Science Caf

AMES, Iowa - Back-to-back-to-back August thunderstorms. Record and near-record crests on the South Skunk River and Squaw Creek in Ames. Floodwater spilling over roadways and running through the Iowa State Center.

Is this wild weather and extreme flooding the new normal?

That question will be at the heart of a "Science Café" at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 22, at the West Towne Pub at 4518 Mortensen Road in Ames. The café will feature speakers Jeff Zogg of the National Weather Service and Kristie Franz of Iowa State University. There will also be time for questions, answers and discussion. The event is free and open to the public.

"We hear in the news that big storms and flooding will be a common occurrence from now on," said William Simpkins, an Iowa State professor of geological and atmospheric sciences and organizer of the Science Café. "The question is: Do the historical records actually show a trend towards bigger storms and floods?"

Zogg, a senior service hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Johnston, will give a talk he calls, "The August 2010 Ames Flood: It Can't be Worse than 1993, Can it?" He'll describe the storms that created the recent Ames flood and put the storms into a historical context.

Franz, a hydrologist and assistant professor of geological and atmospheric sciences, will raise an important question with her talk: "Do We Really Know What We Think We Know about Hydrologic Extremes?" She'll look at Iowa streamflow trends over the past decades and consider whether flooding and extreme hydrologic events are becoming more common.

"We had floods in Ames and throughout Iowa in 2008 and we have learned quite a bit from them," Simpkins said. "We want to place the Aug. 11, 2010, event in relation to those in previous years. Is it unusual to experience a big flood so soon after the last big flood and can we look forward to more floods of this magnitude?"

The event is the latest in a series of Science Cafés at Iowa State over the past two years. The events have been sponsored by Sigma Xi, an international multidisciplinary scientific research society. The Iowa State chapter of Sigma Xi and Iowa State's Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost are co-sponsoring the Sept. 22 Science Café on extreme weather and water.

The concept of the Science Café is to provide a forum for scientists to share their research with the public through presentations and conversations in an informal, friendly setting.