Rain and Research: Longhorns Working with Weather

Students posed for pictures by the UT Tower during breaks from the rain at the 2015 commencement ceremonies.
2015 has brought a wetter than usual spring in Austin. Undaunted, Longhorns are making the most of the forecast by researching rain and working with weather. Photo by Marsha Miller

Spring Showers & Texas Wildflowers

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has one of the largest rainwater harvesting systems in America.

Using 17,000 square feet of rooftop, the system can collect about 10,200 gallons of water for every inch of rain. Every year, the Wildflower Center can collect an average of 200,000 gallons of water, which is used exclusively on the center’s plants.

The Wildflower Center offers a how-to guide on rainwater harvesting for homeowners who want to add value to a house and make a healthful investment for an ecologically sustainable future.

Or if you’re looking to plant a rain garden, the Wildflower Center’s question-and-answer service, Ask Mr. Smarty Plants, provides tips and data to help turn your thumbs green. 

Soaking rains this fall and winter paved the way for a great wildflower season this spring — and helped beautiful bluebonnets bloom across Texas. Then, school ended and the spring semester culminated on the Forty Acres with the class of 2015 celebrating commencement during a rainy weekend, and storms have continued to drench Austin.

But one group of UT researchers hasn’t had to cancel pool parties because of the weather — they knew it was coming.

Researchers in the Jackson School of Geosciences recently developed a better, more accurate way to forecast summer rainfall across Texas. They predict that most of the state has a greater than 90 percent probability of a wet summer this year.

The new model, which uses more localized data than larger-scale models have typically used to predict summer weather in Texas, is about 70 percent effective in predicting summer precipitation. The greater accuracy gives water providers and decision makers more time to prepare for potential droughts.

“Water is a tremendously important resource, and improving forecasting will only help in managing that resource,” says Jackson School of Geosciences Dean Sharon Mosher. “This is the type of science that will benefit people throughout the state and beyond.”

This picnic table is calling your name. #wildflowers #bluebonnets #getoutside #atx

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Here’s a quick look at some of the other ways Longhorns are researching rain and working with weather:

Watch engineering students explain how a rain garden at a local elementary school is serving as a learning tool and a storm water infrastructure solution: