NOAA expands warning system for storms

National Geophysical Data Center 1/3 Arc-Second Coastal Relief Model, Atlantic City.


The National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration has constructed new digital elevation models for the East Coast communities of Long Island, Atlantic City and Daytona Beach to help emergency planners prepare for effects of tsunamis or other flooding driven by storms.

The DEMs are constructed from measurements of near-shore depth of the sea floor and land elevation data to create a detailed digital relief map of the coastal region.

According to NOAA, the information provides the underlying framework necessary to accurately forecast the magnitude and extent of coastal flooding during a tsunami or storm surge event. Since 2006, scientists at NOAA's National Geophysical Data Center and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, both based in Boulder, Colo., had already created DEMs for 20 U.S. coastal communities. The team expects to build more than 50 additional DEMs for U.S. coastal communities in the coming years.

After DEMs are developed, they are sent to NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, where they are plugged into tsunami model scenarios. These scenarios simulate offshore earthquakes, the resulting tsunami movement across the ocean and the magnitude and location of coastal flooding caused when the storm reaches the shore.

As a result, NOAA Tsunami Warning Centers can employ the data to issue more accurate flooding forecasts if an earthquake triggers an actual tsunami.

About the Author

Patrick Marshall is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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