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  1. Abstract

    Relative sea level rise at tide gauge Galveston Pier 21, Texas, is the combination of absolute sea level rise and land subsidence. We estimate subsidence rates of 3.53 mm/a during 1909–1937, 6.08 mm/a during 1937–1983, and 3.51 mm/a since 1983. Subsidence attributed to aquifer-system compaction accompanying groundwater extraction contributed as much as 85% of the 0.7 m relative sea level rise since 1909, and an additional 1.9 m is projected by 2100, with contributions from land subsidence declining from 30 to 10% over the projection interval. We estimate a uniform absolute sea level rise rate of 1.10 mm ± 0.19/a in the Gulf of Mexico during 1909–1992 and its acceleration of 0.270 mm/a2at Galveston Pier 21 since 1992. This acceleration is 87% of the value for the highest scenario of global mean sea level rise. Results indicate that evaluating this extreme scenario would be valid for resource-management and flood-hazard-mitigation strategies for coastal communities in the Gulf of Mexico, especially those affected by subsidence.

  2. Heavy rainfall leads to severe flooding problems with catastrophic socio-economic impacts worldwide. Hydrologic forecasting models have been applied to provide alerts of extreme flood events and reduce damage, yet they are still subject to many uncertainties due to the complexity of hydrologic processes and errors in forecasted timing and intensity of the floods. This study demonstrates the efficacy of using eXtreme Gradient Boosting (XGBoost) as a state-of-the-art machine learning (ML) model to forecast gauge stage levels at a 5-min interval with various look-out time windows. A flood alert system (FAS) built upon the XGBoost models is evaluated by two historical flooding events for a flood-prone watershed in Houston, Texas. The predicted stage values from the FAS are compared with observed values with demonstrating good performance by statistical metrics (RMSE and KGE). This study further compares the performance from two scenarios with different input data settings of the FAS: (1) using the data from the gauges within the study area only and (2) including the data from additional gauges outside of the study area. The results suggest that models that use the gauge information within the study area only (Scenario 1) are sufficient and advantageous in terms of their accuracy inmore »predicting the arrival times of the floods. One of the benefits of the FAS outlined in this study is that the XGBoost-based FAS can run in a continuous mode to automatically detect floods without requiring an external starting trigger to switch on as usually required by the conventional event-based FAS systems. This paper illustrates a data-driven FAS framework as a prototype that stakeholders can utilize solely based on their gauging information for local flood warning and mitigation practices.« less
  3. Wastewater-based epidemiology has played a significant role in monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic, yet little is known about degradation of SARS-CoV-2 in sewer networks. Here, we used advanced sewershed modeling software to simulate SARS-CoV-2 RNA degradation in sewersheds across Houston, TX under various temperatures and decay rates. Moreover, a novel metric, population times travel time ( PT ), was proposed to identify localities with a greater likelihood of undetected COVID-19 outbreaks and to aid in the placement of upstream samplers. Findings suggest that travel time has a greater influence on RNA degradation across the sewershed as compared to temperature. SARS-CoV-2 RNA degradation at median travel times was approximately two times greater in 20 °C wastewater between the small sewershed, Chocolate Bayou, and the larger sewershed, 69th Street. Lastly, placement of upstream samplers according to the PT metric can provide a more representative snapshot of disease incidence in large sewersheds. This study helps to elucidate discrepancies between SARS-CoV-2 viral load in wastewater and clinical incidence of COVID-19. Incorporating travel time and SARS-CoV-2 RNA decay can improve wastewater surveillance efforts.
  4. In this study, a stress-dependent groundwater model, MODFLOW-SD, has been developed and coupled with the nonlinear subsidence model, NDIS, to predict vertical deformation occurring in basins with highly compressible deposits. The MODFLOW-SD is a modified version of MODFLOW (the USGS Modular Three-Dimensional Groundwater Flow Model) with two new packages, NONK and NONS, to update hydraulic conductivity and skeletal specific storage due to change in effective stress. The NDIS package was developed based on Darcy–Gersevanov Law and bulk flux to model land subsidence. Results of sample simulations run for a conceptual model showed that hydraulic heads calculated by MODFLOW significantly overestimated for confining units and slightly underestimated for aquifer ones. Moreover, it showed that applied stress due to pumping changed initially homogeneous layers to be heterogeneous ones. Comparison of vertical deformations calculated by NDIS andMODFLOW-SUB showed that neglecting horizontal strain and stress-dependency of aquifer parameters can overestimate future subsidence. Furthermore, compared to the SUB (Subsidence and Aquifer-System Compaction) package, NDIS is more likely to provide a more accurate compaction model for a complex aquifer system with vertically variable compression (Cc), recompression (Cr), and hydraulic conductivity change (Ck) indices.
  5. As much as 3.05 m of land subsidence was observed in 1979 in the Houston-Galveston region as a result primarily of inelastic compaction of aquitards in the Chicot and Evangeline aquifers between 1937 and 1979. The preconsolidation pressure heads for aquitards within these two aquifers were continuously updated in response to lowering groundwater levels, which in turn was caused by continuously increasing groundwater withdrawal rates from 0.57 to 4.28 million m3/day. This land subsidence occurred without any management of changes in groundwater levels. However, the management of recovering groundwater levels from 1979 to 2000 successfully decreased inelastic compaction from about 40 mm/yr in the early 1980s to zero around 2000 through decreasing groundwater withdrawal rates from 4.3 to 3.0 million m3/day. The inelastic consolidation that had existed for about 63 years roughly from 1937 to 2000 caused a land subsidence hazard in this region. Some rebounding of the land surface was achieved from groundwater level recovering management. It is found in this paper that subsidence of 0.08 to 8.49 mm/yr owing to a pseudo-constant secondary consolidation rate emerged or tended to emerge at 13 borehole extensometer station locations while the groundwater levels in the two aquifers were being managed. Itmore »is considered to remain stable in trend since 2000. The subsidence due to the secondary consolidation is beyond the control of any groundwater level change management schemes because it is caused by geo-historical overburden pressure on the two aquifers. The compaction measurements collected from the 13 extensometers since 1971 not only successfully corroborate the need for groundwater level change management in controlling land subsidence but also yield the first empirical findings of the occurrence of secondary consolidation subsidence in the Quaternary and Tertiary aquifer systems in the Houston-Galveston region.« less