storm surge model pic

UCF coastal researchers Thomas Wahl and Mamunur Rashid display data from their extreme sea level indicator study. Wahl and Rashid gathered research from past storm surges and climate change studies to create models that are said to predict storm surges up to a decade.

UCF coastal researchers Thomas Wahl and Mamunur Rashid are creating models that are said to predict storm surges up to a decade in advance. 

"Storm surges are often the most dangerous threat to life and property along the coast during a hurricane," according to the National Hurricane Center.

Surges occur when water levels rise above tides during a hurricane leading to potential extreme flooding along the coast. 

Using tide measurement data from U.S. coasts, Wahl and Rashid said they have created an extreme sea level indicator that shows the role recorded major weather and ocean forces played in an increase of sea level around the coasts nationwide.

"Looking at the past may help you better understand the future," Wahl said. 

Wahl said they also gathered research from climate change studies to show large scale changes from storm surges and provide more information on storm surge predictions. 

"What the sea level indicator model does, which other indicators do not show, is how weather and climate interact with predictable tides to make up high sea levels that can be potentially dangerous," Wahl said. 

Once the research models are applied, they said the models would predict storm surges for up to a decade.

In the last 10 years, meteorologists recorded 158 named storms in the Atlantic Ocean and 1,300 recorded deaths, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"We can't pinpoint the exact date and time a surge would hit, but we can make predictions from in depth research and studying consistent movements recorded through history," Wahl said. 

After nearly a year of research, Wahl said they are near the end and will release the graph in roughly two weeks.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Program supports the study, allocating nearly $300,000 to the storm surge research, Wahl said. 

Wahl said the model will be very beneficial to society and can help communities better prepare for surges and make the necessary accommodations or financial allocations in advance. 

"If we know some of this in advance, we can plan adaptation and how to respond to surges in a better way," Wahl said.

Wahl and Rashid both said they are not experts in explaining the research to the general public but hope that once the research is released, weather professionals will be able to inform the public better and make the complex research easier to understand. 

Former WESH Channel 2 news meteorologist Amy Sweezey delivered daily forecasts on television for nearly 25 years and said the research Wahl and Rashid are doing is a great step in the right direction. 

"I am excited about their research,” Sweezey said. “The other storm surge modeling we have is quite limited, having more information is always beneficial to forecasting." 

Wahl and Rashid published all of their latest findings in the Nature Research Journal for Scientifc Data and said once the models are released, they will be best applied to coastal areas stateside. 

"We worked hard on this research, and I really believe it will be beneficial to everyone," Wahl said. "The past doesn't always manifest the future, but we can study it and become better."

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