Heavy rainfall can cause rivers and drainage systems to overflow or dams to break, leading to flood events that bring damage to property and road systems as well potential loss of human life.
One such event in 2008 cost $10 billion (€8.4 billion) in damages for the entire state of Iowa. After the flood, the Iowa Flood Center (IFC) at the University of Iowa (UI) was established as the first centre in the United States for advanced flood-related research and education.
Today, simplified two-dimensional flood models are the state of the art for predicting flood wave propagation, or how floods spread across land. A team at IFC, led by UI's Prof George Constantinescu, is creating three-dimensional (3-D) non-hydrostatic flood models that can more accurately simulate flood wave propagation and account for the interaction between the flood wave and large obstacles such as dams or floodplain walls. These 3-D models also can be used to assess and improve the predictive capabilities of the 2-D models that government agencies and consulting companies use for predicting how floods will spread and the associated risks and hazards.