R-14-03 Coastal Flooding and Erosion from Severe Storms in a Changing Climate

Qingping Zou
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
University of Maine
Email Qingping Zou

John Cannon
National Weather Service

Many of Maine’s coastal communities, already vulnerable to wind, water, and erosion damage from coastal storms, are anticipating more frequent and damaging storms in the coming years as a result of a warming climate. Predicting how storm-driven waves will affect coastal property in Maine is difficult because the shoreline and seafloor are so varied and complex. Yet better predictions of storm damage are needed to inform disaster preparedness and response activities and maritime operations, as well as help people visualize risks to coastal property.

Physical oceanographer Qingping Zou links meteorological, ocean, coastal, and surf-zone models to predict coastal flood risk. In this project, she will improve Texas A & M researcher Vijay Panchang’s wave forecast model (funded by Sea Grant in 2004) by incorporating higher-resolution wind data and the physics of the top and bottom boundary layers, including sea floor sediment characteristics, into wave-current interactions. Forecasts of waves, tides, and storm surge are fed into a model of the surf zone to predict flooding and erosion at beaches and waterfront property. For example, the model will show how waves establish and “run up” in low-lying coastal areas, and how tidal currents affect waves at the coast. Working with the National Weather Service and Maine Geological Survey, Zou will then use this “clouds to coast” model to generate custom maps of coastal flooding, sea level rise, and storms.

Two-year project, 2014-2016
Total Sea Grant funds: $149,787