NOAA Technology Transfer Award Archive

Richard Okulski, Roman Berdes, John Cannon and Anthony Mignone

Richard Okulski, Roman Berdes, John Cannon and Anthony Mignone

National Weather Service

Author: Derek Parks/Tuesday, December 12, 2017/Categories: 2017 Awards


The components of coastal flooding include storm surge, tide, and wave run-up.  When combined the three components produce total water level.  Knowing total water level is vital to forecasting the risk to life and property along and behind coastal-facing property.  Wave run-up is an important, but complex component of coastal flooding.  Powerful coastal storms can produce large, battering waves that threaten lives, damage dune systems, property, and entire ecosystems.  As waves break along the shoreline, wave run-up is the maximum distance any given wave will strike and advance up the beach.  In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, state and local emergency response officials along the Mid-Atlantic and New England coasts looked to NOAA to provide site-specific coastal flood information at vulnerable locations.  NOAA’s Hurricane/Post Tropical Storm Sandy Service Assessment Finding #16 stated, “NWS lacks forecast guidance on inundation associated with wave run-up and coastal rivers making it difficult to forecast impacts from the storm.”   


Dr. Hilary Stockdon of the U.S. Geological Survey developed a wave run-up parameterization scheme for sandy beaches.  Forecasters Anthony Mignone and John W. Cannon applied Dr. Stockdon’s wave run-up research to produce operational guidance at 60 flood-prone sites from Maine to North Carolina.  The guidance provided at these sites indicates whether or not forecast wave run-up will produce over topping and/or inundation at high tides up to 72-hours in advance.   This guidance supports the NOAA Strategic Goals of Resilient Coastal Communities and Economies and Building a Weather-Ready Nation.  It provides emergency response officials with actionable information to make resource decisions on structure protection, road closures, and evacuations.

Anthony and John surveyed either personally or trained other NOAA employees to conduct the surveys at these sites.  They modified the wave run-up equations to account for rocky beaches and artificial constructs such as sea walls.  They created hindcasts and forecasts and matched the data against spotter reports for verification.  Dr. Stockdon validated their applied research after she toured some of the forecast sites and provided advice on site modifications.

Information Technology Officer Roman Berdes created algorithms using the wave run-up equations to produce 72-hour forecast grids at high tides.  He used the Gridded Forecast Editor (GFE) tool in AWIPS, anticipating this guidance may be merged with other coastal flood inundation factors such as tide and storm surge in the future.  Roman also created a text product for forecasters that indicates whether over topping or inundation is forecast at a specific site.  He assisted three other coastal Weather Forecast Offices (WFO) with the software installation.

Meteorologist-In-Charge Richard Okulski persuaded the National Centers of Environmental Prediction (NCEP) to produce site-specific National Nearshore Wave Model guidance at wave run-up forecast sites to provide a consistent start point for WFOs and integrated with national center operations.  He laid the groundwork for international technology transfer at a Marine Services Workshop in Halifax, Canada, and the inclusion of wave run-up forecasting in the current bi-lateral agreement.  He provided outstanding leadership to the wave run-up initiative in his role as the North Atlantic Regional Team (NART) Resiliency Subteam Leader.  He unceasingly sustained the momentum of the project through coordination and tracking of various component tasks and organization of workshops.  He was a passionate champion of the wave run-up project to the NART subteam members, NOAA/NWS leadership, other WFOs, and core partners.

Environment Canada (EC) requested the transfer of wave run-up forecast technology under the EC-NOAA Bi-Lateral Agreement to establish forecast sites in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick.  The Wave Run-Up Team trained a visiting scientist in survey techniques and visited Halifax for follow up collaboration and data validation of a prototype site in Newfoundland.

The Northeast Regional Association of Coastal Ocean Observing Systems (NERACOOS) and the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) transferred the Wave Run-Up Team’s technology to establish a more agile forecast system using their own models and depicted in a web-based tool for the New England emergency response community and maritime partners.  Their web based tool is viewed as prototype for a NOAA developed tool using local and national forecasts.  

NERACOOS and the Northeast Regional Ocean Council (NROC) included wave run-up technology into a five-year grant to improve coastal resiliency along the New England coastline.  This inclusion demonstrates the value academia places on this technology to solve unmet requirements of citizens, businesses, and the emergency response community.   

The Maine State Emergency Management Agency and the Passamaquoddy Indian Nation requested WFO Caribou establish a wave run-up forecast site in a large bay in their territory prone to flooding.  The forecasts have been used by decision makers in real-time.  For example, York County (Maine) Emergency Management closed coastal flood-prone roads and worked collaboratively with their public works department in an effort to ensure the plowing/removal of rocks and debris.  This proactive response was based on WFO Gray's real-time wave run-up forecasts.

The team's development of a wave run-up forecast technology has become a valuable Impact-based Decision Support Service tool for coastal WFOs between Maine and North Carolina. In addition, the technology has been transferred to Canada, the Passamaquoddy Indian Nation, academia, and a multi-sector regional association to meet the growing requirements of long term coastal resiliency and the deployment of limited resources to safeguard citizens and infrastructure during high impact coastal flood events.
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