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JHU-led project aims to help region better withstand hurricanes, heat waves

Guikema receives $3M grant to build multidisciplinary data modeling tool

The National Science Foundation has awarded Seth Guikema, a Johns Hopkins University assistant professor of geography and environmental engineering, a $3 million grant to build a program that will determine the effect of repeated hurricanes and heat waves on the Mid-Atlantic region and suggest ways to improve the region's ability to withstand them.

A team led by Guikema will create a computer model that incorporates research on engineering, social and behavioral sciences, geosciences, climate science, public health, and landscape architecture. The resulting project will allow scientists to test hypotheses about a region's ability to withstand hazards in a way never before possible.

The project, Guikema said, will help policymakers, emergency personnel, and homeowners understand the steps they can take to better survive these extreme weather events.

"For too long, different groups focused only on their areas. But if you don't take it all into account, you can have great ideas that simply don't work," Guikema said. "Our overarching goal is to look at this problem differently."

The NSF grant will fund the project, called the Integrated Hazard, Impact, and Resilience Model, over four years. Johns Hopkins just received the first installment of $2.3 million. In awarding the grant, the NSF called Guikema's project "a critical resource for the nation." Other Johns Hopkins researchers will contribute their expertise to the model. They include:

  • Robert Dalrymple, chair of the Department of Civil Engineering, who has expertise in coastal surge modeling
  • Ben Zaitchik, an assistant professor of earth and planetary science who will contribute climate research
  • Roger Peng, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health specializing in environmental biostatistics, who will assess health impacts
  • Tak Igusa, a professor of civil engineering and interim director of the Johns Hopkins Systems Institute, who will help Guikema build the main model

Experts at Georgetown, George Mason, Maryland Institute College of Art, and the Washington, D.C.-based Resources for the Future Inc., are also collaborators on the project. They will contribute resources about how repeated hurricanes and heat waves impact everything from land use to public policy to the behavior of individuals.

"How might these storms or heat waves play out in housing values, in public health, in economies, and with infrastructure over time?" said Guikema, who last year built a model that accurately predicted power outages in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. "We'll have a model public officials can use to evaluate policy changes."

Though the model will focus on the Mid-Atlantic, the coastal region stretching roughly from New York to Virginia, Guikema expects its lessons to have broad applicability for the rest of the country and for other nations. The finished model will be made available for free.

The award is part of the NSF's Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability plan, intended to aid research that will reduce the impact of natural hazards, enhance safety and contribute to sustainability.

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