Quantitative Skills > Teaching Resources > Activities > Flooding

Flood Frequency and Risk Assessment

Contributed by Carol Ormand, Wittenberg University.
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This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Teaching Collection

Resources in this top level collection a) must have scored Exemplary or Very Good in all five review categories, and must also rate as “Exemplary” in at least three of the five categories. The five categories included in the peer review process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This page first made public: Feb 25, 2006


In this lab, students calculate recurrence intervals for various degrees of flooding on a portion of the Des Moines River in Iowa, based on historical data. Then they plot these calculations on a flood frequency curve. Combining flood frequency data with a topographic map of the region, students do a risk assessment for the surrounding community.

Learning Goals

After this activity, student should:

Context for Use

This activity was designed to be started in a laboratory period and completed outside of class to be turned in the following week. Students work in groups and turn in one set of products.

Teaching Notes and Tips

To do the lab as written, you need data on the Des Moines River. Alternatively, it would be fairly easy to adapt to a different river, as long as the USGS has a gaging station there.

It is necessary to obtain topographic maps and profiles of the Des Moines River around Des Moines, IA. Basic tools are also needed and are listed on the first page of the Activity Sheet.

Teaching Materials

Activity Sheet (Microsoft Word 48kB Mar16 04)
Excel data file (Excel 19kB Mar16 04)


Groups turn in a data table, flood frequency graph, map and topographic profile, and the answers to the bulleted questions in the text of the activity.

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Controlled Vocabulary Terms

Subject: Geoscience:Hydrology, Environmental Science:Natural Hazards:Floods/Fluvial Processes
Resource Type: Activities:Lab Activity
Special Interest: Quantitative, Hazards
Grade Level: College Lower (13-14):Introductory Level
Quantitative Skills: Graphs, Algebra, Geometry and Trigonometry
Ready for Use: Ready to Use
Earth System Topics: Surface Processes:Rivers and Lakes, Hydrology, Human Dimensions:Natural Hazards, Hydrology:Surface Water
Topics: Hydrosphere/Cryosphere, Human Dimensions/Resources
Theme: Teach the Earth:Teaching Environments:Intro Geoscience, Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Environmental Science, Teach the Earth:Incorporating Societal Issues:Hazards, Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Hydrology/Hydrogeology, Teach the Earth:Teaching Topics:Water

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