Discovery Files

Protecting vulnerable urban areas from increasingly extreme weather

Initiative intends to improve precision of wild weather event predictions and reduce damage

Researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Northwestern University working under a U.S. National Science Foundation grant from the Growing Convergence Research program are constructing a new project to reduce damage caused by extreme weather events in cities across the globe.  Systems Approaches for Vulnerable Evaluation and Urban Resilience, referred to as SAVEUR, is intended to predict extreme weather events more accurately and protect vulnerable populations, areas and urban infrastructure.

SAVEUR will combine natural science, social science, data science and engineering to more precisely predict weather events like heat waves, poor air quality conditions and flooding. SAVEUR will also assess local vulnerabilities and recommend sustainable, adaptive infrastructure changes to improve extreme weather resilience and community preparedness.

SAVEUR's goals are to:

  • Improve extreme weather resilience.
  • Improve local air quality predictions.
  • Improve local flooding predictions.
  • Assess social and economic impacts.
  • Develop a framework to reduce vulnerability to extreme weather events.

"The project will provide improved assessments of the likelihood of extreme weather impacts in neighborhoods across the city, which can be used to direct resources to help those most at risk," said Aaron Packman of Northwestern University, the project lead. "In addition, the project will identify how green infrastructure such as parks, gardens and nature preserves can be used by local communities to reduce their vulnerability to extreme weather."

The team will use data from the Array of Things, a sensor network that gathers information on infrastructure and the environment, with some sensors adapted to relay information about flooding in Chicago communities. Comparing information from Array of Things sensors with historical water records will provide data about how different levels of rainfall impact stormwater infrastructure. SAVEUR will also examine the links between air temperature, air quality and the impact of urban development to inform updated response strategies and reduce extreme weather vulnerability in Chicago communities.

While the current project focuses on the Chicago metropolitan area, it has the potential for adaptation and expansion to cities around the world.