Research Motivation
Current Projects

Satellite-derived Water Storage

Characterizing the amount of available freshwater is of paramount importance to freshwater resource management. Recent advances in satellite-based remote sensing enable the measurement of the anomalies in the Earth's gravitational field. These measurements can be used to better quantify the amount (or mass) of water stored as snow, ice, lakes, soil moisture, and groundwater.

Satellite-derived Radiation

Downwelling shortwave (SW) and longwave (LW) radiation are the dominant energetic inputs to the land surface. Our research involves the use of geostationary and polar-orbiting satellite platforms to characterize the keys modes of variability in the land surface energy forcing, which drives much of the variability in the latent heat and sensible heat fluxes eminating from the terrestrial environment.

Passive Microwave Prediction

More than one billion people globally are dependent on freshwater runoff that originates as snow and ice. Space-based measurements of microwave radiation emitted from snowpack provide an important information source that can be used to improve our knowledge of the mass of snow within a snowpack, and hence improve our understanding of available freshwater resources.

Hydrologic Data Assimilation

Data assimilation is a general technique where model estimates are merged with measurements to ultimately yield an estimate that is superior to the model or measurements alone. In the context of hydrology, this technique can be applied to satellite-derived estimates of soil moisture, water surface elevation, vegetation growth, snow depth, land surface temperature, and groundwater storage.

Machine Learning Applications

Artificial intelligence applications, including neural networks and support vector machines, provide unique capabilities in the prediction of nonlinear processes. The skill and efficiency of these predictions enhance our knowledge of hydrologic processes operating at regional and continental scales. Examples include the prediction of satellite-based measurements related to snow and soil moisture state estimation.

High Performance Computing

Application and development of advanced computer models utilizing satellite-derived measurements requires advanced computing techniques such as parallel processing and "big data" storage. The parallel Deepthought supercomputer at UMD employs >4000 CPUs and provides the computing power necessary to study hydrologic processes operating across a range of spatial and temporal scales.

Research Group

Barton Forman (professor)

Research interests include terrestrial hydrology, satellite-based remote sensing, machine learning applications, and data assimilation


Yuan Xue (graduate)

Research interests include satellite-based remote sensing, data assimilation, and machine learning

Saad Bin Tarik (graduate)

Research interests include soil moisture remote sensing and distributed hydrologic modeling

Jing Wang (graduate)

Research interests include hydraulic modeling, water quality modeling and low impact urban development

Lu Liu (graduate)

Research interests include climate change impacts on water availability and water temperature as applied to the electrical generation sector

Nicole Heinlein (undergraduate)

Research interests include ground-based neutron detection as applied to soil moisture estimation and hydrologic modeling

Course Offerings

Data Assimilation in Civil and Environmental Engineering
(graduate level)

Hydrologic quantities are typically estimated from observations or via physical models. The emerging field of “data assimilation” is a general technique whereby observations and physical models are optimally merged. The goal of data assimilation is to derive the most utility from two disparate data streams. (click here for syllabus)

Land-Atmosphere Interactions in Hydrology
(graduate level)

We examine the role of hydrology in the climate system, precipitation and evaporation processes, atmospheric radiation, the exchange of mass, heat, and momentum between the soil and vegetative surface and the overlying atmosphere, and the flux and transport of water within the turbulent boundary layer. (click here for syllabus)

Fundamentals of
Engineering Fluids
(undergraduate level)

Examines the theoretical bases for fluid statics and dynamics, including the conservation of mass, energy and momentum. Modeling of hydraulic systems is introduced. Pipe flow and open-channel hydraulics are emphasized with application to real-world problems. (click here for syllabus)

Applications in Remote Sensing for Global Water Sustainability
(graduate level)

Introduces basic concepts of remote sensing in water resource management. Discussion of measurements related to soil moisture, snow, groundwater, precipitation, and river discharge. Application of remote sensing datasets in the characterization and quantification of global freshwater.

Engineers Without Borders

Guatemala (UCLA Chapter)

More than a dozen household-scale (~10 people/house) rainwater collection systems have been constructed since the inception of this project. Each concrete system collects and stores clean, drinking water during the rainy season so that residents have safe, drinking water during the dry season when water is scarce.

Peru (UMD Chapter)

A liquid drip chlorination system was successfully constructed in Janary 2014 and is currently undergoing monitoring. The system was designed to disinfect fecal coliform from the water supply. The overarching goal is to deliver safe, pathogen-free drinking water to the residents of Compone, Peru, a small village about 20 miles from the "Lost City of the Incas", Machu Picchu.

Ethiopia (UMD Chapter)

An assessment trip was conducted in July 2013 to evaluate a recently-constructed stormwater runoff system as well as other recently-completed projects conducted by EWB-UMD. Our dedicated partnership with the community of Addis Alem will continue during the next phase of our project which started Fall 2013.