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Modeling for Flood Studies

Posted on October 6th, 2014
Flood 2014

Floodwaters rose again in 2014.

Fluid dynamic river models are a cornerstone in flood prediction and planning. The use of 1D and 2D models has allowed the Iowa Flood Center (IFC) to provide flood information to local agencies and citizens. The IFC uses these models to create maps of flood zones illustrating the potential increases in water level.

While the 1D and 2D models provide quick results, they don’t offer the same level of detail as a 3D model. IIHR Associate Research Engineer George Constantinescu and PhD student Daniel Horna Munoz are working on a 3D model that would provide even more accurate flood information, helping to improve the response to rising waters.

“The goal of this model is to investigate flooding under extreme scenarios, such as a dam or levee failure,” Horna Munoz explains. In these circumstances, 1D or 2D models can give very rough approximations about where the flood extend would be. On the other hand, a 3D model would provide more accurate and realistic results that can be used by communities in planning for such events.

Constructing a model code from scratch take time, so the IFC researchers are using a commercial code called STAR-CCM+. Horna Munoz says this brings them even closer to being able to provide an accurate 3D flood model. The code is currently in the second part of the validation phase.

Daniel Horna-Munoz.

Daniel Horna-Munoz.

Horna Munoz says they are working to improve their simulation techniques to deal with realistic flood events so they can obtain realistic results in the least amount of time. The code is undergoing tests to verify its accuracy, and to determine whether adjustments are needed. By inputting data from previous floods, researchers can test the model’s prediction accuracy. Since researchers know the outcome of these past flood events, they are able to accurately compare the records to the model’s predictions.

Once STAR-CCM+ has passed the validation phase, the IFC will begin to implement the 3D model in flood extent prediction under extreme scenarios. While offering a higher level of detail compared to a 1D or 2D model, the STAR-CCM+ model does take a significant amount of time to gather data — often weeks longer than other models. The increased level of accuracy is important, though, and by using this new model, the Iowa Flood Center will be able to provide even more detailed flood information to the community.


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