Forum 7 (Jan. 23, 2015): Right Storm Surge Model for the Job

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Forum 7 (Jan. 23, 2015): Right Storm Surge Model for the Job

At the 7th Hampton Roads Adaptation Forum, modeling experts shared insights on the most common storm surge modeling tools used for planning and response.

©Julia Robins/VASG

George McLeod discusses geospatial and visual systems used by Old Dominion University. ©Julia Robins/VASG

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Forum 7 Agenda


By Julia Robins, Staff Writer

Storm surge caused by hurricanes and other storms can have a devastating effect on public and private property—and predicting the surge may help mitigate those losses. Property owners, residents, businesses, emergency managers, and land planning organizations turn to models to predict where flooding will occur. Knowing which model to use in a particular situation, however, can be tricky.

At the Hampton Roads Sea Level Rise and Flooding Adaptation Forum on January 23, modeling experts and users shared their insights on the most common storm surge modeling tools used for planning and response in Hampton Roads.

“Understanding different model applications’ strengths and limitations helps participants better use models, and hearing from the users helps the scientists better focus their research efforts,” says Michelle Covi, Virginia Sea Grant extension staff at Old Dominion University.

One of the models presented at the forum, for example, performs its calculations for a given geographical region based on a grid pattern. This allows it to generate accurate, relevant, and timely information about storm impacts, so that the results can be communicated more quickly to communities. But it lacks the ability to analyze irregular coastlines and large bodies of water in a single simulation.

Models with more accuracy, on the other hand, typically run on more advanced computer systems and take longer to produce results, making it difficult to use them during a storm event.

Presenters at the forum, who discussed the models currently used by coastal Virginian communities and citizens, included:

  • Rick Luettich, joint professor and director of the Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • On the SLOSH model: Jeff Orrock, meteorologist-in-charge at the National Weather Service
  • On the ADCIRC model: Brian Blanton, senior research scientist at the Renaissance Computing Institute, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • On the SCHISM model: Harry Wang, professor of marine science at Virginia Institute of Marine Science

The forum also included a user panel, in which presenters discussed the real-world use and applications of models. Presenters on the panel included:

  • Brian Batten, senior coastal scientist and technical leader at Dewberry
  • Dave Arnold, system analyst-GIS (geographic information systems) for the City of Virginia Beach
  • George McLeod, assistant director of geospatial and visual systems at Old Dominion University

The quarterly forum is a collaboration among Virginia Sea Grant, Old Dominion University, and Hampton Roads Planning District Commission that helps regional municipalities address adaption challenges and plan for the increasing threat of flooding due to sea level rise.