Kevin Smiley

Landscape Change, Social Inequality, and Urban Flooding in Greater Houston

Map of Houston, Texas showing the percentage of impervious surfaces per section.

Five major natural disasters have occurred in Houston over the past 20 years, and three of these have occurred since 2015. The most recent, Hurricane Harvey, led to more than 100 deaths and an estimated 125 billion dollars in property damage. Even with the regular occurrence of disasters, there is often a gap in which areas are projected to flood during disasters, and which areas actually flood. The goal of this part of my research program is to investigate how the socio-environmental transformation of landscapes contributes to these increasing, changing, and uncertain flood risks during disasters. I develop a synthesis that showcases the characteristics of the human populations in areas that are being urbanized in the Greater Houston area, and how the production of these newly urbanized spaces conditions flood risks.

This research is presently funded by an Early-Career Research Fellowship through the Gulf Research Program of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.