Hurricanes and Storm-Tide Monitoring

USGS Flood Event Viewer

USGS Flood Event Viewer

During large, short-term floods, the USGS collects additional data and serves it out to the public through the USGS Flood Event Viewer (FEV) which provides convenient, map-based access to storm-surge and other event-based data.

Open FEV

Science Center Objects

The USGS works in partnership with other federal and state agencies to provide scientific data about coastal flood hazards. The New Jersey Water Science Center (NJWSC) maintains a network of continuously operating tide gages along the back bays of New Jersey which provide publicly available water-level and meteorological data to monitor coastal flood conditions.  The USGS NJWSC coordinates with our federal and state partners to increase our data collection efforts when the threat of major storms and hurricanes seems imminent by deploying special storm tide sensors to record information about storm tides and waves in targeted locations to help emergency management officials, engineers, and planners better understand coastal flooding dynamics and develop better resiliency plans for future coastal flooding events.   

Hydrologic Technician installing an auxiliary sensor

Patrick Bowen installing an auxiliary wave sensor at USGS station 01409335, Little Egg Inlet near Tuckerton, NJ.

(Credit: Michal Niemonczynski, USGS. Public domain.)

Introduction

Hurricanes, tropical storms and nor’easters become coastal flood hazards, endangering human life, and damaging property when they approach populated areas such as the coast of New Jersey. Minimizing flood damages and protecting human life when a major storm impacts New Jersey and surrounding areas requires an understanding of the local flood hazard risk associated with these types of storms. Historically peak water-surface elevations resulting from lunar tide cycles, meteorological events, and major hurricane and tropical storm conditions have been documented at fixed tide gages and through post-storm forensic data collection campaigns. These methods of documenting evidence of peak water-surface elevations and wave conditions on buildings structures and the landscape can be reliable, but their existence is time sensitive because as response teams rush to clean up damages after a storm the evidence left behind many times gets destroyed quickly. However, even with a quick response and good documented evidence these data collection campaigns do not provide information about timing of flooding, sequencing and magnitude of waves, or residency times of floodwaters as the storm passes.

To overcome these limitations the USGS works in cooperation with the State of New Jersey to expand and enhance the real-time tide gage network providing continuous tidal water-level information at over 30 New Jersey coastal locations.  During major storms the USGS is working in partnership with other federal and state agencies to deploy additional temporary storm sensors capable of recording dynamic high frequency changes in tidal water-levels to allow for computations of storm tide elevations and wave statistics.

Real-Time Monitoring Network

New Jersey boat docking at a tidal sensor in the bay

New Jersey Ambar docked at tide sensor on a bridge footer at East Thorofare at Ship Bottom, NJ (01409146).

(Credit: Patrick Bowen, New Jersey WSC. Public domain.)

The USGS maintains a network of real-time tide gages along the coast of New Jersey recording tidal water-surface elevation and meteorological data every 6-minutes. The stations included in the New Jersey Tide Network (NJTN) transmit the data at least once per hour and are made publicly available online at: New Jersey Tide Network. Major coastal storms, hurricanes, and nor’easters generate wind driven storm surge that can cause damage and flooding along the coast, but tidal water-levels in the popular back bays of New Jersey can behave quite differently during storms. Complex interactions between changing storm force winds, tide cycles, geomorphic changes, and inlet geometry can result in different conditions in the back bays compared to the ocean coast. The NJTN stations are mostly located in the back bays along the Jersey shore to provide timely information about tidal water-surface elevations and meteorological wind and rain data to help emergency managers and local communities protect life and property and increase resiliency.

The USGS real-time monitoring network extends beyond the coastline to the rivers and streams of New Jersey and the nation. The USGS streamgaging program operates nearly 200 station in New Jersey and thousands nationally. The parameters included vary by station and cooperating partner needs but often include measurements of water level, velocity, specific conductance, salinity, temperature, nitrogen, turbidity, pH, chlorophyll, blue green algae, and dissolved oxygen. These real-time monitoring networks record data through a large range of hydrologic conditions, from droughts to floods, provide information to protect drinking water supply, aquatic ecosystems, and the general water-quality conditions. Current conditions data are available at : USGS Current Conditions for New Jersey.

 

USGS Storm-Tide Sensor

USGS storm-tide sensor bolted to a cement jetty on the Atlantic Ocean coast at Fire Island, New York. USGS scientists deployed over 50 sensors along the coast of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Delaware to study a Nor'easter that affected the Northeast in March of 2018.

(Credit: Amy Simonson, USGS. Public domain.)

Temporary Deployment of Hurricane Storm Surge Sensors

When major coastal storms, hurricanes, or nor’easters threaten the coastal communities of New Jersey or our surrounding states the USGS tries to work closely with our other federal and state partners to augment the fixed network of tide gages with additional temporary storm tide sensors. These sensors are typically deployed to measure tidal water-surface elevations at high frequency and monitor barometric-pressure changes. This information is used to understand the interaction between the storm forcing conditions and the resulting water-surface elevations and wave heights in the local communities. The ability to deploy a dense network of temporary storm surge sensors in the path of the storm provides valuable information beyond just recording the peak water-surface elevation, they provide information about how fast flooding occurred, what wave conditions were like, and the potential benefits of wetland buffers. These data are utilized by research scientists, engineering professionals, and other government agencies to aid in the development and validation of computer modeling of hydrodynamic and geomorphic processes. The current generation of these sensors do not provide real-time data transmissions so data need to be manually downloaded, processed and uploaded for public use. The USGS has successfully deployed temporary storm surge sensor networks for several hurricanes and tropical storms along the east coast including Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and the January 2016 nor’easter that directly impacted New Jersey.

 

Summary

The USGS New Jersey Tide network (NJTN), operated in cooperation with the State of New Jersey, includes tide gages in many back bay communities along the Jersey Shore. Tidal water-surface elevation and meteorological data are recorded every 6-minutes and displayed on the NJTN real-time webpage. These data are used by emergency management officials, planners, engineers and the local community to better understand lunar tide conditions and storm driven flooding but are available to everyone who may have an interest or need to monitor tidal conditions. Combined with the real-time river monitoring networks and supplemental data from temporary storm surge sensors, the USGS provides a wide range of data to aid in scientific research, emergency preparedness, resiliency planning for future flood and drought conditions, and the protection of life and property.   

 

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USGS Throughout the Hurricane Season

USGS Hurricane Responses