental management and, in particular in the upper Midwest, flooding.

With funding from NASA and working with the National Weather Service, Franz is beginning the process of using satellite data to improve computer models that predict runoff and stream flow. The models, however,, however, are only as realistic and accurate as the quality and quantity of the data that goes into them.

"Currently, streamflow Most predictions rely primarily onare limited to ground-based precipitation and temperature data to model recent hydrologic processes, but that those observations miss most of the watershedis not complete data," Franz explained. "Satellite data can give us a better picture of what’s going on all across the watershed."

Franz’s work is ongoing, but her goal is to develop methods to generate have more reliable stream flow information that will allow emergency management officials to provide earlier and more accurate flood warnings.