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  1. Abstract

    The U.S. coastlines have experienced rapid increases in occurrences of High Tide Flooding (HTF) during recent decades. While it is generally accepted that relative mean sea level (RMSL) rise is the dominant cause for this, an attribution to individual components is still lacking. Here, we use local sea-level budgets to attribute past changes in HTF days to RMSL and its individual contributions. We find that while RMSL rise generally explains > 84% of long-term increases in HTF days locally, spatial patterns in HTF changes also depend on differences in flooding thresholds and water level characteristics. Vertical land motion dominates long-term increases in HTF, particularly in the northeast, while sterodynamic sea level (SDSL) is most important elsewhere and on shorter temporal scales. We also show that the recent SDSL acceleration in the Gulf of Mexico has led to an increase of 220% in the frequency of HTF events over the last decade.

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  2. Abstract

    Climate change impacts threaten the stability of the US housing market. In response to growing concerns that increasing costs of flooding are not fully captured in property values, we quantify the magnitude of unpriced flood risk in the housing market by comparing the empirical and economically efficient prices for properties at risk. We find that residential properties exposed to flood risk are overvalued by US$121–US$237 billion, depending on the discount rate. In general, highly overvalued properties are concentrated in counties along the coast with no flood risk disclosure laws and where there is less concern about climate change. Low-income households are at greater risk of losing home equity from price deflation, and municipalities that are heavily reliant on property taxes for revenue are vulnerable to budgetary shortfalls. The consequences of these financial risks will depend on policy choices that influence who bears the costs of climate change.

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  3. Abstract

    Two tropical cyclones (TCs) that make landfall close together can induce sequential hazards to coastal areas. Here we investigate the change in sequential TC hazards in the historical and future projected climates. We find that the chance of sequential TC hazards has been increasing over the past several decades at many US locations. Under the high (moderate) emission scenario, the chance of hazards from two TCs impacting the same location within 15 days may substantially increase, with the return period decreasing over the century from 10–92 years to ~1–2 (1–3) years along the US East and Gulf coasts, due to sea-level rise and storm climatology change. Climate change can also cause unprecedented compounding of extreme hazards at the regional level. A Katrina-like TC and a Harvey-like TC impacting the United States within 15 days of each other, which is non-existent in the control simulation for over 1,000 years, is projected to have an annual occurrence probability of more than 1% by the end of the century under the high emission scenario.

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  4. Abstract

    Accurate delineation of compound flood hazard requires joint simulation of rainfall‐runoff and storm surges within high‐resolution flood models, which may be computationally expensive. There is a need for supplementing physical models with efficient, probabilistic methodologies for compound flood hazard assessment that can be applied under a range of climate and environment conditions. Here we propose an extension to the joint probability optimal sampling method (JPM‐OS), which has been widely used for storm surge assessment, and apply it for rainfall‐surge compound hazard assessment under climate change at the catchment‐scale. We utilize thousands of synthetic tropical cyclones (TCs) and physics‐based models to characterize storm surge and rainfall hazards at the coast. Then we implement a Bayesian quadrature optimization approach (JPM‐OS‐BQ) to select a small number (∼100) of storms, which are simulated within a high‐resolution flood model to characterize the compound flood hazard. We show that the limited JPM‐OS‐BQ simulations can capture historical flood return levels within 0.25 m compared to a high‐fidelity Monte Carlo approach. We find that the combined impact of 2100 sea‐level rise (SLR) and TC climatology changes on flood hazard change in the Cape Fear Estuary, NC will increase the 100‐year flood extent by 27% and increase inundation volume by 62%. Moreover, we show that probabilistic incorporation of SLR in the JPM‐OS‐BQ framework leads to different 100‐year flood maps compared to using a single mean SLR projection. Our framework can be applied to catchments across the United States Atlantic and Gulf coasts under a variety of climate and environment scenarios.

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  5. Abstract

    The ice sheets covering Antarctica and Greenland present the greatest uncertainty in, and largest potential contribution to, future sea level rise. The uncertainty arises from a paucity of suitable observations covering the full range of ice sheet behaviors, incomplete understanding of the influences of diverse processes, and limitations in defining key boundary conditions for the numerical models. To investigate the impact of these uncertainties on ice sheet projections we undertook a structured expert judgement study. Here, we interrogate the findings of that study to identify the dominant drivers of uncertainty in projections and their relative importance as a function of ice sheet and time. We find that for the 21st century, Greenland surface melting, in particular the role of surface albedo effects, and West Antarctic ice dynamics, specifically the role of ice shelf buttressing, dominate the uncertainty. The importance of these effects holds under both a high‐end 5°C global warming scenario and another that limits global warming to 2°C. During the 22nd century the dominant drivers of uncertainty shift. Under the 5°C scenario, East Antarctic ice dynamics dominate the uncertainty in projections, driven by the possible role of ice flow instabilities. These dynamic effects only become dominant, however, for a temperature scenario above the Paris Agreement 2°C target and beyond 2100. Our findings identify key processes and factors that need to be addressed in future modeling and observational studies in order to reduce uncertainties in ice sheet projections.

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  6. Abstract

    Coastal areas are subject to the joint risk associated with rainfall‐driven flooding and storm surge hazards. To capture this dependency and the compound nature of these hazards, bivariate modelling represents a straightforward and easy‐to‐implement approach that relies on observational records. Most existing applications focus on a single tide gauge–rain gauge/streamgauge combination, limiting the applicability of bivariate modelling to develop high‐resolution space–time design events that can be used to quantify the dynamic, that is, varying in space and time, compound flood hazard in coastal basins. Moreover, there is a need to recognize that not all extreme events always come from a single population, but can reflect a mixture of different generating mechanisms. Therefore, this paper describes an empirical approach to develop design storms with high‐resolution in space and time (i.e., ~5 km and hourly) for different joint annual exceedance probabilities. We also stratify extreme rainfall and storm surge events depending on whether they were caused by tropical cyclones (TCs) or not. We find that there are significant differences between the TC and non‐TC populations, with very different dependence structures that are missed if we treat all the events as coming from a single population. While we apply this methodology to one basin near Houston, Texas, our approach is general enough to make it applicable for any coastal basin exposed to compounding flood hazards from storm surge and rainfall‐induced flooding.

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  7. Abstract

    Future coastal flood hazard at many locations will be impacted by both tropical cyclone (TC) change and relative sea‐level rise (SLR). Despite sea level and TC activity being influenced by common thermodynamic and dynamic climate variables, their future changes are generally considered independently. Here, we investigate correlations between SLR and TC change derived from simulations of 26 Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6 models. We first explore correlations between SLR and TC activity by inference from two large‐scale factors known to modulate TC activity: potential intensity (PI) and vertical wind shear. Under the high emissions SSP5‐8.5, SLR is strongly correlated with PI change (positively) and vertical wind shear change (negatively) over much of the western North Atlantic and North West Pacific, with global mean surface air temperature (GSAT) modulating the co‐variability. To explore the impact of the joint changes on flood hazard, we conduct climatological–hydrodynamic modeling at five sites along the US East and Gulf Coasts. Positive correlations between SLR and TC change alter flood hazard projections, particularly at Wilmington, Charleston and New Orleans. For example, if positive correlations between SLR and TC changes are ignored in estimating flood hazard at Wilmington, the average projected change to the historical 100 years storm tide event is under‐estimated by 12%. Our results suggest that flood hazard assessments that neglect the joint influence of these factors and that do not reflect the full distribution of GSAT change may not accurately represent future flood hazard.

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  8. Storm surges are the most important driver of flooding in many coastal areas. Understanding the spatial extent of storm surge events has important financial and practical implications for flood risk management, reinsurance, infrastructure reliability and emergency response. In this paper, we apply a new tracking algorithm to a high-resolution surge hindcast (CODEC, 1980–2017) to characterize the spatial dependence and temporal evolution of extreme surge events along the coastline of the UK and Ireland. We quantify the severity of each spatial event based on its footprint extremity to select and rank the collection of events. Several surge footprint types are obtained based on the most impacted coastal stretch from each particular event, and these are linked to the driving storm tracks. Using the collection of the extreme surge events, we assess the spatial distribution and interannual variability of the duration, size, severity, and type. We find that the northeast coastline is most impacted by the longest and largest storm surge events, while the English Channel experiences the shortest and smallest storm surge events. The interannual variability indicates that the winter seasons of 1989-90 and 2013–14 were the most serious in terms of the number of events and their severity, based on the return period along the affected coastlines. The most extreme surge event and the highest number of events occurred in the winter season 1989–90, while the proportion of events with larger severities was higher during the winter season 2013–14. This new spatial analysis approach of surge extremes allows us to distinguish several categories of spatial footprints of events around the UK/Ireland coast and link these to distinct storm tracks. The spatial dependence structures detected can improve multivariate statistical methods which are crucial inputs to coastal flooding assessments. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 1, 2025
  9. Accurate flood forecasting and efficient emergency response operations are vital, especially in the case of urban flash floods. The dense distribution of power lines in urban areas significantly impacts search and rescue operations during extreme flood events. However, no existing emergency response frameworks have incorporated the impacts of overhead power lines on lifeboat rescue operations. This study aims to determine the necessity and feasibility of incorporating overhead power line information into an emergency response framework using Manville, New Jersey during Hurricane Ida as a test bed. We propose an integrated framework, which includes a building-scale flood model, urban point cloud data, a human vulnerability model, and network analysis, to simulate rescue operation feasibility during Hurricane Ida. Results reveal that during the most severe point of the flood event, 46% of impacted buildings became nonrescuable due to complete isolation from the road network, and a significant 67.7% of the municipality’s areas that became dangerous for pedestrians also became inaccessible to rescue boats due to overhead power line obstruction. Additionally, we identify a continuous 10-hour period during which an average of 43.4% of the 991 impacted buildings faced complete isolation. For these structures, early evacuation emerges as the sole means to prevent isolation. This research highlights the pressing need to consider overhead power lines in emergency response planning to ensure more effective and targeted flood resilience measures for urban areas facing increasingly frequent extreme precipitation events. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 2, 2025
  10. Image data collected after natural disasters play an important role in the forensics of structure failures. However, curating and managing large amounts of post-disaster imagery data is challenging. In most cases, data users still have to spend much effort to find and sort images from the massive amounts of images archived for past decades in order to study specific types of disasters. This paper proposes a new machine learning based approach for automating the labeling and classification of large volumes of post-natural disaster image data to address this issue. More specifically, the proposed method couples pre-trained computer vision models and a natural language processing model with an ontology tailed to natural disasters to facilitate the search and query of specific types of image data. The resulting process returns each image with five primary labels and similarity scores, representing its content based on the developed word-embedding model. Validation and accuracy assessment of the proposed methodology was conducted with ground-level residential building panoramic images from Hurricane Harvey. The computed primary labels showed a minimum average difference of 13.32% when compared to manually assigned labels. This versatile and adaptable solution offers a practical and valuable solution for automating image labeling and classification tasks, with the potential to be applied to various image classifications and used in different fields and industries. The flexibility of the method means that it can be updated and improved to meet the evolving needs of various domains, making it a valuable asset for future research and development. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 27, 2025