New rip current models aim to keep beachgoers safer

Published: Apr. 16, 2021 at 5:05 PM EDT
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MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. (WITN) - A trip to the beach is supposed to be a fun time with family or friends, but each year more than 100 lives are claimed because of rip currents, and even more have close calls. That’s why the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has rolled out a new rip current model.

It’s taken years of work by NOAA Senior Scientist Greg Dusek and his team but they were recently able to launch their new rip current forecast model. The new tool is a huge step forward for NOAA who has been working to keep people safer while they enjoy the beach.

“We’ve seen evidence that people know more about rip currents and what to do if caught in one, what we don’t see necessarily is a reduction in drownings so one of the things we’re focusing on is more prevention and getting people information before they get to the beach and so part of that is the forecast model,” explained Dr. Dusek.

The new forecasting model is capable of taking in and processing a lot more data than the previous rip current forecast model.

“It just became operational a couple of months ago, and the model predicts the likelihood of hazardous rip currents from zero to a hundred percent so kind of like a precipitation forecast or something like that,” said Dr. Dusek.

The older model provided a more generic rip current forecast and predictions covered large stretches of coastline and was only able to be updated once or twice a day. The new model expands greatly on that and can give forecasters, lifeguards, and the community much more detailed information.

“It provides it every kilometer along the shore for six days every hour, so you’re getting a lot of information about when and where hazardous rip currents are likely to occur,” explained Dr. Dusek.

Scientists at UNC’s Institute of Marine Sciences say this new model is a huge leap forward and will ultimately save lives.

“That level of detail both in location and in time is extremely powerful and it comes from knowing better what the contributors are,” said Dr. Rick Luettich.

Now that the model has launched Dr. Dusek says they will continually be working to keep making improvements to it. They hope this will be just another tool that the community can use to avoid finding themselves in dangerous surf conditions altogether.

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