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A team of government, academic and industry organizations has received a $500,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to develop a unique Chesapeake Bay storm surge prediction system. Elizabeth Smith, research assistant professor with Old Dominion University's Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography, is project coordinator.

The funding announced Wednesday, Aug. 22, supports the first year of a potential three-year, $1.5 million grant to the Chesapeake Bay Observing System (CBOS), which is a part of the Chesapeake Research Consortium (CRC). ODU, the University System of Maryland, The Johns Hopkins University, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Pennsylvania State University and the Smithsonian Institution make up CRC.

Smith is executive director of CBOS, whose prototype storm-surge project is titled Chesapeake Inundation Prediction System (CIPS). It will be designed to be a tool used by NOAA's National Weather Service (NWS). NOAA is a CIPS partner, as is the U.S. Geological Survey and the private companies, Noblis Inc., and Weatherflow Inc.

CIPS will employ state-of-the-art, high-resolution atmospheric models to predict storm development, movement and intensity. These atmospheric models will be coupled with high-resolution oceanographic models that combine the effects of wind-driven ocean storm surges, waves, tides and river discharge to project inundation overland rather than just estimate water height at the shore.

To better elucidate the location, depth and duration of overland inundation, hydrodynamic model outputs will be combined with high-resolution graphics programs based on Geographic Information Systems to produce static and animated visualizations of overland flooding in selected flood-prone urban and rural areas.

Tony Siebers, meteorologist-in-charge of the NWS Forecasting Office in Wakefield, Va., says this about CIPS, "Our emergency managers have told us that they need two things for improved inundation forecasts: inundation prediction down to a city block resolution, and a measure of confidence in the forecast. The CIPS ensemble forecast approach will give us the measure of confidence, and the CIPS visualization tools will give us the high resolution that the emergency managers need. We have a great team assembled to meet this forecast challenge."

CIPS improvements to the accuracy and reliability of flooding forecasts conveyed using modern visualization tools can be expected to generate measurable benefits in terms of reductions in deaths, injuries, human hardship and property damage, according to a CBOS news release. Most pathways of benefits are associated with more effective deployment of emergency response assets before, during and after flooding.

Mark Penn, emergency management coordinator for Alexandria, Va., says, "If I had such a flood prediction tool, I would be able to make appropriate decisions about moving folks, and sheltering them, and closing businesses."

There will also be other, less direct sources of benefits of such a flood prediction system. The city of Norfolk, for instance, allows free use of elevated parking garages when coastal flooding is expected to exceed a certain level, which allows residents to move cars out of low lying, flood prone areas and thereby reducing vehicle-related property losses. The quantification of such benefits will be an integral part of CIPS development.

The CIPS modeling ensemble forecasts will be validated by meteorological stations, the river and tidal gages or the buoys, radars and other sensors of the observing system developed through the integration of existing CBOS member observational platforms. As a sub-regional association of the Middle Atlantic Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association (MACOORA), and part of the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS), CBOS foresees the potential to transfer CIPS as a forecast capability through NWS local offices, and, as an observational capability, through MACOORA and IOOS to other coastal regions.

This article was posted on: August 27, 2007

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