Amir AghaKouchak is a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth System Science at the University of California, Irvine. His research focuses on natural hazards and climate extremes and crosses the boundaries between hydrology, climatology, remote sensing. One of his main research areas is studying and understanding the interactions between different types of climatic and non-climatic hazards including compound and cascading events. He has received a number of honors and awards including the American Geophysical Union’s James B. Macelwane Medal and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Huber Research Prize. Amir is currently serving as the Editor-in-Chief of Earth’s Future. He has served as the principal investigator of several interdisciplinary research grants funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Science Foundation (NSF), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Amir has a passion for nature and landscape photography, and he uses his photos for creating educational materials.
Areas of Expertise (8)
Remote Sensing of the Environment
ASCE Huber Prize (professional)
AGU Fellow (professional)
American Geophysical Union’s Macelwane Medal (professional)
AGU Hydrologic Sciences Early Career Award (professional)
IAHS/STAHY Best Paper Award (professional)
2017 Cheng, L., Aghakouchak, A. Nonstatlonary precipitation intensity-duration-frequency curves for infrastructure design in a changing climate (2014) Scientific Reports, 4, art. no. 7093
Outstanding ASCE Faculty Advisor (professional)
Orange County Engineering Council (OCEC) Distinguished Educator Award (professional)
Frontiers of Engineering Education (FOEE) Award (professional)
2014 National Academy of Engineering (NAE) of the National Academies
University of Stuttgart: PhD, Civil and Environmental Engineering 2010
K.N. Toosi University of Technology: MSc, Civil Engineering 2005
Major: Water Resources
K.N. Toosi University of Technology: BSc, Civil Engineering 2001
Major: Water Resources
Media Appearances (10)
How California’s storms are projected to become more extreme with climate change
Los Angeles Times online
“Higher rain over snow ratio, faster snowmelt, and more intense storms can significantly impact water resource management in California,” said Amir AghaKouchak, a UC Irvine professor of civil and environmental engineering. “A shift toward more intense rain, as opposed to snow, will strain an already water-challenged environment to its limit.” … In a 2022 study, researchers at UC Irvine found that in the Los Angeles Basin, nearly 1 million people live in areas that could be threatened in a 100-year flood, and that Black and low-income communities are especially vulnerable.
World Nears Dangerous Climate Tipping Point With Snow in Short Supply
“That’s how sensitive the system is to snow — one single degree of temperature change,” said Amir AghaKouchak, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Irvine. “The implications are huge, both for ecosystems that don’t get a lot of attention and also drinking water.” AghaKouchak and Laurie Huning, an assistant professor of civil engineering at California State University, Long Beach, published the first global analysis of snow drought in 2020. They found that several mountain regions saw an uptick in snow drought intensity, length and frequency in the first 18 years of this century compared to the 19 years preceding it.
University Of California Irvine Study Finds Human-Caused Climate Change To Blame For Increase In California’s Wildfires
India Education Diary online
Researchers at the University of California and other international institutions have concluded that nearly all of the increase in scorched terrain can be blamed on human-caused climate change. ... “The 10 largest fires in California history have all occurred in the past two decades, and five of those have happened since 2020,” said co-author Amir AghaKouchak, UCI professor of civil and environmental engineering [associate director of Center for Hydrometeorology & Remote Sensing (CHRS)]. “Through our study, it has become clear that anthropogenic climate change is the major driver of this increase in wildfire damage.”
See the data behind climate change's devastating impact on California wildfires
USA Today online
“The 10 largest fires in California history have all occurred in the past two decades, and five of those have happened since 2020,” said study co-author Amir AghaKouchak, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Irvine. “Through our study, it has become clear that anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change is the major driver of this increase in wildfire damage.”
Wildfire burn areas in California are growing ever larger due to greenhouse gas emissions
Los Angeles Times online
Study authors determined that California wildfires consumed five times more area between 1996 and 2021 than in the 25 years prior — an increase chiefly attributed to climate change. Researchers also determined that the 50-year period as a whole saw a 172% increase in burn area. “This is very, very high,” said study co-author Amir AghaKouchak, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Irvine. “Even if it was much lower, still it would be significant, but 172% is really serious.”
Human-caused climate change to blame for increase in California's wildfires, says study
"The 10 largest fires in California history have all occurred in the past two decades, and five of those have happened since 2020," said co-author Amir AghaKouchak, UCI professor of civil and environmental engineering. "Through our study, it has become clear that anthropogenic climate change is the major driver of this increase in wildfire damage."
California wildfires incinerate vast amounts of land. But far more could burn in a warmer world, study says
San Francisco Chronicle online
The amount of land scorched by wildfires in Northern and Central California has increased fivefold in the last two decades — and nearly all of that increase can be attributed to human-caused climate change, according to a new study published Monday. By 2050, the amount of land burned could increase another 3% to 52%, depending on the level of temperature change in the next three decades, according to study author Amir AghaKouchak, a professor of earth science systems at UC Irvine. … “The effect of anthropogenic emissions is very, very significant, more than what we thought before we started the study. We were not expecting this level of percent change,” AghaKouchak said.
Flooding vulnerabilities of L.A. River’s Glendale Narrows spark concern amid record rain
Los Angeles Times online
In the last decade alone, California has been hit with back-to-back cycles of historic drought followed by historic rain, snow and flooding. “I’m personally concerned about this because our levee systems are very, very old and basically made out of soil,” said Amir AghaKouchak, a UC Irvine professor. AghaKouchak co-authored a 2020 study on the impacts of climate change on levees protecting critical infrastructure–transmission lines, roads, railroads, natural gas and petroleum pipelines in densely populated areas such as Southern California’s coastal communities.
Pajaro: The look of floods to come soon
In California, there are more than 14,000 miles of urban and rural levees. They protect dry land, cities, towns, homes, businesses, farms and public property from floods. … "On average, they are 57 years old and many of them were built using standards that were much less rigorous than are current building practices," said UC Irvine Climate and Flood Scientist [Professor] Amir AghaKouchak. … "We're not doing enough. Lack of maintenance is one of the biggest issues in my opinion," said AghaKouchak. … "Future earthquake can cause actual collapse and failure," said AghaKouchak.
California’s winter storms have been deadlier than any wildfire since 2018
The Washington Post online
The state’s years-long drought may have also had a psychological effect on residents, who lately have been praying for rain, said Amir AghaKouchak, a civil and environmental engineering professor at University of California, Irvine. “Fire, when you see it, you immediately feel the danger,” he said. “But rain is different, especially in California, where we consider it a good thing.” Floods, then, can blindside people, he said. And it doesn’t take much water — sometimes just a quarter of an inch in a matter of minutes — to transform a benign hill into a mudslide, AghaKouchak said.
Research Grants (3)
Resilience of Geotechnical Infrastructure under a Changing Climate: Quantitative Assessment for Extreme Events
Monitoring and managing food, energy, and water systems under stress
Weather Augmented Risk Determination System
Changes in the exposure of California's Levee-Protected Critical Infrastructure to flooding hazard in a warming climateEnvironmental Research Letters
2020 Levee systems are an important part of California's water infrastructure, engineered to provide resilience against flooding and reduce flood losses. The growth in California is partly associated with costly infrastructure developments that led to population expansion in the levee protected areas.
Impacts of ozone and climate change on yields of perennial crops in CaliforniaNature Food
2020 Changes in temperature and air pollution affect agricultural productivity, but most relevant research has focused on major annual crops (for example, wheat, maize, soy and rice). In contrast, relatively little is known about the effects of climate change and air quality on perennial crops such as fruits and nuts, which are important to dietary diversity and nutrition, and represent ~38% of California’s agriculture by economic value.
Flash droughts present a new challenge for subseasonal-to-seasonal predictionNature Climate Change volume
2020 Flash droughts are a recently recognized type of extreme event distinguished by sudden onset and rapid intensification of drought conditions with severe impacts. They unfold on subseasonal-to-seasonal timescales (weeks to months), presenting a new challenge for the surge of interest in improving subseasonal-to-seasonal prediction. Here we discuss existing prediction capability for flash droughts and what is needed to establish their predictability.
Climate Extremes and Compound Hazards in a Warming WorldAnnual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences
2020 Climate extremes threaten human health, economic stability, and the well-being of natural and built environments (e.g., 2003 European heat wave). As the world continues to warm, climate hazards are expected to increase in frequency and intensity. The impacts of extreme events will also be more severe due to the increased exposure (growing population and development) and vulnerability (aging infrastructure) of human settlements.
How do natural hazards cascade to cause disasters?Nature
2018 This has been an exceptional year so far for natural disasters. Typhoons in Asia and Hurricane Florence hitting the US east coast have caused extensive damage, flooding and mudslides. In the past two months, Scandinavia, Spain and Portugal, the United Kingdom, North America and South Africa experienced fierce forest blazes.
Mountain snowpack response to different levels of warmingPNAS
2018 Across the world, the seasonal montane snowpack stores and releases substantial amounts of water annually. As the global temperature is projected to rise, it becomes increasingly important to assess the vulnerability of the mountain snowpack. We therefore turn to the historical record to understand the extent to which snow water equivalent (SWE) and its centroid respond to different levels of warming.
Compounding effects of sea level rise and fluvial floodingPNAS
2017 Population and assets in coastal regions are threatened by both oceanic and fluvial flooding hazards. Common flood hazard assessment practices typically focus on one flood driver at a time and ignore potential compounding impacts.