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Alabama Water Institute

AWI Spotlight: Using Models to Reduce Threat of Natural Disasters

Dr. Jongkwan Kim smiling

Dr. Jongkwan Kim is a visiting scientist to the Alabama Water Institute from the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. His expertise focuses on hydrology, primarily distributed land surface, hydrological and hydrometeorological modeling. His interest in these areas helped bring him to Tuscaloosa.

“Water is an important resource for all living life, and The University of Alabama has done much research on water,” said Kim. “Many departments in and around the University, including the National Water Center, have hired various fields of professors and researchers for water research.”

In recent years, Kim has been studying the National Water Model, or NWM, which is a new distributed hydrologic model of NOAA’s National Weather Service.

“I compared the performances of HL-RDHM, an initial distributed hydrologic model of NOAA-NWS and NWM over six river forecasting centers,” he said. “I have also participated in the project of ‘Demonstration of Hyper Resolution Modeling of Urban Flooding’ to generate valuable street-level inundation flood maps at the request of the U.S. Congress.”

In that project, he applied the WRF-Hydro model, an open-source community model and the core of the NWM, on a highly urbanized area with high spatial and temporal resolution. He analyzed the streamflow and maximum water depth simulations with U.S. Geological Survey streamflow observations and noted high water marks from field surveys and social media.

Finally, he participated in an ongoing NWM improvement project, which helps strengthen the land surface and hydrologic processes within that model. He investigated computer codes within the NWM to advance the mathematical and physical representations.

The outcomes for these projects come down to a singular goal.

“Many people suffer from natural disasters, such as floods and droughts every year, and I want to minimize the damage caused by water through accurate modeling, observing and forecasting,” said Kim. “Through the NWM and its improvement, I want to make better predictions and eliminate the risk of natural disasters.”

In addition to his continued work on the NWM, he wants to analyze the impact of human activities, like dam or reservoir construction, on changes in surrounding climate, land cover, ecology and vegetation. Kim sees these ideas and his experience at UCAR and the NWC as opportunities to further strengthen collaborations on campus.

“I would like to develop projects to integrate multiple departments and our AWI centers within UA,” he said. “My philosophy is to think interdisciplinary, how I can integrate a diverse team, to approach traditional and non-traditional projects.”

To meet Kim and discuss collaboration efforts, he can be contacted at