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Hydro-morphological characterization of coral reefs for wave runup prediction

May 20, 2020

Many coral reef-lined coasts are low-lying with elevations <4 m above mean sea level. Climate-change-driven sea-level rise, coral reef degradation, and changes in storm wave climate will lead to greater occurrence and impacts of wave-driven flooding. This poses a significant threat to their coastal communities. While greatly at risk, the complex hydrodynamics and bathymetry of reef-lined coasts make flood risk assessment and prediction costly and difficult. Here we use a large (>30,000) dataset of measured coral reef topobathymetric cross-shore profiles, statistics, machine learning, and numerical modeling to develop a set of representative cluster profiles (RCPs) that can be used to accurately represent the shoreline hydrodynamics of a large variety of coral reef-lined coasts around the globe. In two stages, the large dataset is reduced by clustering cross-shore profiles based on morphology and hydrodynamic response to typical wind and swell wave conditions. By representing a large variety of coral reef morphologies with a reduced number of RCPs, a computationally feasible number of numerical model simulations can be done to obtain wave runup estimates, including setup at the shoreline and swash separated into infragravity and sea-swell components, of the entire dataset. The predictive capability of the RCPs is tested against 5,000 profiles from the dataset. The wave runup is predicted with a mean error of 9.7–13.1%, depending on the number of cluster profiles used, ranging from 312 to 50. The RCPs identified here can be combined with probabilistic tools that can provide an enhanced prediction given a multivariate wave and water level climate and reef ecology state. Such a tool can be used for climate change impact assessments and studying the effectiveness of reef restoration projects, as well as for the provision of coastal flood predictions in a simplified (global) early warning system.

Publication Year 2020
Title Hydro-morphological characterization of coral reefs for wave runup prediction
DOI 10.3389/fmars.2020.00361
Authors Fred Scott, Jose A. A. Antolinez, Robert T. McCall, Curt D. Storlazzi, Ad Reiners, Stuart Pearson
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Frontiers in Marine Science
Index ID 70211306
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center