Upmanu Lall


918 S.W. Mudd

Tel(212) 854-8905

Upmanu Lall has broad interests in hydrology, climate dynamics, applied statistics, water resource systems analysis, risk management and sustainability. Challenging questions at the intersection of these fields, especially where they have relevance to societal outcomes or to the advancement of science towards innovative application motivate him. His current research covers 3 major initiatives that are developed through the Columbia Water Center.

The Global Water Sustainability Initiative is focused on an assessment of global water scarcity and risk, and innovations across scales – from farmer’s field to reservoir optimization to national policy modifications to international trade – to develop solutions to an impending global water crisis.

The Global Flood Initiative is focused on understanding and predicting the incidence of extreme floods around the world as it relates to the climate controls on large scale moisture transport; and on using this knowledge to design structural and financial instruments to mitigate these risks for societies and supply chains. 

Research Interests

Climate & Hydrologic Risk; Applied Statistics & Machine Learning; Water Sustainability, Security, Resilience, Systems; Floods and Droughts; Nonlinear Dynamics.

America’s Water is driven by the goal of developing sustainable water management and infrastructure design paradigms for the 21st century recognizing the linkages between urban functioning, food, water, energy and climate. It seeks to pull together a comprehensive understanding of the issues facing water infrastructure in the USA. These include: the financing of and investment in the replacement of aging infrastructure; pricing and allocating water given changing values and climate; the management of the total urban water cycle through new technologies and network topologies; groundwater depletion and national food and economic futures; and novel opportunities for flood risk management and non-point source pollution mitigation.

These programmatic initiatives are backed by research on systems level modeling of hydrology, climate, agronomy and economics. Lall has pioneered the application of techniques from (a) nonlinear dynamical systems, (b) nonparametric methods of function estimation and their application to spatio-temporal dynamical systems, (c) Hierarchical Bayesian models, and (d) systems optimization and simulation. He has been engaged in high level public and scientific discussion through the media, the World Economic Forum, and with governments, foundations, development banks, and corporations interested in sustainability. He has served on several national and international panels. He was one of the originators of the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, and is a past President of the Natural Hazards Focus Group of the American Geophysical Union.

Lall received a B.Tech in Civil Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur in 1976 and a PhD in Civil & Environmental Engineering from the University of Texas, Austin, in 1981.   He is a fellow of the American Geophysical Union.  In 2014, he received the European Geophysical Union’s Henry Darcy Medal; and in 2010 he received the ASCE Arid Lands Hydrology Research Award. In 2019 he was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.


Columbia University                                                                                                                                                       

  • Director, Columbia Water Center  2008-date
  • Alan & Carol Silberstein Professor of Engineering  2005-date
  • Chair, Civil Eng. & Eng. Mechanics  2009-2010
  • Chair, Earth & Environmental Eng.,  2003-2006
  • Professor, Civil Eng. & Eng. Mechanics,  2002-date
  • Professor, Earth & Environmental Eng.,  2001-date
  • Senior Research Scientist, International Research Institute for Climate & Society  2001-date
  • Visiting Prof., Columbia Earth Institute  1999-2001

Utah State University

  • Professor, Civil & Environmental Eng.,  1995-2001
  • Associate Director, Utah Water Research Lab.,  1997-2001
  • Associate Professor, Civil & Environmental Eng.  1988-1995
  • U.S.G.S., Salt Lake City, UT   Hydrologist  1988-1989

ISMAL, Ranchi, India

  • Pre-stressed Concrete Development Engineer  1976-1977


  • American Geophysical Union
  • American Society of Civil Engineers
  • AAAS
  • American Water Resources Association
  • American Water Works Association
  • European Geophysical Union


  • John R. Parks Teachers Fellowship, College of Engineering, University of Utah  1982-1983
  • Outstanding Researcher, Dept. of Civil & Environ. Eng., Utah State University  1995-1996
  • Research Excellence Award, College of Engineering, Utah State University  1995-1996
  • Borland Lecture on Hydrology, AGU Hydrology Days  2006
  • Kim Award for Faculty Involvement, Columbia University  2008
  • ASCE Arid Lands Hydrology Research Award  2010
  • Henry Darcy Medal, European Geophysical Union  2014
  • Fellow, American Geophysical Union  2017


  • Ho, M., Lall, U., Sun, X. and Cook, E. R. (2017), Multiscale temporal variability and regional patterns in 555 years of conterminous U.S. streamflow. Water Resour. Res. doi:10.1002/2016WR019632 
  • Lu, M., U. Lall, A. W. Robertson, and E. Cook (2017), Optimizing multiple reliable forward contracts for reservoir allocation using multitime scale streamflow forecasts, Water Resour. Res., 53, doi:10.1002/2016WR019552.
  • Bonnafous, L., U. Lall, and J. Siegel (2017), An index for drought induced financial risk in the mining industry, Water Resour. Res., 53, doi:10.1002/2016WR019866.
  • Ho, M., Lall, U., Allaire, M., Devineni, N., Han Kwon, H., Pal, I., Raff, D. and Wegner, D., (2017), The future role of dams in the United States of America. Water Resources Research, doi:10.1002/2016WR019905.
  • Russo, T. A., & Lall, U. , Depletion and response of deep groundwater to climate-induced pumping variability. Nature Geoscience. doi:10.1038/ngeo2883, 2017.
  • Lall, U.; Devineni, N.; Kaheil, Y.,  An empirical, nonparametric simulator for multivariate random variables with differing marginal densities and nonlinear dependence with hydroclimatic applications, Risk Analysis,36,1,57-73, 2016
  • Kwon, Hyun‐Han; Lall, Upmanu; A copula‐based nonstationary frequency analysis for the 2012–2015 drought in California, Water Resources Research, 52, 7, 5662-5675, 2016
  • Lu, M., Lall, U., Kawale, J., Liess, S., & Kumar, V. (2016). Exploring the Predictability of 30-Day Extreme Precipitation Occurrence Using a Global SST–SLP Correlation Network. Journal of Climate, 29(3), 1013-1029.
  • Devineni, N., Lall, U., Xi, C., & Ward, P. (2015). Scaling of extreme rainfall areas at a planetary scale. Chaos: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Nonlinear Science, 25(7), 75407.
  • Sun, X., & Lall, U. (2015). Spatially coherent trends of annual maximum daily precipitation in the United States. Geophysical Research Letters, 42(22), 9781–9789.
  • Lall, U; (2014) Debates—The future of hydrological sciences: A (common) path forward? One water. One world. Many climes. Many souls, Water Resources Research, 50(6),5335-5341.
  • Kwon, H.H., Lall, U., Engel, V., Predicting foraging wading bird populations in Everglades National Park from seasonal hydrologic statistics under different management scenarios, Water Resources Research, 47, 9, W09510, 2011
  • Lima, C.H.R., Lall, U., Jebara, T., Barnston, A.G., Statistical prediction of ENSO from subsurface sea temperature using a nonlinear dimensionality reduction, Journal of Climate, 22, 17, 4501-4519, 2009
  • Kwon, H., U. Lall and A. Khalil, 2007: Stochastic simulation model for nonstationary time series using an autoregressive wavelet decomposition: Applications to rainfall and temperature, Water Resour. Res., 43, W05407, doi:10.1029/2006WR005258. 
  • Khalil, A., H. Kwon, U. Lall, M. J. Miranda and J. Skees, 2007: El Niño–Southern Oscillation–based index insurance for floods: Statistical risk analyses and application to Peru, Water Resour. Res., 43, W10416, doi:10.1029/2006WR005281. 
  • Brown, C. and U. Lall, 2006: Water and Economic Development: The Role of Interannual Variability and a Framework for Resilience, Natural Resources Forum Volume 30, Issue 4, Page 306-317, Nov. 2006, doi: 10.1111/j.1477-8947.2006.00118.x
  • Sankarsubramanium, A. and U. Lall, 2003: Flood quantiles and changing climate: Seasonal Forecasts and Causal relations, Water Resources Research, May 2003, 39(5), 1154-1165. 
  • Jain, S. and U. Lall, 2001: Floods in a Changing Climate: Does the Past Represent the Future?, Water Resources Research, 37(12), 3193-3206.
  • Lall, U. and A. Sharma, 1996: A Nearest Neighbor Bootstrap for Resampling Hydrologic Time Series, Water Resources Research, 32(3), 679-693.
  • Lall, U., 1995: A Yield Model for Screening Surface and Ground Water Development, ASCE J. of Water Resources Planning and Management, 121(1), 9-22.
  • Rajagopalan, B. and U. Lall, 1995: A Kernel Estimator for Discrete Distributions, J. of Nonparametric Statistics, 4, 409-426.
  • Moon, Y., B. Rajagopalan and U. Lall, 1995: Estimation of Mutual Information Using Kernel Density Estimators, Physical Review E, 52(n3B), 2318-2321.
  • Lall, U. and C. Miller, 1988: An Optimization Model for Multi-Purpose, Multi-Reservoir Screening, with Explicit Yield Reliability Consideration, Water Resources Research, 24(7), 953-968.