June 13, 2018 - To forecast winter rainfall in the Southwest, look to New Zealand in the summer. UCI scientists find new teleconnection for early and accurate precipitation prediction.
June 13, 2018 - El Niño was long considered a reliable tool for predicting future precipitation in the southwestern United States, but its forecasting power has diminished in recent cycles, possibly due to global climate change. In a study published today in Nature Communications, scientists and engineers at the University of California, Irvine demonstrate a new method for projecting wet or dry weather in the winter ahead.
“The interhemispheric teleconnection that we have discovered promises earlier and more accurate prediction of winter precipitation in California and the southwestern U.S.,” said study co-author Efi Foufoula-Georgiou, UCI Distinguished Professor of civil & environmental engineering. “Knowing how much rain to expect in the coming winter is crucial for the economy, water security and ecosystem management of the region.”
The researchers called the new teleconnection the New Zealand Index, because the sea surface temperature anomaly that triggers it begins in July and August in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, close to New Zealand. As the sea surface temperature in the region cools down or heats up, it causes a change in the southern Hadley cell, an atmospheric convection zone from the equator to about the 30th parallel south.
This prompts a commensurate anomaly east of the Philippine Islands, which, in turn, results in a strengthening or weakening of the jet stream in the Northern Hemisphere, having a direct influence on the amount of rain that falls on California between November and March.
“With the New Zealand Index, we can predict from late summer the likelihood of above- or below-normal winter precipitation in the southwestern U.S., with a correlation in the order of 0.7 – compared to the El Niño-Southern Oscillation technique, which has a correlation around 0.3 to 0.4,” said lead author Antonios Mamalakis, a UCI graduate student in civil & environmental engineering. “Our research also shows an amplification of this newly discovered teleconnection over the past four decades.”
For the study, an interdisciplinary team of scientists analyzed sea surface temperature and atmospheric pressure in 1- and 2-degree cells around the globe from 1950 to 2015.
Mamalakis said the unexpected result was the discovery of persistent sea surface temperature and atmospheric pressure patterns in the southwestern Pacific Ocean that exhibited a strong correlation with precipitation in Southern California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah.
Climate researchers have traditionally relied on a few planet-spanning oceanic and atmospheric conditions to help them forecast future rainfall. Gradual changes in sea surface temperature in vast regions of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, jet stream-influencing high-pressure ridges over the Gulf of Alaska, and the familiar El Niño-Southern Oscillation are all players in the precipitation prediction game.
But in recent years, strongly positive El Niño conditions did not bring a lot of rain to California, as they had in the past, while the usually arid state received heavy precipitation in the winter of 2017, considered a neutral El Niño season.
“Predicting drought in the southwestern U.S. is a critical issue for food production and local economies,” said Tom Torgersen, director of the National Science Foundation’s Water Sustainability & Climate program, which funded the research. “The discovery of an interhemispheric bridge that affects the winter U.S. jet stream holds the promise of improved precipitation predictability and drought forecasts.”
Also participating in the study were Amir AghaKouchak, associate professor of civil & environmental engineering; James Randerson, Chancellor’s Professor of Earth system science; and Jin-Yi Yu, professor of Earth system science.
February 2018 - Rivmap toolbox: One of the top downloaded articles in Earth and Space Science journal
February 2018 - The article "High spatiotemporal resolution of river planform dynamics from Landsat: The RivMAP toolbox and results from the Ucayali River", published in Earth and Space Science, was one of the journal's top 10 most downloaded papers! As of year-end 2017 the article has received 909 downloads.
January 29, 2018 - Study shows wetlands provide landscape-scale reduction in nitrogen pollution
January 29, 2018 - In agricultural regions such as the U.S. Midwest, excess nitrate from crop fertilizer makes its way into rivers and streams through subsurface drainage channels and agricultural ditches.
High nitrate concentrations in waterways can be harmful to ecosystems and human health, contaminating drinking water and eventually flowing downstream far enough to increase the size of the Gulf of Mexico's "dead zone".
A study published today in the journal Nature Geoscience by National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded researchers offers new insights into this problem: Multiple wetlands, or "wetland complexes" in a watershed, are extremely effective at reducing nitrate levels in rivers and streams.
Read more here.
January 24, 2018 - Rise in severity of hottest days outpaces global average temperature increase
January 24, 2018 - While Earth’s average annual temperature has increased at a steady pace in recent decades, there has been an alarming jump in the severity of the hottest days of the year during that same period, with the most lethal effects in the world’s largest cities.
Engineers at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) have learned that urban centers with more than 5 million inhabitants and parts of Eurasia and Australia have been hardest hit by the accelerated growth in short-term, extreme-heat events, resulting in lost lives, reduced agricultural productivity and damage to infrastructure.
In a new study published in Earth’s Future, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, researchers report their analysis of temperature readings from the most recent 50- and 30-year periods rules out the possibility that natural climate variability is to blame for the mercury rising.
Read more of this interview here.
October 18, 2017 - UCI scientists see order in complex patterns of river deltas
October 18, 2017 - River deltas, with their intricate networks of waterways, coastal barrier islands, wetlands and estuaries, often appear to have been formed by random processes, but scientists at the University of California, Irvine and other institutions see order in the apparent chaos.
Through field studies and mathematical modeling, they have concluded that deltas “self-organize” to increase the number, direction and size – or diversity – of sediment transport pathways to the shoreline, boosting their ability to withstand human disturbances and naturally occurring factors. The research team’s findings have been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“With their entangled channels that split and rejoin multiple times before entering the sea, deltas are amazingly complex and varied, leading us to wonder if they’re hiding some simpler order,” said lead author Alejandro Tejedor, research associate in UCI’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “Could there be some common ‘goal’ on the part of deltas to sustain their existence by diversifying the spread of their fluxes to build land on their way to the ocean?”
The researchers sought to solve this riddle by applying statistics and mathematical modeling. Looking at 10 major river deltas around the world, they determined the probability of flows dividing into smaller channels and merging again at confluences, discovering that all but one, the Niger Delta in Africa, exhibited a high “nonlocal entropy rate,” meaning a large diversity of delivery pathways to the sea.
Read more of this interview here.
May 2017 - Research makes the cover of the Journal of Geophysical Research - Earth Surface 122(5)
May 2017 - Research by Czuba, J.A., E. Foufoula-Georgiou, K. Gran, P. Belmont, and P. Wilcock on Interplay between Spatially-Explicit Sediment Sourcing, Hierarchical River-Network Structure, and In-Channel Bed-Material Sediment Transport and Storage Dynamics has made the cover of the Journal of Geophysical Research - Earth Surface volume 122, issue 5.
February 2017 - Research makes the cover of Earth and Space Science 4(2)
February 2017 - Research by Schwenk, J., A. Khandelwal, M. Fratkin, V. Kumar, and E. Foufoula-Georgiou on High spatio-temporal resolution of river planform dynamics from Landsat: the RivMAP toolbox and results from the Ucayali River has made the cover of Earth and Space Science volume 4, issue 2.
December 19, 2016 - Renowned Hydrologist Joins UCI to Lead Interdisciplinary Research Efforts
December 19, 2016 - Efi Foufoula-Georgiou, an expert in hydrology and water resources, recently joined the University of California, Irvine as a Distinguished Professor of civil and environmental engineering. After nearly three decades at the University of Minnesota, with her research laboratory perched atop a waterfall on the Mississippi River, she moved to a region suffering from a severe drought, but the native of Greece is not complaining.
“I love it here. The research environment is vibrant, the collegiality inspiring, and UCI is at the cusp of unprecedented academic and intellectual growth. And the Mediterranean climate is encoded in my skin. I feel completely at home!” she says. Read more of this interview here.
December 16, 2016 - Landsat Science: The Secret Lives of Migrating Rivers
December 16, 2016 - Today at AGU 2016, Dr. Jon Schwenk from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities presented a poster on his detective work into the secret lives of migrating rivers.
Read more of his work here.
October 4, 2016 - UCI Environmental Engineer Recognized with Hydrological Sciences Medal
October 4, 2016 - The American Meteorological Society (AMS) has awarded Efi Foufoula-Georgiou the Hydrologic Sciences Medal for “her pioneering contributions to the science of hydrometeorology and for visionary and sustained leadership in advancing interdisciplinary hydrologic research.”
A Distinguished Professor in civil and environmental engineering, Foufoula-Georgiou is considered one of the world’s leading hydrologists and water resources engineers. Her research focuses on hydrology and geomorphology, with special attention to scaling theories, multiscale dynamics and space-time modeling of precipitation and landforms. Her innovations have improved predictions of space-time variabilities, as well as the uncertainties of water, sediment and land processes in response to climate and human disturbance.
“I am deeply honored and humbled by the award, and I am particularly proud to see that it recognizes not only my own research but my strong belief and commitment in promoting and enabling interdisciplinary research,” said Foufoula-Georgiou. “I’m looking forward to an exciting journey at UCI.”
Foufoula-Georgiou joined the faculty at the Samueli School of Engineering this fall. She has served on many national and international advisory boards, including the National Academy of Sciences Water Science and Technology Board, the NSF Advisory Council for Geosciences, NASA Earth Sciences Subcommittee and EU advisory boards. She is currently a presidential appointee to the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board and president of American Geophysical Union’s Hydrology Section. She is a recipient of the John Dalton Medal of the European Geophysical Society, AGU’s Hydrological Sciences Award and the AMS Horton Lecturer award. She is a fellow of AGU and AMS and a member of the European Academy of Sciences.
The AMS Hydrologic Sciences Medal is granted annually to researchers who make outstanding contributions to scientific knowledge in hydrology, hydrometeorology and/or hydroclimatology, including interactions between the land surface and the atmosphere.
June 7, 2016 - World Oceans Day: Deltas critical to food production, fisheries health, storm protection
June 7, 2016 - Although deltas make up just 1 percent of the world's land, they're home to more than half a billion people and to fertile ecosystems such as mangroves and marshes. Deltas also serve as economic hotspots, supporting much of the world's fisheries, forest products, and agriculture, and are food baskets for many nations.
Human actions rob deltas of their lifeblood: water and sediment. On a global scale, people have diverted more than 40 percent of river discharges and 26 percent of river sediments into large reservoirs. Losses of wetlands to development, and the erosion that follows, further deplete deltas of sediment. Sea level rise accelerates the losses. Hurricanes are often the death knell, cutting new channels and washing away huge amounts of mud and sand.
To find out how deltas around the world are faring, Foufoula-Georgiou and her colleagues are studying the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna (GBM) Delta, a vast fan that stretches across Bangladesh into West Bengal, India. Their work is part of the NSF-supported Sustainable Deltas Project. Despite its size, the GBM Delta is foundering. The delta is sinking, with water covering its land surfaces four times faster than sea level is rising. Sediment would normally help build up the delta, but human land use upriver reduces the amount of sediment carried downstream. A further insult comes from shrimp farming, which modifies delta channels and results in yet more loss of land. Almost 150 million people live in the GBM region. Most of them rely on the delta's natural resources, so they, as well as the wildlife that depends on the delta's rich sediment, are literally losing ground. The scene is far from unusual. Much of the sediment has been cut off from deltas across Asia. India has seen a 50 percent reduction for the Brahmani Delta, a 74 percent reduction for the Mahanadi, and a 94 percent reduction for the Krishna... Read more here.
March 15, 2016 - PhD students Zeinab Takbiri and Jon Czuba win OSPAs for their presentations at the 2015 AGU Fall Meeting
March 15, 2016 - Two PhD students won Outstanding Student Paper Awards (OSPAs) at the 2015 American Geophysical Union's Fall Meeting in San Francisco, California for their presentations:
Zeinab Takbiri (Hydrology Section) - Microwave Signatures of Inundation Area
Jonathan Czuba (Earth and Planetary Surface Processes Focus Group) - Near-Channel Sediment Sources Now Dominate in Many Agricultural Landscapes: The Emergence of River-Network Models to Guide Watershed Management
OSPAs are awarded to promote, recognize and reward undergraduate, Master's and PhD students for quality research in the geophysical sciences. Each year, sections and focus groups recruit judges to assess and score student oral and poster presentations at meetings. Typically the top 3-5% of presenters in each section/focus group are awarded an OSPA. To view all winners see the OPSA page or view the announcement on pages 27-29 of the March 15, 2016 issue of EOS.
Spring 2016 - Launching the National Center for Earth-surface Dynamics
Spring 2016 - Professor Efi Foufoula called me in January 2001. She and her colleagues Chris Paola and Gary Parker were in the midst of preparing a multi-year, multi-institutional, multi-million dollar proposal to the National Science Foundation (NSF). Did the Science Museum want to be a partner? Absolutely. Getting a big proposal funded by NSF requires a big idea, and they had one.
Rivers are vital to the physical, economic, social, and cultural well-being of billions of people around the world. And geologists, ecologists and economists have been studying rivers for decades, even centuries. But these academic discipline-driven ways of knowing had never coalesced into a more systemic understanding of rivers, to the detriment of rivers everywhere and the people dependent upon them. So Efi, Chris, and Gary envisioned that their proposed National Center for Earth-surface Dynamics would create a new synthetic science they called earth-process science that would enable multi-disciplinary quantitative understandings of rivers.
As can be imagined, such an ambitious proposal received intense scrutiny and months of review. But we made it through the gauntlet and the National Center for Earth-surface Dynamics (NCED) was established in summer 2002. I got to be one of the principal investigators, not as a scientist, but as the point person tasked with imagining how to bring the research and insights of this big collaborative scientific enterprise with researchers from a dozen campuses to the attention of large public audiences.
It was a great gig. I got to eat with these scientists, drink with them, and visit their research sites. But after engaging in this work for several years, I realized that I was hearing different versions of the same story from different scientists. The geomorphologists told me, “Do you realize that humanity is now the dominant agent of landscape change?” The sedimentologists asked, “Are you aware that humans are now responsible for the movement of more rock and sediment annually than all rivers and glaciers on the planet combined?” And the ecologists stated, “It is no longer possible to study an ecosystem on the surface of this planet without taking human influences into consideration.”
April 2015 - Research makes the cover of the Journal of Geophysical Research - Earth Surface 120(4)
April 2015 - Research by Schwenk, J., S. Lanzoni, and E. Foufoula-Georgiou on The life of a meander bend: connecting shape and dynamics via analysis of a numerical model has made the cover of the Journal of Geophysical Research - Earth Surface volume 120, issue 4.
October 2014 - Research makes the cover of the Journal of Geophysical Research - Earth Surface 119(10)
October 2014 - Research by Gangodagamage, C., E. Foufoula-Georgiou, and P. Belmont on River basin organization around the mainstem: scale invariance in tributary branching and the incremental area function has made the cover of the Journal of Geophysical Research - Earth Surface volume 119, issue 10.
Oct. 7, 2014 - Duluth News Tribune OpEd - A professor's view: Minnesota is a leader in facing climate-change challenges
Oct. 7, 2014 - It may seem strange to raise the implications of climate change brought about by global warming given that last winter was the coldest in several decades in much of the Eastern and Midwestern United States. But with so many recent stories focusing on the global ramifications of a hotter world, it is important we remind ourselves of what climate change really means to Minnesotans.
Increased levels of heat-trapping gases have increased the average global temperature, but this does not always equate to consistent warming at the local level. Climate change-induced shifts in the distribution of heat around the planet can lead to unusually wetter, cooler conditions in some areas yet drier, warmer conditions in others. As we already are experiencing, climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, including heat waves, droughts, heavy downpours like the ones Minnesota has received and floods. The results can be catastrophic: severe soil erosion, more frequent algae blooms in our lakes, and added costs to maintain transportation and infrastructure. With a vast majority of Minnesotans residing in urban areas with aging infrastructure, cities and suburbs particularly are vulnerable to climate change-related flooding and heat waves... Read more of this OpEd. (Archived link)
Sept. 25, 2014 - ICSU-endorsed initiative Sustainable Deltas 2015 launches in Rotterdam
Sept. 25, 2014 - A unique initiative endorsed by the International Council for Science - Sustainable Deltas 2015 - (SD2015) was launched at the "Deltas in Times of Climate Change II International Conference" in Rotterdam. The aim of the initiative is to focus attention and research on the value and vulnerability of deltas worldwide, and promote and enhance international and regional cooperation among scientists, policymakers and other stakeholders... Read more about Sustainable Deltas 2015. (Archived link)
Dec. 12, 2012 - University of Minnesota to lead international virtual institute for study of climatic and human effects on Earth
Dec. 12, 2012 - The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced that it will award an $720,000 grant to the University of Minnesota to lead an international, multi-university virtual institute for the study of Earth-surface systems, with a special emphasis on watersheds and deltas.
Linked Institutions for Future Earth (LIFE) is a new collaborative network of leading international research institutions, facilities and field sites working together on research related to predicting and understanding the impacts of climatic and human stresses on the landscape. LIFE seeks to produce research that informs policymakers and practitioners, while cultivating effective researcher exchange and mentoring, and generating innovative international public engagement toward landscape sustainability... Read more of this article. (Archived link)
Aug. 30-31, 2012 - Deltas Initiative: Developing a Decadal Science Plan for Deltas
Aug. 30-31, 2012 -
Deltas are unquestionably "hot spots" of change in the coastal environment, important for commerce and human habitation, but also vulnerable to human-induced changes from upstream water management, threatened from sea level rise from downstream, and affected by local resource exploration. The importance of deltas for economic development, food security, energy, and mineral exploration, among others, has been articulated in multiple publications, and deltas have been the subject of an increasing number of international meetings over the last decade. In 2011, a group of international researchers proposed to bring deltas to the forefront of public awareness and make them showcases of international collaboration on coastal sustainability by calling for an International Year of Deltas (IYDs) (Foufoula-Georgiou et al.,
2011). This effort has been endorsed by several international scientific Unions and academic institutions (http://www.iyds-2013.org/).
Earlier this year, the Belmont Forum, an organization of the world's major and emerging funders of global environmental research, put out a call for proposalsto the international
community to foster environmental sustainability research across disciplines and across national borders starting with two main focus themes: freshwater security and coastal vulnerability. A project on "DELTAS" was submitted by a group of researchers from 12 countries and 22 institutions and was invited to be developed to a full proposal which was submitted
in December, 2012. In parallel, an effort to develop a Deltas Decadal Initiative (DDI) is currently under way.
The Delta Decadal Initiative (DDI), aims to catalyze the international research and stakeholder communities toward co-developing a framework of research and decision-making
based on an integrated modeling approach of the interacting physical-socio-economic factors affecting delta "health". Specifically, a Science Plan to guide the DDI willspell out the integrative research, the data requirements, and the actionable products needed to inform management and decision making for protecting and sustaining the economic and environmental
integrity of deltas around the world. Special emphasis will be given on developing: (a) integrated data sets and metrics to assess delta vulnerability; (b) frameworks for data collection and sharing; and (c) models that can be used for scenario building towards informing policy and management. Regional collaboration and engagement with stakeholders is a must
and mechanisms for ensuring this will be proposed...
Read more about the Deltas Initiative
May 9, 2011 - The Polytechnic Reporter - In remembrance of George Bugliarello
May 9, 2011 - Friends and colleagues share memories in remembrance of George Bugliarello. Read about their memories.
December 2007 - Foufoula-Georgiou Receives 2007 Hydrologic Sciences Award
December 2007 - Efi Foufoula-Georgiou received the 2007 Hydrologic Sciences Award at the 2007 AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco, Calif. The award is for outstanding contributions to the science of hydrology. Read more .