Can we better predict droughts and floods?

Aaron Berg uses satellite data and hydrology models to help us better understand issues with water availability, whether it be a matter of too much or too little.

“Flood and drought clearly have broad implications for Canadians,” he says. “Understanding how we can make better predictions of these types of events through tracking and modeling the water supply affects everything from public safety, to the responsible use of resources.”

Berg, a Canada Research Chair in Hydrology and Remote Sensing focuses on improving the remote sensing models that are used to estimate soil moisture. He uses these observations to improve hydrological modeling, seasonal climate forecasting and drought identification.

“I am quite excited about an upcoming project called the Soil Moisture Active Passive satellite mission. This NASA Earth observation mission is supported by the Canadian Space Agency. Observations from this mission, interpreted properly, will be important to a great number of applications including improved prediction of floods, better quantification and observation of drought, and improved weather forecasts.”

Many water security threats can be linked to changes in soil moisture. Researchers have shown that observations of soil moisture can be used for predicting everything from floods to agricultural productivity. This has increased the importance of soil moisture observations.

Effective management of water resources is of increasing global concern. A significant number of people around the world are already exposed to water-related risks due to water scarcity or flooding. Population increases and climate change are expected to cause further stresses to global water resources. Strategies that allow people to adapt to and mitigate water security threats require better tools that can detect and predict emerging issues.

“As with most environmental work, it is difficult to isolate a single goal for our research,” Berg says. “We try to focus on incremental improvement. I am convinced that these improvements to our models will have great societal benefit.”

Aaron Berg

Aaron Berg

University of Guelph

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