Better forecasts of inundation

Gulf of Mexico
Team Lead: Dr. Rick Luettich
Sewell Family Term Professor of Marine Sciences
and Director, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Institute of Marine Science and
Center for Natural Hazards and Disasters Renaissance Computing Institute

Team Members

 The results from the total water level and inundation component of the testbed will provide a much clearer understanding of modeling system performance as applied to waves, tides, surge and inundation in two very different forcing environments – extratropical and tropical storms.  The testbed will focus on two regions that are highly impacted by storm induced flooding, the Gulf of Maine and the Gulf of Mexico.  This information will be of direct use to agencies to further their use of models to fulfill agency missions. The scope of the testbed and evaluation of the results will be influenced by NOAA’s Storm Surge Roadmap, the National Hurricane Center, the US Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA.


(From the NOAA/National Hurricane Center) Along the coast, storm surge is often the greatest threat to life and property from a hurricane. In the past, large death tolls have resulted from the rise of the ocean associated with many of the major hurricanes that have made landfall. Hurricane Katrina (2005) is a prime example of the damage and devastation that can be caused by surge. At least 1500 persons lost their lives during Katrina and many of those deaths occurred directly, or indirectly, as a result of storm surge.

Computer Modeling of Storm Surge  -- Rick Luettich, Director, and professor of marine sciences at UNC's Institute of Marine Sciences is internationally recognized for his work in storm surge and other coastal monitoring and modeling. In this video, Luettich explains how he and his team at the Institute of Marine Sciences are serving North Carolina and providing expertise in marine issues to coastal communities and beyond.

Storm surge is an abnormal rise of water generated by a storm, over and above the predicted astronomical tides. Storm surge should not be confused with storm tide, which is defined as the water level rise due to the combination of storm surge and the astronomical tide. This rise in water level can cause extreme flooding in coastal areas particularly when storm surge coincides with normal high tide, resulting in storm tides reaching up to 20 feet or more in some cases.

Storm surge is produced by water being pushed toward the shore by the force of the winds moving cyclonically around the storm. The impact on surge of the low pressure associated with intense storms is minimal in comparison to the water being forced toward the shore by the wind.