Science Pops Open, Ep. 7: Come Drought or High Water

Research fellows of the AXA Research Fund tell the story of their work to reduce an array of risks

In 1910, the city of Paris suffered a flood of historic proportions when the Seine River overflowed its banks. If the waterway repeated this performance today, reservoirs would operate as our main line of defense against the very costly consequences, which, even with their help, could reach 9 billion euros in damage. Luciano Raso knows that the best possible management of reservoirs will be crucial for navigating the extreme conditions—be they flood or drought—that are expected to increase under climate change. And he believes this can be optimized to maximize control at no extra cost. Find out how he aims to do it, and what this kind of work brings the engineer, on a personal level.

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In 1910, the city of Paris suffered a flood of historic proportions when the Seine River overflowed its banks. If the waterway repeated this performance today, without the control offered by reservoirs, the damage could reach 18 billion euros; with reservoirs, that cost could be cut in half. As climate change is expected to increase the chance of extreme events affecting the water supply, the ability to manage this resource becomes ever more critical. Luciano Raso is convinced that, by optimizing reservoir management systems with predictive models, it will be possible to improve control over our water resources, without increasing costs.

Using the strategically important Seine as a test subject, Dr. Raso is developing management methods tailored to the reservoir system. For this, his models must take into account the consequences for the entire system (rivers, groundwater, etc.) as well as all of the final uses for water (drinking water, electricity production, and more.) The challenge is to create a harmonized management system capable of addressing two conflicting goals: controlling the huge amounts of water that flow through our communities at times and alleviating drought conditions at others. Luciano Raso aims to develop a system where early action is possible, whenever floods or drought are forecast. The potential utility of this work is clear—for Paris and for other communities anticipating similar water predicaments around the world.

Next Monday:

Tornadoes may be bigger and more common in the United States, but in Europe they can cause even more damage, due to the density of the population. And, yet, no one really knows the details of the severe storms that cause them: how often they occur in Europe, where, and under what atmospheric conditions. Dr. Bogdan Antonescu is a storm-knowledge chaser aiming to understand just that.


More Episodes of Science Pops Open:

Ep. 1 – Your body can defend itself against cancer. It just needs a little help!, with Margot Cucchetti 

Ep. 2 – Improving outcomes of crisis and conflict, thanks to an ethnographic outlook, with Ruben Andersson

Ep. 3 – After an Earthquake, the Show Must Go On, with Anna Reggio

Ep. 4 – Disrupting the Sleeping Sickness Symphony, with Fabien Guegan

Ep. 5 – Optimizing Welfare…and Equality, with Sean Slack

Ep. 6 – Awaiting Balance in the Adolescent Brain, with Kiki Zanolie

Ep. 7 – Come Drought or High Water, with Luciano Raso

Ep. 8 – Taking European Tornadoes by Storm, with Bogdan Antonescu

Ep. 9 – Learning to Tackle Climate Change Together, with Sandrine Sidze

Ep. 10 – Nourish the Children of Urban Slums, with Sophie Goudet

Ep. 11 – In Money Matters, We're Only Human, with Jeroen Nieboer

Ep. 12 – A Depressed Sense of Smell?, with Kalliopi Apazoglou

Ep. 13 – Climate Shifts Carried on a River of Air, with Nikolaos Bakas

Ep. 14 – Something in the Air Down There, with Fulvio Amato

Ep. 15 – Foretelling a Complex Future for our Complex Ecosystems, with Phillip Staniczenko

Ep. 16 – From Childhood Illness to Innovative Antibiotics, with Agata Starosta

Ep. 17 – Plants & Poisons: Assessing Contamination in Our Environment, with Natalia Ospina-Alvarez

Ep. 18 – Voice of a Storm Surge, with Emiliano Renzi