- Award ID(s):
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Date Published:
- Journal Name:
- Frontiers in Climate
- Medium: X
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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Abstract Coastal flooding is one of the most costly and deadly natural hazards facing the U.S. mid-Atlantic region today. Impacts in this heavily populated and economically significant region are caused by a combination of the location’s exposure and natural forcing from storms and sea level rise. Tropical cyclones (TCs) and midlatitude (ML) weather systems each have caused extreme coastal flooding in the region. Skew surge was computed over each tidal cycle for the past 40 years (1980–2019) at several tide gauges in the Delaware and Chesapeake Bays to compare the meteorological component of surge for each weather type. Although TCs cause higher mean surges, ML weather systems can produce surges just as severe and occur much more frequently, peaking in the cold season (November–March). Of the top 10 largest surge events, TCs account for 30%–45% in the Delaware and upper Chesapeake Bays and 40%–45% in the lower Chesapeake Bay. This percentage drops to 10%–15% for larger numbers of events in all regions. Mean sea level pressure and 500-hPa geopotential height (GPH) fields of the top 10 surge events from ML weather systems show a low pressure center west-southwest of “Delmarva” and a semistationary high pressure center to the northeast prior to maximum surge, producing strong easterly winds. Low pressure centers intensify under upper-level divergence as they travel eastward, and the high pressure centers are near the GPH ridges. During lower-bay events, the low pressure centers develop farther south, intensifying over warmer coastal waters, with a south-shifted GPH pattern relative to upper-bay events. Significance Statement Severe coastal flooding is a year-round threat in the U.S. mid-Atlantic region, and impacts are projected to increase in magnitude and frequency. Research into the meteorological contribution to storm surge, separate from mean sea level and tidal phase, will increase the scientific understanding and monitoring of changing atmospheric conditions. Tropical cyclones and midlatitude weather systems both significantly impact the mid-Atlantic region during different times of year. However, climate change may alter the future behavior of these systems differently. Understanding the synoptic environment and quantifying the surge response and subbay geographic variability of each weather system in this region will aid in public awareness, near-term emergency preparation, and long-term planning for coastal storms.more » « less
Extreme storm surges can overwhelm many coastal flooding protection measures in place and cause severe damages to private communities, public infrastructure, and natural ecosystems. In the US Mid-Atlantic, a highly developed and commercially active region, coastal flooding is one of the most significant natural hazards and a year-round threat from both tropical and extra-tropical cyclones. Mean sea levels and high-tide flood frequency has increased significantly in recent years, and major storms are projected to increase into the foreseeable future. We estimate extreme surges using hourly water level data and harmonic analysis for 1980–2019 at 12 NOAA tide gauges in and around the Delaware and Chesapeake Bays. Return levels (RLs) are computed for 1.1, 3, 5, 10, 25, 50, and 100-year return periods using stationary extreme value analysis on detrended skew surges. Two traditional approaches are investigated, Block Maxima fit to General Extreme Value distribution and Points-Over-Threshold fit to Generalized Pareto distribution, although with two important enhancements. First, the GEV r -largest order statistics distribution is used; a modified version of the GEV distribution that allows for multiple maximum values per year. Second, a systematic procedure is used to select the optimum value for r (for the BM/GEVr approach) and the threshold (for the POT/GP approach) at each tide gauge separately. RLs have similar magnitudes and spatial patterns from both methods, with BM/GEVr resulting in generally larger 100-year and smaller 1.1-year RLs. Maximum values are found at the Lewes (Delaware Bay) and Sewells Point (Chesapeake Bay) tide gauges, both located in the southwest region of their respective bays. Minimum values are found toward the central bay regions. In the Delaware Bay, the POT/GP approach is consistent and results in narrower uncertainty bands whereas the results are mixed for the Chesapeake. Results from this study aim to increase reliability of projections of extreme water levels due to extreme storms and ultimately help in long-term planning of mitigation and implementation of adaptation measures.more » « less
Hurricane Sandy, one of the largest Atlantic hurricanes on record, made landfall as an extratropical cyclone on the coast of New Jersey (29 October 2012) along a track almost perpendicular to the coast. Ten days later a northeaster caused heavy precipitation and elevated water levels along the coast. Two years of pre-storm monitoring and research in marshes of Barnegat Bay and the Delaware Estuary provided an opportunity to evaluate the impacts of Hurricane Sandy and the succeeding northeaster across the region. Peak water levels during Sandy ranged from 111 to 184 cm above the marsh surface in Barnegat Bay and 75 to 135 cm above the marsh surface in the Delaware Estuary. Despite widespread flooding and damage to coastal communities, the storm had modest and localized impacts on coastal marshes of New Jersey. Measurements made on the marsh platform illustrated localized responses to the storms including standing biomass removal, and changes in peak biomass the following summer. Marsh surface and elevation changes were variable within marshes and across the region. Localized elevation changes over the storm period were temporary and associated with subsurface processes. Over the long-term, there was no apparent impact of the 2012 storms, as elevations and regression slopes pre- and several months post-storm were not significant. Vegetation changes in the summer following the fall 2012 storms were also variable and localized within and among marshes. These results suggest that Hurricane Sandy and the succeeding northeaster did not have a widespread long-term impact on saline marshes in this region. Possible explanations are the dissipation of surge and wave energy from the barrier island in Barnegat Bay and the extreme water levels buffering the low-lying marsh surface from waves, winds, and currents, and carrying suspended loads past the short-statured marsh grasses to areas of taller vegetation and/or structure. These findings demonstrate that major storms that have substantial impacts on infrastructure and communities can have short-term localized effects on coastal marshes in the vicinity of the storm track.more » « less
Sea level rise and intense hurricane events make the East and Gulf Coasts of the United States increasingly vulnerable to flooding, which necessitates the development of computational models for accurate water level simulation in these areas to safeguard the coastal wellbeing. With this regard, a model framework for water level simulation over coastal transition zone during hurricane events is built in this study. The model takes advantage of the National Water Model’s strength in simulating rainfall–runoff process, and D‐Flow Flexible Mesh’s ability to support unstructured grid in hydrodynamic processes simulation with storm surges/tides information from the Advanced CIRCulation model. We apply the model on the Delaware Estuary to simulate extreme water level and to investigate the contribution of different physical components to it during Hurricane Isabel (2003). The model shows satisfactory performance with an average Willmott skill of 0.965. Model results suggest that storm surge is the most dominating component of extreme water level with an average contribution of 78.16%, second by the astronomical tide with 19.52%. While the contribution of rivers is mainly restricted to the upper part of the estuary upstream of Schuylkill River, local wind‐induced water level is more pronounced with values larger than 0.2 m over most part of the estuary.
Compound flooding, characterized by the co‐occurrence of multiple flood mechanisms, is a major threat to coastlines across the globe. Tropical cyclones (TCs) are responsible for many compound floods due to their storm surge and intense rainfall. Previous efforts to quantify compound flood hazard have typically adopted statistical approaches that may be unable to fully capture spatio‐temporal dynamics between rainfall‐runoff and storm surge, which ultimately impact total water levels. In contrast, we pose a physics‐driven approach that utilizes a large set of realistic TC events and a simplified physics‐based rainfall model and simulates each event within a hydrodynamic model framework. We apply our approach to investigate TC flooding in the Cape Fear River, NC. We find TC approach angle, forward speed, and intensity are relevant for compound flood potential, but rainfall rate and time lag between the centroid of rainfall and peak storm tide are the strongest predictors of compounding magnitude. Neglecting rainfall underestimates 100‐year flood depths across 28% of the floodplain, and taking the maximum of each hazard modeled separately still underestimates 16% of the floodplain. We find the main stem of the river is surge‐dominated, upstream portions of small streams and pluvial areas are rainfall dominated, but midstream portions of streams are compounding zones, and areas close to the coastline are surge dominated for lower return periods but compounding zones for high return periods (100 years). Our method links joint rainfall‐surge occurrence to actual flood impacts and demonstrates how compound flooding is distributed across coastal catchments.