Real-Time Forecasting and Visualization of Hurricane Waves and Storm Surge Using SWAN+ADCIRC and FigureGen

IMA2013Storm surge due to hurricanes and tropical storms can result in significant loss of life, property damage, and long-term damage to coastal ecosystems and landscapes. Computer modeling of storm surge is useful for two primary purposes: forecasting of storm impacts for response planning, particularly the evacuation of vulnerable coastal populations; and hindcasting of storms for determining risk, development of mitigation strategies, coastal restoration, and sustainability. Model results must be communicated quickly and effectively, to provide context about the magnitudes and locations of the maximum waves and surges in time for meaningful actions to be taken in the impact region before a storm strikes.

In this paper, we present an overview of the SWAN+ADCIRC modeling system for coastal waves and circulation. We also describe FigureGen, a graphics program adapted to visualize hurricane waves and storm surge as computed by these models. The system was applied recently to forecast Hurricane Isaac (2012) as it made landfall in southern Louisiana. Model results are shown to be an accurate warning of the impacts of waves and circulation along the northern Gulf coastline, especially when communicated to emergency managers as geo-referenced images.

JC Dietrich, CN Dawson, JM Proft, MT Howard, G Wells, JG Fleming, RA Luettich Jr, JJ Westerink, Z Cobell, M Vitse, H Lander, BO Blanton, CM Szpilka, JH Atkinson (2013). “Real-Time Forecasting and Visualization of Hurricane Waves and Storm Surge Using SWAN+ADCIRC and FigureGen.Computational Challenges in the Geosciences, The IMA Volumes in Mathematics and its Applications, 156, 49-70, DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4614-7434-0_3.

Limiters for Spectral Propagation Velocities in SWAN

OM2013As phase-averaged spectral wave models continue to grow in sophistication, they are applied more frequently throughout the ocean, from the generation of waves in deep water to their dissipation in the nearshore. Mesh spacings are varied within the computational domain, either through the use of nested, structured meshes or a single, unstructured mesh. This approach is economical, but it can cause accuracy errors in regions where the input parameters are under-resolved. For instance, in regions with a coarse representation of bathymetry, refraction can focus excessive wave energy at a single mesh vertex, causing the computed solution to become non-physical. Limiters based on the Courant–Friedrichs–Lewy (CFL) criteria are proposed for the spectral propagation (refraction and frequency shifting) velocities in SWAN. These limiters are not required for model stability, but they improve accuracy by reducing local errors that would otherwise spread throughout the computational domain. As demonstrated on test cases in deep and shallow water, these limiters prevent the excessive directional turning and frequency shifting of wave energy and control the largest errors in under-resolved regions.

JC Dietrich, M Zijlema, P-E Allier, LH Holthuijsen, N Booij, JD Meixner, JK Proft, CN Dawson, CJ Bender, A Naimaster, JM Smith, JJ Westerink (2012). “Limiters for Spectral Propagation Velocities in SWAN.Ocean Modelling, 70, 85-102, DOI: 10.1016/j.ocemod.2012.11.005.

The Surge Standard for "Events of Katrina Magnitude"

PNAS2013Hurricane Katrina was historic in magnitude. From ref. 1: “The large size of Katrina throughout its history, combined with the extreme waves generated during its most intense phase, enabled this storm to produce the largest storm surges (reliable observations up to 28 ft) that have ever been observed within the Gulf of Mexico, as determined from analyses of historical records.” The analysis by Grinsted et al. of the effects of rising temperatures on the frequency of Atlantic hurricane surge invokes “events of Katrina magnitude” as a standard by which other events are judged. However, we believe the Katrina benchmark, as used, is seriously flawed, in large part because the tide gauge spatial resolution used was so coarse that none of the locations forming the index ever experienced a true surge event of Katrina magnitude. This casts doubt on the claim that Katrina-level surge events may occur many times per decade by the late 21st century.

AB Kennedy, JC Dietrich, JJ Westerink (2013). “The Surge Standard for ‘Events of Katrina Magnitude.’Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110(29), E2665-E2666, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1305960110.

Surge Generation Mechanisms in the Lower Mississippi River and Discharge Dependency

WWENG2013The Lower Mississippi River protrudes into the Gulf of Mexico, and manmade levees line only the west bank for 55 km of the Lower Plaquemines section. Historically, sustained easterly winds from hurricanes have directed surge across Breton Sound, into the Mississippi River and against its west bank levee, allowing for surge to build and then propagate efficiently upriver and thus increase water levels past New Orleans. This case study applies a new and extensively validated basin- to channel-scale, high-resolution, unstructured-mesh ADvanced CIRCulation model to simulate a suite of historical and hypothetical storms under low to high river discharges. The results show that during hurricanes, (1) total water levels in the lower river south of Pointe à La Hache are only weakly dependent on river flow, and easterly wind-driven storm surge is generated on top of existing ambient strongly flow-dependent river stages, so the surge that propagates upriver reduces with increasing river flow; (2) natural levees and adjacent wetlands on the east and west banks in the Lower Plaquemines capture storm surge in the river, although not as effectively as the manmade levees on the west bank; and (3) the lowering of manmade levees along this Lower Plaquemines river section to their natural state, to allow storm surge to partially pass across the Mississippi River, will decrease storm surge upriver by 1 to 2 m between Pointe à La Hache and New Orleans, independent of river flow.

PC Kerr, JJ Westerink, JC Dietrich, RC Martyr, S Tanaka, DT Resio, JM Smith, HJ Westerink, LG Westerink, T Wamsley, M van Ledden, W de Jong (2013). “Surge Generation Mechanisms in the Lower Mississippi River and Discharge Dependency.Journal of Waterway, Port, Coastal, and Ocean Engineering, 139(4), 326-335, DOI: 10.1061/(ASCE)WW.1943-5460.0000185.

Simulating Hurricane Storm Surge in the Lower Mississippi River under Varying Flow Conditions

JHY2013Hurricanes in southeastern Louisiana develop significant surges within the lower Mississippi River. Storms with strong sustained easterly winds push water into shallow Breton Sound, overtop the river’s east bank south of Pointe à la Hache, Louisiana, penetrate into the river, and are confined by levees on the west bank. The main channel’s width and depth allow surge to propagate rapidly and efficiently up river. This work refines the high-resolution, unstructured mesh, wave current Simulating Waves Nearshore + Advanced Circulation (SWAN+ADCIRC) SL16 model to simulate river flow and hurricane-driven surge within the Mississippi River. A river velocity regime–based variation in bottom friction and a temporally variable riverine flow-driven radiation boundary condition are essential to accurately model these processes for high and/or time-varying flows. The coupled modeling system is validated for riverine flow stage relationships, flow distributions within the distributary systems, tides, and Hurricane Gustav (2008) riverine surges.

RC Martyr, JC Dietrich, JJ Westerink, PC Kerr, CN Dawson, JM Smith, H Pourtaheri, N Powell, M van Ledden, S Tanaka, HJ Roberts, HJ Westerink, LG Westerink (2013). “Simulating Hurricane Storm Surge in the Lower Mississippi River under Varying Flow Conditions.Journal of Hydraulic Engineering, 139(5), 492-501, DOI: 10.1061/(ASCE)HY.1943-7900.0000699.

Performance of the Unstructured-Mesh, SWAN+ADCIRC Model in Computing Hurricane Waves and Surge

JSC2012Coupling wave and circulation models is vital in order to define shelf, nearshore and inland hydrodynamics during a hurricane. The intricacies of the inland floodplain domain, level of required mesh resolution and physics make these complex computations very cycle-intensive. Nonetheless, fast wall-clock times are important, especially when forecasting an incoming hurricane.

We examine the performance of the unstructured-mesh, SWAN+ADCIRC wave and circulation model applied to a high-resolution, 5M-vertex, finite-element SL16 mesh of the Gulf of Mexico and Louisiana. This multi-process, multi-scale modeling system has been integrated by utilizing inter-model communication that is intra-core. The modeling system is validated through hindcasts of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (2005), Gustav and Ike (2008) and comprehensive comparisons to wave and water level measurements throughout the region. The performance is tested on a variety of platforms, via the examination of output file requirements and management, and the establishment of wall-clock times and scalability using up to 9,216 cores. Hindcasts of waves and storm surge can be computed efficiently, by solving for as many as 2.3E12 unknowns per day of simulation, in as little as 10 minutes of wall-clock time.

JC Dietrich, S Tanaka, JJ Westerink, CN Dawson, RA Luettich Jr, M Zijlema, LH Holthuijsen, JM Smith, LG Westerink, HJ Westerink (2012). “Performance of the Unstructured-Mesh, SWAN+ADCIRC Model in Computing Hurricane Waves and Surge.Journal of Scientific Computing, 52(2), 468-497, DOI:10.1007/s10915-011-9555-6.