1.2 Advances in Storm Surge Modeling, Forecasting, and Warnings: An Update on NOAA's Efforts to Improve Storm Surge Awareness and Prediction

Tuesday, 9 January 2018: 9:00 AM
Ballroom B (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
Jamie R. Rhome, NOAA/NWS/NCEP/TPC/NHC, Miami, FL; and C. L. Fritz, T. Trogdon, L. Paulik, W. Booth, T. Sharon, E. Gibney, M. Lowry, and P. J. Manougian

Hurricanes such as Katrina, Ike, and more recently Isaac, Sandy, Hermine, and Matthew have shown that communicating the storm surge hazard remains a challenge. Some end-users continue to put an unbalanced emphasis on the wind hazard and therefore are not sufficiently equipped to make effective preparation and evacuation decisions ahead of an approaching storm. Social science studies have shown that the hesitation to prepare and evacuate from storm surge stems from a lack of understanding of what storm surge is and what it can do, the inability of people to personalize the hazard and accept that a devastating storm surge could occur where they live, and bad practices of comparing individual storms to previous events. The need for improved communication has been further highlighted by recent storms such as Sandy, Irene, Hermine, and Matthew. Some of these storms affected areas accustomed to hurricane strikes yet residents were still caught off guard by coastal flooding.

To address these issues, the National Weather Service has been engaged in a decade-long initiative aimed at improving the communication of the storm surge hazard—a discussion that has been accelerated in recent years by high-profile hurricanes such as Sandy. Working directly with researchers from disciplines such as sociology, communications, and geography, the National Weather Service has engaged its users and partners to determine the best path forward. Social science research concluded that the implementation of an explicit storm surge warning, accompanied by high-resolution storm surge inundation graphics, was supported overwhelmingly by the emergency management and broadcast meteorology communities, and that these tools would have the greatest potential to increase the literacy and awareness of, and response to, the storm surge hazard. Accordingly, the National Weather Service implemented an operational high-resolution inundation graphic, and accompanying GIS dataset, in 2016, and the first-ever explicit storm surge watch/warning product in 2017. This presentation discusses the historical aspects of evolutions in storm surge forecasts and warnings, lessons learned from recent hurricanes regarding these service improvements, and the path ahead for further improving storm surge communication and awareness.

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