Iowa at increased flooding risk, UI study shows

A flood map showing flood frequency, with red signifying high frequency, blue signifying low (Photo courtesy: IIHR).

Researchers at the University of Iowa found the Hawkeye State is seeing a rise in flood frequency, and is at risk of further flooding, based on more than 30 years of data from 2,000 stream and river gauges across the country.

The study, conducted by experts at the Iowa Institute of Hydraulics Research, reveals northern states face more flooding than their southern counterparts.

Gabriele Villarini is the associate director of the Hydraulics Lab and a co-author of the study.

He said the cause for the increase is "basin wetness" or how much water has accumulated within a certain area.

Due to changing rainfall patterns and water stored in the ground (determined by NASA images), the northern United States is at a greater risk of experiencing minor, moderate, and major flooding.

Villarini said he and his team view this study as a starting point that may allow for a better predictor of future flooding.

"I look back to then move forward," Villarini said. "If we can understand what took us where we're at now, we're going to be better positioned to say what might be happening next."

The study took roughly eight months, and Villarini estimates the next phase will take several more months to complete.

Villarini said the two recent major floods to eastern Iowa were very unlikely, but added the data suggests they may be more likely than people originally thought.

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