Anouk Bomers is an assistant professor in the Marine and Fluvial Systems research group of the Faculty of Engineering Technology (ET). She is concentrating on rivers and on modelling floods, using extremely detailed numerical models. The only drawback, she admits, is the amount of computing time involved.
"To fully model a flood in the IJssel I need ten hours,” Bomers explains. It really ought to be a faster process, she feels. “What I actually need is a quick overview. Of where things might go wrong in a rainstorm, or where dikes might need to be raised or strengthened, or where people and animals might need to be evacuated.” Because this cannot be done quickly at present, Bomers hopes to speed things up with machine learning.
She is doing this by using upstream flow measurements, flow comparisons between rivers, and water level projections to identify weak points in rivers and dikes. Her ultimate aim is to develop a ‘dashboard’ for Rijkswaterstaat, the national water management body, that shows real-time measurements. “So that organisations can see where an evacuation needs to happen, and that there are three hours left in which to do it, for instance. It’s hard to say now how feasible that kind of dashboard is, but this is a long-term plan and we’re starting with small steps.”
Bomers’ research became very topical in July 2021, when Germany, Belgium and Limburg in the Netherlands were suddenly hit by enormous floods. “Those floods could have been expected from rainfall predictions, but calculating the precise consequences took too long, partly because those floods were very unusual. In the Netherlands we’ve always assumed that floods happened in the winter, but this was in the middle of summer, with the water meadows full of long grass. That roughness resulted in higher water levels, so the predictions were off.”
Due to climate change, Bomers has no doubts about the relevance of her work, and she points to an interesting paradox. “We’ve had several dry summers. In 2018, for instance, the rivers were so much shallower that cargo vessels on the Waal had to carry smaller loads, which had economic consequences. Back then everyone was interested in drought, but since last year everyone’s suddenly just as interested in flooding. Climate change is showing us the extremes, and so my research work will definitely have an impact.”
As a lecturer Bomers is linked to the Bachelor’s programme in Civil Engineering and the Master’s programme in Civil Engineering and Management. She teaches hydraulic modelling and regularly supervises Bachelor’s and Master’s graduation assignments. Bomers considers it important that students are given the opportunity to research what they themselves find interesting, and promotes this, hoping that these opportunities will help them make good career choices later on.
Anouk Bomers is a UT alumna and assistant professor in the Marine and Fluvial Systems research group in the faculty of Engineering & Technology (ET). Before she started work at ET she completed a Bachelor’s in Civil Engineering at the UT. At Lund University in Sweden she did a minor in Physical Geography. In Twente she completed a Master’s in Civil Engineering and Management, with research into Road impact on erosion development during overtopping flood events, after which she gained her doctoral degree at the UT with her thesis Hydraulic modelling approaches to decrease uncertainty in flood frequency relations. In 2021 she was awarded the Professor De Winter Award for a publication in a relatively new journal, Hydrology.
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