skip to main content

This content will become publicly available on July 18, 2023

Title: Compound Effects of Flood Drivers, Sea Level Rise, and Dredging Protocols on Vessel Navigability and Wetland Inundation Dynamics
Maritime transportation is crucial to national economic development as it offers a low-cost, safe, and efficient alternative for movement of freight compared to its land or air counterparts. River and channel dredging protocols are often adopted in many ports and harbors of the world to meet the increasing demand for freight and ensure safe passage of larger vessels. However, such protocols may have unintended adverse consequences on flood risks and functioning of coastal ecosystems and thereby compromising the valuable services they provide to society and the environment. This study analyzes the compound effects of dredging protocols under a range of terrestrial and coastal flood drivers, including the effects of sea level rise (SLR) on compound flood risk, vessel navigability, and coastal wetland inundation dynamics in Mobile Bay (MB), Alabama. We develop a set of hydrodynamic simulation scenarios for a range of river flow and coastal water level regimes, SLR projections, and dredging protocols designed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. We show that channel dredging helps increase bottom (‘underkeel’) clearances by a factor of 3.33 under current mean sea level and from 4.20 to 4.60 under SLR projections. We find that both low and high water surface elevations (WSEs) more » could be detrimental, with low WSE (< -1.22 m) hindering safe navigation whereas high WSE (> 0.87 m) triggering minor to major flooding in the surrounding urban and wetland areas. Likewise, we identify complex inundation patterns emerging from nonlinear interactions of SLR, flood drivers, and dredging protocols, and additionally estimate probability density functions (PDFs) of wetland inundation. We show that changes in mean sea level due to SLR diminish any effects of channel dredging on wetland inundation dynamics and shift the PDFs beyond pre-established thresholds for moderate and major flooding. In light of our results, we recommend the need for integrated analyses that account for compound effects on vessel navigation and wetland inundation, and provide insights into environmental-friendly solutions for increasing cargo transportation. « less
; ; ;
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Frontiers in Marine Science
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract Sea level rise (SLR) and tropical cyclone (TC) climatology change could impact future flood hazards in Jamaica Bay—an urbanized back-barrier bay in New York—yet their compound impacts are not well understood. This study estimates the compound effects of SLR and TC climatology change on flood hazards in Jamaica Bay from a historical period in the late twentieth century (1980–2000) to future periods in the mid- and late-twenty-first century (2030–2050 and 2080–2100, under RCP8.5 greenhouse gas concentration scenario). Flood return periods are estimated based on probabilistic projections of SLR and peak storm tides simulated by a hydrodynamic model for large numbers of synthetic TCs. We find a substantial increase in the future flood hazards, e.g., the historical 100-year flood level would become a 9- and 1-year flood level in the mid- and late-twenty-first century and the 500-year flood level would become a 143- and 4-year flood level. These increases are mainly induced by SLR. However, TC climatology change would considerably contribute to the future increase in low-probability, high-consequence flood levels (with a return period greater than 100 year), likely due to an increase in the probability of occurrence of slow-moving but intense TCs by the end of twenty-first century. We furthermore »conduct high-resolution coastal flood simulations for a series of SLR and TC scenarios. Due to the SLR projected with a 5% exceedance probability, 125- and 1300-year flood events in the late-twentieth century would become 74- and 515-year flood events, respectively, in the late-twenty-first century, and the spatial extent of flooding over coastal floodplains of Jamaica Bay would increase by nearly 10 and 4 times, respectively. In addition, SLR leads to larger surface waves induced by TCs in the bay, suggesting a potential increase in hazards associated with wave runup, erosion, and damage to coastal infrastructure.« less
  2. Compound flooding is a physical phenomenon that has become more destructive in recent years. Moreover, compound flooding is a broad term that envelops many different physical processes that can range from preconditioned, to multivariate, to temporally compounding, or spatially compounding. This research aims to analyze a specific case of compound flooding related to tropical cyclones where the compounding effect is on coastal flooding due to a combination of storm surge and river discharge. In recent years, such compound flood events have increased in frequency and magnitude, due to a number of factors such as sea-level rise from warming oceans. Therefore, the ability to model such events is of increasing urgency. At present, there is no holistic, integrated modeling system capable of simulating or forecasting compound flooding on a large regional or global scale, leading to the need to couple various existing models. More specifically, two more challenges in such a modeling effort are determining the primary model and accounting for the effect of adjacent watersheds that discharge to the same receiving water body in amplifying the impact of compound flooding from riverine discharge with storm surge when the scale of the model includes an entire coastal line. In this study,more »we investigated the possibility of using the Advanced Circulation (ADCIRC) model as the primary model to simulate the compounding effects of fluvial flooding and storm surge via loose one-way coupling with gage data through internal time-dependent flux boundary conditions. The performance of the ADCIRC model was compared with the Hydrologic Engineering Center- River Analysis System (HEC-RAS) model both at the watershed and global scales. Furthermore, the importance of including riverine discharges and the interactions among adjacent watersheds were quantified. Results showed that the ADCIRC model could reliably be used to model compound flooding on both a watershed scale and a regional scale. Moreover, accounting for the interaction of river discharge from multiple watersheds is critical in accurately predicting flood patterns when high amounts of riverine flow occur in conjunction with storm surge. Particularly, with storms such as Hurricane Harvey (2017), where river flows were near record levels, inundation patterns and water surface elevations were highly dependent on the incorporation of the discharge input from multiple watersheds. Such an effect caused extra and longer inundations in some areas during Hurricane Harvey. Comparisons with real gauge data show that adding internal flow boundary conditions into ADCIRC to account for river discharge from multiple watersheds significantly improves accuracy in predictions of water surface elevations during coastal flooding events.« less
  3. Abstract Extreme sea levels (ESLs) due to typhoon-induced storm surge threaten the societal security of densely populated coastal China. Uncertainty in extreme value analysis (EVA) for ESL estimation has large implications for coastal communities’ adaptation to natural hazards. Here we evaluate uncertainties in ESL estimation and relevant driving factors based on hourly observations from 13 tide gauge stations and a complementary dataset derived from a hydrodynamic model. Results indicate significant uncertainties in ESL estimations stemming from using different EVA methods, which then propagate to the inundation assessment. Amplification factors due to sea-level rise (SLR) are highly sensitive to local relative SLR and the shape of the exceedance probability curve, which in turn depends on the selected EVA method. The hydrodynamic model hindcast indicates that high ESLs mainly occurred in eastern coastal China due to typhoon-induced storm surge. Larger uncertainties in the modelled ESLs are found for the coasts of the Yangtze River Delta, and particularly in the river mouth region. Future research and adaptation planning should prioritize these regions given expected future rising sea level, compound flood events, and human-induced factors (e.g. subsidence). This study provides theoretical and practical references for adaptation to ESL-related hazards along coastal China, with implicationsmore »for coastal regions worldwide.« less
  4. Abstract River deltas all over the world are sinking beneath sea-level rise, causing significant threats to natural and social systems. This is due to the combined effects of anthropogenic changes to sediment supply and river flow, subsidence, and sea-level rise, posing an immediate threat to the 500–1,000 million residents, many in megacities that live on deltaic coasts. The Mississippi River Deltaic Plain (MRDP) provides examples for many of the functions and feedbacks, regarding how human river management has impacted source-sink processes in coastal deltaic basins, resulting in human settlements more at risk to coastal storms. The survival of human settlement on the MRDP is arguably coupled to a shifting mass balance between a deltaic landscape occupied by either land built by the Mississippi River or water occupied by the Gulf of Mexico. We developed an approach to compare 50 % L:W isopleths (L:W is ratio of land to water) across the Atchafalaya and Terrebonne Basins to test landscape behavior over the last six decades to measure delta instability in coastal deltaic basins as a function of reduced sediment supply from river flooding. The Atchafalaya Basin, with continued sediment delivery, compared to Terrebonne Basin, with reduced river inputs, allow us tomore »test assumptions of how coastal deltaic basins respond to river management over the last 75 years by analyzing landward migration rate of 50 % L:W isopleths between 1932 and 2010. The average landward migration for Terrebonne Basin was nearly 17,000 m (17 km) compared to only 22 m in Atchafalaya Basin over the last 78 years (p\0.001), resulting in migration rates of 218 m/year (0.22 km/year) and\0.5 m/year, respectively. In addition, freshwater vegetation expanded in Atchafalaya Basin since 1949 compared to migration of intermediate and brackish marshes landward in the Terrebonne Basin. Changes in salt marsh vegetation patterns were very distinct in these two basins with gain of 25 % in the Terrebonne Basin compared to 90 % decrease in the Atchafalaya Basin since 1949. These shifts in vegetation types as L:W ratio decreases with reduced sediment input and increase in salinity also coincide with an increase in wind fetch in Terrebonne Bay. In the upper Terrebonne Bay, where the largest landward migration of the 50 % L:W ratio isopleth occurred, we estimate that the wave power has increased by 50–100 % from 1932 to 2010, as the bathymetric and topographic conditions changed, and increase in maximum storm-surge height also increased owing to the landward migration of the L:W ratio isopleth. We argue that this balance of land relative to water in this delta provides a much clearer understanding of increased flood risk from tropical cyclones rather than just estimates of areal land loss. We describe how coastal deltaic basins of the MRDP can be used as experimental landscapes to provide insights into how varying degrees of sediment delivery to coastal deltaic floodplains change flooding risks of a sinking delta using landward migrations of 50 % L:W isopleths. The nonlinear response of migrating L:W isopleths as wind fetch increases is a critical feedback effect that should influence human river-management decisions in deltaic coast. Changes in land area alone do not capture how corresponding landscape degradation and increased water area can lead to exponential increase in flood risk to human populations in low-lying coastal regions. Reduced land formation in coastal deltaic basins (measured by changes in the land:water ratio) can contribute significantly to increasing flood risks by removing the negative feedback of wetlands on wave and storm-surge that occur during extreme weather events. Increased flood risks will promote population migration as human risks associated with living in a deltaic landscape increase, as land is submerged and coastal inundation threats rise. These system linkages in dynamic deltaic coasts define a balance of river management and human settlement dependent on a certain level of land area within coastal deltaic basins (L).« less
  5. Low-lying coastal cities across the world are vulnerable to the combined impact of rainfall and storm tide. However, existing approaches lack the ability to model the combined effect of these flood mechanisms, especially under climate change and sea level rise (SLR). Thus, to increase flood resilience of coastal cities, modeling techniques to improve the understanding and prediction of the combined effect of these flood hazards are critical. To address this need, this study presents a modeling system for assessing the combined flood impact on coastal cities under selected future climate scenarios that leverages ocean modeling with land surface modeling capable of resolving urban drainage infrastructure within the city. The modeling approach is demonstrated in quantifying the impact of possible future climate scenarios on transportation infrastructure within Norfolk, Virginia, USA. A series of combined storm events are modeled for current (2020) and projected future (2070) climate scenarios. The results show that pluvial flooding causes a larger interruption to the transportation network compared to tidal flooding under current climate conditions. By 2070, however, tidal flooding will be the dominant flooding mechanism with even nuisance flooding expected to happen daily due to SLR. In 2070, nuisance flooding is expected to cause a 4.6%more »total link close time (TLC), which is more than two times that of a 50-year storm surge (1.8% TLC) in 2020. The coupled flood model was compared with a widely used but physically simplistic bathtub method to assess the difference resulting from the more complex modeling presented in this study. The results show that the bathtub method overestimated the flooded area near the shoreline by 9.5% and 3.1% for a 10-year storm surge event in 2020 and 2070, respectively, but underestimated the flooded area in the inland region by 9.0% and 4.0% for the same events. The findings demonstrate the benefit of sophisticated modeling methods compared to more simplistic bathtub approaches, in climate adaptive planning and policy in coastal communities.« less