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Coastal Change Hazards Team Forecasted Hurricane Zeta Beach Impacts

As Hurricane Zeta approached the US Gulf Coast, the USGS Coastal Change Hazards Team produced a series of forecasts for impacts on the beach. The model forecasts the probability of collision, overwash and inundation (pCOI) along sandy beaches of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Forecasts were updated daily based on wave and storm surge forecasts from NOAA. 

The USGS Coastal Change Hazards Portal shows a screenshot of Hurricane Zeta approaching the northern U.S. Gulf Coast
As Hurricane Zeta approached the US Gulf Coast, the USGS Coastal Change Hazards team produced a series of forecasts for impacts on the beach. Forecasts were updated daily based on wave and storm surge forecasts from NOAA. (Credit: Kara Doran, USGS. Public domain.)

Prior to landfall on October 28, 2020, the Coastal Change Hazards Team forecasted that 68 percent of Louisiana’s barrier island beaches were very likely to erode at the dunes’ base, 60 percent of dunes were forecast to be overwashed by storm waves and 23 percent of the dunes were forecast to be inundated. In Mississippi, 89 percent of barrier island beaches were very likely to erode at the dunes’ base, 46 percent of dunes were forecast to be overwashed, and 16 percent of the dunes were forecast to be inundated. In Alabama, 57 percent of barrier island beaches were very likely to erode at the dunes’ base, and 11 percent of dunes were forecast to be overwashed. In the area of Texas included in the forecast, 24 percent of dunes were very likely to erode, and 1 percent of dunes were forecast to be overwashed. Along the Florida Panhandle, 1 percent of beaches were very likely to erode at the dunes’ base. In addition to informing the public, forecasts were used to determine placement of storm tide sensors for USGS real-time response to Hurricane Zeta. After landfall of a storm, the Coastal Change Hazards Team uses several methods to validate forecasts and improve their models, including NOAA imagery, USGS CoastCams, other beach cams, Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) constructed from post-storm aerial imagery and lidar data, and observations from USGS sensors.

The USGS Coastal Change Forecast model is used to estimate the impacts of elevated waves and storm surge along the coast due to extreme storms. This model has been in use since 2011 and is continually improved. To view a geonarrative about USGS tools to forecast coastal change, visit Real-time Forecasts of Coastal Change.

 

Read what else is new at the St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center.

 

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