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Research grants and contracts April 2013 – University of Reading

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Research grants and contracts April 2013

The total amount of money awarded in research grants and contracts in April was £2,909,624. The grants awarded ranged from £5,475 to £801,089, and this money came from a number of national and international sources including the European Commission, European Space Agency, UK Government, research councils, industry and charitable trusts.

The two largest grants were funded by the Natural Environment Research Council programme 'Flooding from Intense Rainfall', which is a planned NERC-led five-year programme contributing to our understanding of the risks associated with flooding from high-intensity convective storms.

The research was funded under a call for projects to address the programmes first two scientific goals, namely: to improve the length and accuracy of forecasts of the occurrence and intensity of rainfall associated with convective storms; and to identify the susceptibility to high-intensity rainfall of different catchment types. The research is split into two work packages, of which Reading was awarded both.

Work package one is being led by Dr Sarah Dance (joint appointment in Mathematics & Statistics and Meteorology), who received £801,089 for a project entitled 'Exploiting new observations and data assimilation techniques for improved forecasting of convective precipitation.' The work will be carried out in a partnership between the Universities of Reading, Surrey and the Met Office.

Brief periods of intense rainfall can lead to flash flooding with the potential to cause millions of pounds of damage to property, and to threaten lives. Accurate flood warnings even just a few hours ahead can allow preparations to be made to minimise damage. In order to improve the prediction of these events, more accurate forecasts of heavy rainfall are needed, and these can then be used to inform flood prediction and warning systems. The UK Met Office is developing a new numerical weather prediction system with the goal of improving severe weather forecasts, and this will enable a more accurate representation of fine-scale features and explicit representation of storms. However, the results are still dependent on the accuracy of the initial data describing the current state of atmospheric variables such as winds, pressure, temperature and humidity. These initial conditions are usually estimated using a sophisticated mathematical technique known as data assimilation that blends observations with model information, taking account of the uncertainties in the data. This project will involve fundamental research to reduce these initial condition errors by exploring new techniques to extract the maximum amount of information from observations of winds, temperature, precipitation and moist processes.

Work package two was awarded to Dr Hannah Cloke from Geography and Environmental Science. She is the lead on a large consortium grant totalling approximately £2.7 million, of which £767,096 will be awarded to directly to Reading, entitled: 'Susceptibility of catchments to INTense RAinfall and flooding (SINATRA)'. Co-Investigators at Reading are Anne Verhoef (GES), David Mason and Richard Allan (Meteorology) and Sarah Dance (Mathematics & Statistics and Meteorology). The other institutions in the consortium are Newcastle University, University of Bristol, King's College London, University of Exeter, University of Hull and the British Geological Survey (BGS).

Extreme rainfall events may only last for a few hours at most, but can generate terrifying and destructive floods. Their impact can be affected by a wide range factors such as the location and intensity of the rainfall, the shape and steepness of the catchment it falls on, how much sediment is moved by the water and the vulnerability of the communities in the flood's path. These events are by their nature rapid, making it very difficult for researchers to 'capture' measurements at the time. The complexity, speed and lack of field measurements make it difficult to create computer models to predict flooding.

Project SINATRA will increasing our understanding of what factors cause flooding from intense rainfall, and then use this new understanding and data to improve models so we can predict where they may happen nationwide. These new findings and predictions will be provided to the Environment Agency and other professionals with information and software they can use to manage flooding from intense rainfall, reducing damage and impact to communities.


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