Climate Change Effects on Flooding During Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy devastated the Northeast US coastline in 2012. In New York City, it caused power outages that affected nearly 2 million people, forced evacuations of 6500 patients from hospitals and nursing homes, prevented 1.1 million children from attending school for a week, and disrupted the daily travel of about 11 million commuters. Many of these impacts were related to flooding of critical infrastructure, including nearly 90,000 buildings, and more than $5 billion in damages in the mass transit system. The maximum observed water level at the tidal gauge located at the southern tip of Manhattan was 5.3 m above the station datum and 2.8 m above the expected tide. This additional water, known as storm surge, was pushed from the open sea by strong winds during the storm. Sandy was one of several recent storms to cause flooding along the US Gulf and Atlantic coasts, including Katrina and Rita (2005), Gustav and Ike (2008), Irene (2011), Isaac (2012), and Hermine and Matthew (2016). Climatic changes are causing these storms to be larger and more intense, last longer, and move farther northward. Their impacts will be more severe to communities in coastal regions in the future.

JC Dietrich (2018). “Vignette: Climate Change Effects on Flooding During Hurricane Sandy.” Disaster Epidemiology: Methods and Applications, Academic Press, JA Horney, ed., 153-156, DOI: 10.1016/B978-0-12-809318-4.00020-4.

Sensitivity of Storm Surge Predictions to Atmospheric Forcing during Hurricane Isaac

Storm surge and overland flooding can be predicted with computational models at high levels of resolution. To improve efficiency in forecasting applications, surge models often use atmospheric forcing from parametric vortex models, which represent the surface pressures and wind fields with a few storm parameters. The future of storm surge prediction could involve real-time coupling of surge and full-physics atmospheric models; thus, their accuracies must be understood in a real hurricane scenario. The authors compare predictions from a parametric vortex model (using forecast tracks from the National Hurricane Center) and a full-physics coupled atmosphere-wave-ocean model during Hurricane Isaac (2012). The predictions are then applied within a tightly coupled, wave and surge modeling system describing the northern Gulf of Mexico and the floodplains of southwest Louisiana. It is shown that, in a hindcast scenario, a parametric vortex model can outperform a data-assimilated wind product, and given reasonable forecast advisories, a parametric vortex model gives reasonable surge forecasts. However, forecasts using a full-physics coupled model outperformed the forecast advisories and improved surge forecasts. Both approaches are valuable for forecasting the coastal impacts associated with tropical cyclones

JC Dietrich, A Muhammad, M Curcic, A Fathi, CN Dawson, SS Chen, RA Luettich (2018). “Sensitivity of Storm Surge Predictions to Atmospheric Forcing during Hurricane Isaac.Journal of Waterway, Port, Coastal, and Ocean Engineering, 144(1), DOI: 10.1061/(ASCE)WW.1943-5460.0000419

An Earth’s Future Special Collection: Impacts of the coastal dynamics of sea level rise on low-gradient coastal landscapes

Rising sea level represents a significant threat to coastal communities and ecosystems, including altered habitats and increased vulnerability to coastal storms and recurrent inundation. This threat is exemplified in the northern Gulf of Mexico, where low topography, marshes, and a prevalence of tropical storms have resulted in extensive coastal impacts. The ability to facilitate adaptation and mitigation measures relies, in part, on the development of robust predictive capabilities that incorporate complex biological processes with physical dynamics. Initiated in 2010, the 6-year Ecological Effects of Sea Level Rise—Northern Gulf of Mexico project applied a transdisciplinary science approach to develop a suite of integrated modeling platforms informed by empirical data that are capable of evaluating a range of climate change scenarios. This special issue highlights resultant integrated models focused on tidal hydrodynamics, shoreline morphology, oyster ecology, coastal wetland vulnerability, and storm surges that demonstrate the need for dynamic models to incorporate feedbacks among physical and biological processes in assessments of sea level rise effects on coastal systems. Effects are projected to be significant, spatially variable and nonlinear relative to sea level rise rates. Scenarios of higher sea level rise rates are projected to exceed thresholds of wetland sustainability, and many regions will experience enhanced storm surges. Influenced by an extensive collaborative stakeholder engagement process, these assessments on the coastal dynamics of sea level rise provide a strong foundation for resilience measures in the northern Gulf of Mexico and a transferable approach for application to other coastal regions throughout the world.

DM Kidwell, JC Dietrich, SC Hagen, SC Medeiros (2017). “An Earth’s Future Special Collection: Impacts of the coastal dynamics of sea level rise on low-gradient coastal landscapes.Earth’s Future, 5(1), 2-9, DOI: 10.1002/2016EF000493.

Characterizing Hurricane Storm Surge Behavior in Galveston Bay using the SWAN+ADCIRC Model

CE2014The SWAN+ADCIRC shallow-water circulation model, validated for Hurricane Ike (2008), was used to develop five synthetic storm surge scenarios for the upper Texas coast in which wind speed was increased and landfall location was shifted 40 km westward. The Hurricane Ike simulation and the synthetic storms were used to study the maximum water elevations in Galveston Bay, as well as the timing and behavior of surge relative to the hurricane track. Sixteen locations indicative of surge behavior in and around Galveston Bay were chosen for analysis in this paper. Results show that water surface elevations present in Galveston Bay are dominated by the counterclockwise hurricane winds and that increasing wind speeds by 15% results in approximately 23% (+/−3%) higher surge. Furthermore, shifting the storm westward causes higher levels of surge in the more populated areas due to more intense, higher shore-normal winds. This research helps to highlight the vulnerability of the upper Texas Gulf Coast to hurricane storm surge and lends insight to storm surge and flood mitigation studies in the Houston–Galveston region.

AG Sebastian, JM Proft, JC Dietrich, W Du, PB Bedient, CN Dawson (2014). “Characterizing Storm Surge Behavior in Galveston Bay using the SWAN + ADCIRC Model.Coastal Engineering, 88, 171-181, DOI: 10.1016/ j.coastaleng.2014.03.002.

A Discontinuous Galerkin Coupled Wave Propagation/Circulation Model

JSC2014On large geographic scales, ocean waves are represented in a spectral sense via the action balance equation, which propagates action density through both geographic and spectral space. In this paper, a new computational spectral wave model is developed by using discontinuous Galerkin (DG) methods in both geographic and spectral space. DG methods allow for the use of unstructured geographic meshes and higher-order approximations for action propagation in both geographic and spectral space, which we show leads to increased accuracy. This DG spectral wave propagation model is verified and validated through comparisons to manufactured and analytic solutions as well as to the Simulating WAves Nearshore (SWAN) model. Coupled wave/circulation models are needed for many applications including for the interaction between waves and currents during daily wind and tide driven flows. We loosely couple the newDGspectralwavemodel to the DG Shallow Water Equation Model (DG-SWEM), an existing DG circulation model. In addition to formulating the DG method for the coupled wave/circulation model, we derive an a priori error estimate. Preliminary numerical results of the DG coupled wave/circulation model are presented with comparisons to DG-SWEM coupled tightly to SWAN.

JD Meixner, JC Dietrich, CN Dawson, M Zijlema, LH Holthuijsen (2014). “A Discontinuous Galerkin Coupled Wave Propagation/Circulation Model.Journal of Scientific Computing, 59, 334–370, DOI: 10.1007/s10915-013-9761-5.

U.S. IOOS Coastal and Ocean Modeling Testbed: Evaluation of Tide, Wave, and Hurricane Surge Response Sensitivities to Mesh Resolution and Friction in the Gulf of Mexico

JGR2013bThis paper investigates model response sensitivities to mesh resolution, topographical details, bottom friction formulations, the interaction of wind waves and circulation, and nonlinear advection on tidal and hurricane surge and wave processes at the basin, shelf, wetland, and coastal channel scales within the Gulf of Mexico. Tides in the Gulf of Mexico are modestly energetic processes, whereas hurricane surge and waves are highly energetic. The unstructured-mesh, coupled wind-wave and circulation modeling system, SWAN+ADCIRC, is implemented to generate modeled tidal harmonic constituents and hurricane waves and surge for a Hurricane Ike (2008) hindcast. In the open ocean, mesh resolution requirements are less stringent in achieving accurate tidal signals or matching hurricane surge and wave responses; however, coarser resolution or the absence of intertidal zones decreases accuracy along protected nearshore and inland coastal areas due to improper conveyance and/or lateral attenuation. Bottom friction formulations are shown to have little impact on tidal signal accuracy, but hurricane surge is much more sensitive, especially in shelf waters, where development of a strong shore-parallel current is essential to the development of Ike’s geostrophic setup. The spatial and temporal contributions of wave radiation stress gradients and nonlinear advection were charted for Ike. Nonlinear advection improves model performance by capturing an additional 10–20 cm of geostrophic setup and increasing resonant cross-shelf waves by 30–40 cm. Wave radiation stress gradients improve performance at coastal stations by adding an extra 20–40 cm to water levels.

PC Kerr, RC Martyr, AS Donahue, ME Hope, JJ Westerink, RA Luettich Jr, AB Kennedy, JC Dietrich, CN Dawson, HJ Westerink (2013). “U.S. IOOS Coastal and Ocean Modeling Testbed: Evaluation of Tide, Wave, and Hurricane Surge Response Sensitivities to Mesh Resolution and Friction in the Gulf of Mexico.Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 118, 4633-4661, DOI: 10.1002/jgrc.20305.