CULLEN COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING

University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering

News

NASA Grant Funds Congo River Basin Research

By: 

Toby Weber
Lee
Lee

With a surface area of approximately 2.3 million square miles, the Congo River Basin is the second largest river basin in the world, surpassed only by the Amazon.

Compared to the Amazon, though, the Congo basin is a mystery. Its remote location combined with political instability in the region have prevented geoscientists from gathering even the most basic information about the basin: How much water exists in its wetlands? Is most of this water from direct precipitation, river flooding or upland runoff? How much of the basin is wetland? All these are unknown.

Hyongki Lee, assistant professor in the Cullen College’s Department of Civil and Engineering, recently won a $663,000 grant from NASA to answer such questions. According to Lee, this research should give researchers a better understanding of everything from regional climate to greenhouse gas emissions.

“There is not much data [on the basin] so modeling is very limited,” said Lee. “As a consequence, the other important estimates based on the terrestrial dynamics of the Congo basin, such as the methane emissions of its flooded wetlands and its contributions to global methane levels, cannot be well known.”

Lee, who joined the college this fall, won’t be traveling to Africa to conduct this work. Instead, he’ll rely on unanalyzed data already collected from satellites operated by the European Space Agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and NASA.

These satellites have gathered data through optical sensing of the region, radar topography and the creation of gravity maps, which show areas of the earth with significant mass change due to terrestrial water storage change, such as in tropical rainforests. Lee and his research team will combine and process this data to answer the most basic questions about the Congo wetlands.

Combining multiple types of data from different satellites is basically unheard of in hydrologic research, Lee noted. If successful, this work will provide investigators with an entirely new method for studying areas of the planet that are otherwise inaccessible.

“This is a new combination of technologies for this application,” said Lee. “It’s a first attempt. That’s one of the reasons we proposed it.”

Faculty: 

Department: 

Related News Stories

ASCE Recognizes UH Civil Engineering Retiree With Service Award

Jerry Rogers, who retired as professor emeritus from the UH department of civil and environmental engineering in 2013, will receive a Service to the Institute Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

Jerry Rogers recognized for a lifetime of volunteerism

 

Jerry Rogers, who retired as professor emeritus from the UH department of civil and environmental engineering in 2013, will be honored with a Service to the Institute Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). The award will be presented on May 20 at the ASCE Environmental and Water Resources Congress in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

UH Honors Cullen College Professors With Awards

Yi-Lung Mo, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the UH Cullen College of Engineering, won a prestigious 2019 John and Rebecca Moores Professorship.

Yi-Lung Mo Wins Prestigious John and Rebecca Moores Professorship

 

Each spring, the University of Houston recognizes the best and brightest faculty members, honoring them with teaching and research awards. This year four members of the Cullen College of Engineering community earned distinctions. Read more about them below:

Upcoming Events / Seminars