USGS Deploys Storm-Tide Sensors in Advance of Nor’Easter

Release Date:

USGS field crews are deploying storm-tide and wave sensors today from Maine to Delaware to track and study a Nor’easter forecasted to begin tomorrow.

These sensors will continuously measure wave height and tide levels and provide information on the timing, duration and extent of flooding. Data is collected four times per second, providing a detailed picture of the storm.

More than 25 USGS scientists will deploy over 50 sensors along the coast of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Delaware.

The information gathered will help federal and state officials, emergency managers and coastal planners understand storm processes and ultimately build more resilient communities. Data will help fine-tune and improve the accuracy of models that forecast storm surge, inundation, erosion, dune loss and other coastal changes. This information also helps guide recovery efforts, helping identify areas hit the hardest by the storm and inform decisions to improve structure designs and increase public safety.

“Nor’easters can cause higher storm tides than hurricanes in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic,” said USGS New York Water Science Center supervisory hydrologist Ronald Busciolano. “Many of the highest recorded tides in these areas were from these types of storms.”

“Every Nor’easter is unique, and data from real events are essential,” added Busciolano. “The more real-world data we can collect on a variety of storms and tracks, the more precise and informed forecasts can be for future scenarios.”

All sensors will be collected next week—when it is safe to do so—and data will be analyzed and available in the following weeks. All data will be available via the USGS Flood Event Viewer.

These sensors are part of a relatively new USGS mobile network of rapidly deployable instruments to observe and document storm-surge, waves and tides as they make landfall and interact with the coast. This USGS network is called Surge, Wave, and Tide Hydrodynamics, also known as SWATH.

For more information about the nor’easter, visit the National Weather Service website.

The USGS Coastal Change Hazards Portal provides forecasts on the potential for beach erosion, overwash and inundation during hurricanes and other severe coastal storms. Real-time, six-hour forecasts of storm-induced total water levels and potential coastal changes can be found through the USGS Total Water Level Viewer.

The USGS also operates a network of permanent tide gauges that provide real-time information through the National Water Information System. These gauges supplement NOAA's long-term network of gauges.

USGS Storm-Tide Sensor
USGS storm-tide sensor bolted to a cement jetty on the Atlantic Ocean coast at Fire Island, New York. (Credit: Amy Simonson, USGS. Public domain.)
USGS Storm-Tide Sensor
USGS storm-tide sensor bolted to a cement wall on Long Island Sound at Malba, Queens, New York. (Credit: Marie Zuck, USGS. Public domain.)