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Coastal Hazards

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Inundation and Rip Currents

Coastal hazards come in many varieties in the southeast, with the most significant being hurricanes.  SECOORA will focus on two specific threats to the safety of coastal residents and visitors, inundation associated with storms and rip currents.

Resilient coastal communities know their risks from inundation and have implemented measures to mitigate those risks.  Improving the resilience of coastal communities is identified as a priority for the Governors South Atlantic Alliance as well as many other federal and state agencies.  SECOORA’s role in addressing resiliency rests with its modeling expertise, data management capability, and experience in operating observing platforms to provide community-level data necessary to improve the accuracy of inundation models.

NOAA estimates that over 100 people die each year in the U.S. because of rip currents.  Six National Weather Service Weather Forecast Offices (WFO) in the SECOORA region now issue surf zone forecasts that include rip current outlooks.  SECOORA will collect and make interoperable and readily available in real time key data necessary to improve rip current models. 

Project Spotlight

Rip currents remain the number one cause for rescues and drownings at the beach, yet our ability to accurately forecast strong rip currents is limited. A University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Beach Hazard Study focuses on better understanding the of the underlying processes that influence dangerous rip current formation.A major component of the study is the collection of nearshore bathymetry data using GPS and directional wave data using Acoustic Doppler Current Profilers (ADCP) and the SWAN (Simulating Waves Nearshore) wave model to determine what factors most influence beach hazards, such as rip currents. Lifeguard surf zone observations and historical rescue data are also being analyzed to better understand beach hazards. Ultimately, the revised beach hazard forecast model will be used by NWS Weather Forecast Offices to provide spatially-explicit predictions of beach hazards in North Carolina.