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A Dynamic Unified Framework for Hurricane Storm Surge Analysis and Prediction Spanning across the Coastal Floodplain and Ocean

Overview: Storm-driven coastal flooding is influenced by many physical processes including riverine discharges, regional rainfall, wind, atmospheric pressure, wave-induced set up, wave runup, tides, and fluctuating baseline ocean water levels. Operational storm surge models such as NOAA’s ESTOFS incorporate a variety of these processes including riverine discharges, atmospheric winds and pressure, waves, and tides. However, coastal surge models do not typically incorporate the impact of rainfall across the coastal floodplain nor fluctuations in background water levels due to the oceanic density structure. Nonetheless, the floodplain hydrology and ocean baseline water levels provide vital controls in riverine and estuarine environments (e.g., the dramatic effect seen in the Houston metropolitan region during Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and in North Carolina during Hurricane Florence in 2018). Recent events have shown that a unified approach that incorporates all of the physical processes is critical for accurate predictive simulations of coastal flooding due to extreme events. This project will tackle this challenge by melding hydrology, hydraulics, and waves into a dynamic unified computational framework that uses unstructured meshes spanning from the deep ocean to upland areas and across the coastal floodplain.

Figure 1: A conceptual schematic of the proposed modeling framework, highlighting three distinct zones: (i) the ocean zone, where the ADCIRC+SWAN model is applied, with key hydrodynamic input being provided by HYCOM, (ii) the upland hydological rainfall-runoff zone, which makes use of  the WRF-Hydro model, and (iii) the important middle or transition zone in between these two regions, which calls for a dynamic, adaptive physics and computational framework.

Figure 2: Schematic of the proposed computational modeling framework, the centerpiece of which consists of a single common unstructured mesh that is dynamically load balanced between dry regions (null solutions) and regions characterized by pressurized 2D flow and wave energy (solved using ADCIRC+SWAN) or by gravity-driven, rainfall runoff (solved using DG-SAKE). Critical meteorological and oceanic data will be provided to the core of this modeling framework through one-way coupling with existing, well-etablished weather/climate, hydrology, and global ocean models (GFS/CFSv2, WRF-Hydro and HYCOM, respectively).

Effect of CYGNSS-derived Parametric Wind Fields on Storm Surge Modeling