Penn State joins $360 million national water research effort

Funded by NOAA, the collaborative institute is led by The University of Alabama


Penn State will join a national consortium led by The University of Alabama to translate water research into operations that improve the country’s ability to predict weather-related hazards and effectively manage water resources.  

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has funded the effort with $360 million — a portion of which of which will support Penn State’s contributions. Administered by the Alabama Water Institute, the grant establishes the consortium as the Cooperative Institute for Research to Operations in Hydrology (CIROH).  

Chaopeng Shen, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, will lead Penn State’s efforts, which will focus primarily on using artificial intelligence to better model and forecast how the quality and quantity of water may change due to any number of factors, from draught to hurricanes.  

“This consortium offers a phenomenal opportunity for hydrologists to bridge their areas of expertise to advance our collective understanding and public wellbeing,” said Shen, who is also affiliated with the Penn State Institute for Computational and Data Sciences. “By integrating AI to accelerate forecasting, modeling and various applications, we can produce highly accurate and precise predictions to help the country weather varying water conditions. Penn State will offer assistance to CIROH regarding machine-learning-based hydrologic modeling and the integration of physics and machine learning.”  

CIROH consists of hydrologic researchers from 28 academic institutions, non-profit organizations and government and industry partners across the United States and Canada. The team will develop and deliver national hydrological analyses, forecast information, data, guidance and equitable decision-support services to inform essential emergency management and water resources decisions. CIROH will also work closely with two federal organizations located on UA’s campus — NOAA’s National Water Center and the recently announced U.S. Geological Survey Hydrologic Instrumentation Facility. 

“We now begin the real work of coproducing research with NOAA and other partners that will benefit society and provide learning opportunities for students for years to come,” said Steven J. Burian, CIROH executive director, AWI director of science and professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering at UA. “The research innovations delivered by [CIROH] will improve forecasts of floods and droughts, increase efficiency of water resources management, protect water quality and empower stakeholders to make confident and timely decisions.”  

CIROH’s 14 consortium members include: The University of Alabama; Brigham Young University; Colorado School of Mines; Tuskegee University; The University of Alabama in Huntsville; University of Arizona; University of California San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography; University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa; University of Iowa; University of Minnesota, Twin Cities; University of Saskatchewan; University of Utah; University of Vermont; and Utah State University.  

Other consortium partners include: Baron Weather Inc.; Coastal Carolina University; Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrological Science Inc.; Dauphin Island Sea Lab; Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System; Jupiter Intelligence; New Mexico State University; Oak Ridge National Laboratory; RTI International; Stevens Institute of Technology; University of California, Davis; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and University of South Carolina.  

Read The University of Alabama press release here and the NOAA press release here.   



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