Coastal Elevation Models and Land Surface Variables for Use in Forecasting Hurricane Impacts

PI: Gesch, Dean (USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science Center (EROS))
Co-PI(s): Danielson, Jeffrey (USGS EROS), Amante, Christopher (UCB/CIRES-NOAA/NCEI), Enwright, Nicholas (USGS WARC), Byrd, Kristin (USGS WGSC), Buscombe, Daniel (Marda Science-PCMSC), Goldstein, Evan (UNCG), Stroker, Jason (USGS NGP)
Start Year: 2021 | Duration: 4 years
Partners: USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science Center (EROS), University of Colorado Boulder (UCB) Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), USGS Wetland and Aquatic Research Center (WARC), USGS Western Geographic Science Center (WGSC), Marda Science, LLC, contractor at USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center (PCMSC), University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG), USGS National Geospatial Program (NGP)

Project Abstract:

The U.S. Gulf and Atlantic coasts are increasingly threatened by large tropical storms that can have substantial impacts, including flooding, erosion, overwash, breaching, and destruction of built features. Forecasts of the impacts of these hurricanes have improved, but there are still significant uncertainties in projected coastal impacts, often due to how land conditions are inadequately represented in forecast models. The objectives of this proposed effort in addressing NOPP project Task 1 are to: (1) develop and maintain updated topobathymetric digital elevation models (TBDEMs); (2) collate and characterize coastal sediment type and grade that can be used as inputs for morphodynamic models; (3) develop general coastal vegetation characteristics that can be used as inputs for models; and (4) inventory and characterize structures and infrastructure types spatially such that they can be ingested by models. These results will better equip coastal models leading to improved hurricane impact projections. Here, we leverage a range of existing and operational efforts (such as, national elevation data products, conterminous U.S. [CONUS] land use/land cover [LULC] products, a CONUS-wide tidal marsh biomass dataset, and the USGS National Structures Dataset). The products from this Task will provide the other NOPP project teams with rich datasets for use as baseline conditions for producing remotely sensed DEMs (Task 2), collecting in situ measurements (Task 3), and modeling storm impacts (Task 4).

The study area for this effort will include the U.S. Gulf of Mexico coast and the U.S. Atlantic Seaboard. Along these coastal margins, the study area will span from the close out depth (depths of minimal sediment movement) to the NOAA National Hurricane Center Maximum of the Maximum (MOM) Envelope of High Water for a Category 4 storm for Virginia northward and Category 5 storm south of Virginia. The elevation-based nature of our proposed study area will provide models with boundary condition data needed to predict impacts from extreme storms, especially in coastal areas with low terrain slope such as the southeastern U.S.

Due to the large extent of the study area, the Team will use a three-tier approach. While these tiers may differ slightly for each product type (TBDEMs, sediment, vegetation, and structures and infrastructure), the general approach will be similar. Tier I products will provide coverage for the entire study area by the end of the first year of the project. Tier II products will include enhancements to the initial Tier I products over the project life cycle. Tier III products will focus on advancing research and development related to coastal TBDEM uncertainty, grain size mapping at high-resolution from satellite imagery, remotely sensed vegetation characteristics, and assessing post-storm structure and infrastructure damage. Collectively, these Tier III products and analyses will provide opportunities to advance the science of coastal dynamics, storm impacts, and advancing coastal morphologic modeling. The Team will use one Tier III site per coast. The Gulf of Mexico site is the western Deltaic Plain of Louisiana and the Atlantic Seaboard site is the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

The outcome of the research and development will be manyfold. Complete coverage of updated high-resolution TBDEMs, high-resolution vegetation maps with corresponding vegetation structure parameters, an approach for estimating sediment grain size from space, and updated structure and infrastructure layers and enhanced storm damage summaries are among the highlights of the proposed research. In addition to the critical datasets delivered to coastal modelers for improved hurricane impact forecasts, scientific journal articles will document the advances in coastal mapping and land feature characterization for hazard assessment.

BAA: ONR NOPP Predicting Hurricane Coastal Impacts