Puerto Rico/U.S. Virgin Islands Storm Surge & Waves

Project Team

Project Lead: Andre van der Westhuysen, NOAA NCEP

CO-PIs: Joannes Westerink

Collaborators: Juan Gonzalez, Julio Morell, Aurelio Mercado, Reniel Calzada, Volker Roeber, Dongming Yang, Hugh Cobb, Carlos Anselmi, Ernesto Rodriguez, Luis Aponte

Federal Partners: Jamie Rhome (NOAA), Jane Smith (USACE)

Project Overview and Results

The goal of this COMT project is to extend the present wave/surge operational forecasting capability from mild-sloped coastal areas such as the US East and Gulf of Mexico coasts to steep-sloped areas such as around Caribbean and Pacific islands and transition this capability to NOAA’s National Hurricane Center and local WFOs. Project objectives are to: (1) compile a data set of observations collected around Puerto Rico and the USVI by the IOOS Caribbean Regional Association; (2) evaluate multiple, coupled wave/surge/inundation models against this data; (3) recommend the most suitable model for transition to operations and (4) assist with the transition. These outcomes will also be applicable to U.S. island regions in the Pacific and may therefore guide future implementations at NOAA’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center.

U.S. island regions in the Caribbean and Pacific pose many challenges to the accurate modeling and prediction of hazardous wave-dominated storm surge inundation events. The relative importance of physical processes leading to inundation in steep-sloped, reef-edged island environments differs from those in milder-sloped mainland environments. Relatively little research has been done in these environments, constituting a significant knowledge gap. To compound this uncertainty, little observational data are available in many island environments. As a result, the U.S. National Weather Service (NWS) currently lacks operational surge and inundation guidance for these regions. An exception to this general data scarcity is Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), which frequently experience strong tropical and extra-tropical storms resulting in high waves, storm surge, and river flooding. A large number of observational instruments have been deployed here, many by IOOS Caribbean Regional Association partners, creating a valuable resource for the evaluation and advancement of operational wave/surge/inundation models of these areas.

Three teams – an operational assessment team (federal user group), a numerical modeling team and a data management team – will work together to accomplish the following tasks: Model, test case and metric selection: All teams jointly define desired operational inundation model improvements in Puerto Rico and USVI, and identify candidate models to meet those needs. The data team selects test cases for model evaluation and compiles these into an islands inundation data set, compliant with the COMT’s Cyber-Infrastructure standards. All teams jointly define a set of metrics for model evaluation and comparison.

Model comparison over reef transects: The modeling team performs detailed cross-reef simulations with coupled spectral wave and hydrodynamic models to evaluate performance on a physics process basis. Results are compared with observations and against phase-resolving wave models (which are too expensive for operational use, but will provide useful benchmark results).

Model comparison for regional field cases: The modeling team performs model evaluations over complex regional field cases, featuring hurricane meteorological forcing, high-resolution bathymetry and topography, roughness values derived from benthic maps and rainfall run-off inputs. Model performance will be compared for accuracy and computational requirements.

Final evaluation, recommendations and dissemination: All teams will compile joint recommendations regarding the most suitable model or models for near-term and long-term operational implementation. Recommendations will also be made regarding current and future observational networks and field campaigns. All teams will provide assistance in the transition of the recommended model, incl. setting up COMET web-based training materials, if required.

Model Descriptions

ADCIRC

SLOSH

Sub-Project Descriptions/Data

Published Results

Hurricane Georges

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pr_inundation

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Hurricane Irene

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Hurricane Sandy

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