6.4 An Evolving Operational Paradigm for Extratropical Storm Surge and Coastal Inundation at the National Weather Service

Wednesday, 15 January 2020: 12:00 AM
153C (Boston Convention and Exhibition Center)
Allison L. Allen, NOAA/NWS, Silver Spring, MD; and J. Rhome, K. McMahon, D. Wright, J. L. Schauer, and A. Luscher

The historic discontinuity in how NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS) forecasts coastal inundation and storm surge impacts during a tropical cyclone and during non-tropical events (e.g. Nor’easters) has long been identified as a concern by its partners and users, including during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. NWS currently uses different forecast products depending on whether the storm is tropical or non-tropical in nature, including fundamental differences in language, thresholds, geographic range of forecasts (zone-based vs. grid-based warnings), colors, and how the information is disseminated. This can lead to confusion and misunderstanding of risk, particularly in areas that regularly experience both tropical and non-tropical storm surge events, such as the U.S. East Coast. NWS, in partnership with NOAA’s National Ocean Service (NOS) is committed to closing the gap in forecasting methodology between tropical and non-tropical storm surge events.

Over the last few years, progress has been made on increasing consistency in communication around coastal inundation. Immediately following Sandy, policies were updated to provide continuity in forecasting for storms transitioning from tropical to extratropical. More recently, steps have been taken to ensure consistent referencing of both coastal water level forecasts and observations, using ground level as a base elevation. Internal demonstrations have been conducted during Nor’easters to explore the possibility of expanding the suite of tropical storm surge products to non-tropical events. Work also continues towards ensuring the warned area most closely matches the area at risk, regardless of the hazard. Additionally, NOAA continues to work toward the goal of providing total water forecasts, and seamlessly coupling freshwater hydrologic models with coastal hydrodynamic and storm surge models to provide a more complete picture of flood risk.

This presentation will provide an update on recent development of a concept of operations for extratropical storm surge forecasts by the National Weather Service and outline near and long-term actions planned to implement this new operational paradigm.

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