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NOS Storm Surge Partnership Project: Improving Gulf Coast Storm Surge Modeling, Tools, and Methodologies

Jesse Feyen*, Frank Aikman III*, Doug Marcy #, Edward Myers*, Jason Woolard%, Stephen White%, Lindy Dingerson#, and Jodie Towers (jesse.feyen@noaa.gov) #

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Ocean Service, Coast Survey Development Laboratory*, Coastal Services Center#, National Geodetic Survey%

NOAA's National Ocean Service (NOS) Storm Surge Partnership Project aims to improve coastal resiliency to inundation through data collection, a prototype storm surge model, and development of management tools. The Gulf Coast, including Mobile, AL, and Pensacola, FL, was selected as the project study area because of well-documented past hurricane events involving storm surge and flooding, including Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Additionally, this region was selected because of the availability of data, such as high-resolution topographic, oceanographic, and meteorological data for use in modeling. NOS's Coast Survey Development Laboratory has developed an implementation of a vertical datum transformation tool for this region (VDatum). VDatum allows for adjustment between disparate vertical datums at the coast, including tidal, orthometric, and ellipsoidal datums. Application of vertical datum transformations to bathymetric and topographic data allows for the construction of a continuous elevation field across the land/water interface. In the study region the latest available hydrographic surveys are combined with high resolution topographic datasets such as Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) surveys to construct a continuous elevation field. This elevation field is used as the basis for a prototype storm surge model that provides high resolution of coastal and inland features for modeling inundation. This state of the art storm surge model is a prototype application of the Advanced Circulation (ADCIRC) finite element hydrodynamic model with approximately 425,000 nodes and smallest nodal resolution less than 100 m in areas. It includes land areas up to the 15 meter topographic contour from west of Mobile Bay, AL, to east of Pensacola Bay, FL. Sharp vertical flow obstructions such as barrier islands are included as weirs within the model domain. This high-resolution model will allow for accurate modeling of hurricane-driven inundation throughout the region. Model forcing of atmospheric wind and pressure conditions during Ivan are applied through application of the Sea, Lake, and Overland Surges from Hurricanes (SLOSH) parametric wind model. Comparisons to observations are presented for both High Water Marks and water-level time series. The output from the model will be used by the NOS project team to generate geographic information system (GIS)-based mapping and visualization tools and methodologies to illustrate storm surge processes and impacts while verifying existing map products.

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