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UCF research team developing new storm surge model

The team is focusing on the relationship between long term weather phenomena and coastal flooding events
Storm surges have had a devastating impact on coastal communities up and down the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
Storm surges have had a devastating impact on coastal communities up and down the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.(Charlie Ironmonger)
Published: Sep. 28, 2020 at 2:01 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 28, 2020 at 2:06 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - A research team at the University of Central Florida is creating new models focused on better predicting periods of increased storm surge risk. While most storm surge models currently focus on the effects of short term weather events, like tropical storms, hurricanes and mid-latitude cyclones, few take long term phenomena in to account. These long term events have an impact of the variability of global sea levels, directly impacting the severity of storm surges and the coastal communities affected by them.

Mamunur Rashid, the study’s lead author and a postdoctoral research associate in UCF’s Department of Civil, Environmental and Construction Engineering says “If we were capable to predict in advance when we go through periods of relatively higher flood risk, that would be very useful information to have, for example in order to make available and deploy resources way in advance.”

El Nino/La Nina (ENSO) events are the most well known long term weather phenomena and measure sea surface temperatures across the Pacific Ocean from South America to Asia. These events impact jet stream position across the Pacific Ocean and in turn lead to adjustments in weather patterns across the globe. We here in Eastern N.C. associate the effects of El Nino closest with a reduction in tropical activity in the Atlantic while La Nina has the opposite affect. The North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) is another long term weather phenomena that the team will incorporate into their new model. The NAO is a pattern of shifting high pressure south of Greenland and Iceland that influences the strength and position of trade winds and the jet stream across the Atlantic.

In order to test the model, the team is putting sea level values from long term weather events through their developed equations, adding in the extreme variability of high storm surge events and comparing that to what we’ve seen in the past. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is supporting the research with the hopes the advancements can be incorporated or used along side the SLOSH model to reduce the risk to life and property.

The model the team is creating is still in its infancy, with an operational model not expected for some time. However, with global sea levels rising annually, this research will be incredibly important over the years that come. You can find more information on the UCF team’s research here.

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