Luther College faculty recently published two pieces in academic journals

April 17, 2018

Luther College Professor Richard Bernatz recently had two pieces published in academic journals. “The Math Inquiry Workshop” was published in Consortium: the newsletter of the Consortium for Mathematics and its Applications, vol. 112, in the Spring-Summer 2017 edition, and “A statistical, spatial and hydrologic comparison of gauge-based and MPE-based rainfall measurements” was published in the Journal of Iowa Academic Sciences, vol. 124, in February 2018.

“The Math Inquiry Workshop”

In “The Math Inquiry Workshop,” Bernatz describes the goals and methods of a week-long Math Inquiry Workshop that the college offered to high school teachers and students. The workshop was made possible by funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute during the summers of 2014 and 2016. One of the primary workshop goals was to demonstrate how mathematical modeling and simulation provides natural avenues for inquiry in the natural sciences and other disciplines.

Mathematical methods and software tools for implementation were introduced through various mathematical modeling examples during the first three days of the workshop. Students worked in groups to propose solutions to “real-world” problems using these techniques over the final two days of the workshop. Groups submitted written solutions that were then critiqued by Luther faculty, current Luther math majors and high school instructors, and gave an oral presentation to the entire workshop ensemble. The workshop experience was also intended to foster interest and confidence in student participation in the annual High School Math Competition in Modeling sponsored by the Consortium for Mathematics and its Applications.

“A statistical, spatial and hydrologic comparison of gauge-based and MPE-based rainfall measurements”

“A statistical, spatial and hydrologic comparison of gauge-based and MPE-based rainfall measurements” details a 12-year study of rainfall measurements for the Upper Iowa River watershed upstream from Decorah.

Accurate rainfall measurement is important for establishing climate trends and providing input for hydrologic models used to predict flooding due to excessive rainfall runoff. Recording rain gauges provides accurate ground-based observations of rainfall accumulation and intensity on a point-wise basis, but modeling is negatively impacted by a scarcity of locations within a river’s contributing runoff region. Multi-sensor Precipitation Estimation readings are algorithmically derived from radar and satellite observations that may be adjusted using historical, independent gauge data. This measurement method provides a comprehensive rainfall “surface” instead of relying on point-wise gauge data that must be interpolated to provide similar watershed coverage. The study found that MPE data over-estimate accumulations for high-intensity events and under-estimate accumulations for low-intensity events. The study also found that spatial characteristics are similar for both measures and that no significant differences for Upper Iowa flow projections exist between the two methods.

MPE data was provided by the Iowa Flood Center on the University of Iowa campus. The following faculty and researchers at the Flood Center provided useful guidance: Witold Krajewski, Bongchul Seo, Ricardo Mantilla, Felipe Quintero and Gabriel Villarini.

Richard Bernatz

Bernatz, professor of mathematics, started at Luther in 1982. He teaches courses in multiple departments, including introductory- to advanced-level courses in mathematics, meteorology, climate dynamics and climate modeling in the program of environmental studies, and introductory courses in computer science.

He created and maintains the Decorah Weather Page providing annual, seasonal, monthly and daily statistics and summaries of weather patterns in Decorah, as well as current weather information from national and regional weather sources. The page also gives short-term forecasts and outlooks, and links to further weather resources. View the Decorah Weather page at:

Bernatz also developed the Rainfall Runoff website focused on predicting the Upper Iowa River discharge and exploring the effect of land-use practices on river discharge and water quality characteristics. View the Rainfall Runoff page at:

After receiving his bachelor’s degree in mathematics and physics from Luther in 1977, Bernatz went on to earn a master’s degree in meteorology from Iowa State University in 1980. He earned a Ph.D. in applied mathematics from the University of Iowa in 1991 with his dissertation “Development of the Finite Analytic Method for Turbulent Forced and Free Convection.”

A national liberal arts college with an enrollment of 2,050, Luther offers an academic curriculum that leads to the Bachelor of Arts degree in more than 60 majors and pre-professional programs. For more information about Luther visit the college’s website: