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Comparison of a simple hydrostatic and a data-intensive 3D numerical modeling method of simulating sea-level rise induced groundwater inundation for Honolulu, Hawai'i, USA

May 24, 2019

Groundwater inundation (GWI) is a particularly challenging consequence of sea-level rise (SLR), as it progressively inundates infrastructure located above and below the ground surface. Paths of flooding by GWI differ from other types of SLR flooding (i.e., wave overwash, storm-drain backflow) such that it is more difficult to mitigate, and thus requires a separate set of highly innovative adaptation strategies to manage. To spur consideration of GWI in planning, data-intensive numerical modeling methods have been developed that produce locally specific visualizations of GWI, though the accessibility of such methods is limited by extensive data requirements. Conversely, the hydrostatic (or 'bathtub') modeling approach is widely used in adaptation planning owing to easily accessed visualizations (i.e., NOAA SLR Viewer), yet its capacity to simulate GWI has never been tested. Given the separate actions necessary to mitigate GWI relative to marine overwash, this is a significant gap. Here we compare a simple hydrostatic modeling method with a more deterministic, dynamic and robust 3D numerical modeling approach to explore the effectiveness of the hydrostatic method in simulating equilibrium aquifer effects of multi-decadal sea-level rise, and in turn GWI for Honolulu, Hawai'i. We find hydrostatic modeling in the Honolulu area and likely other settings may yield similar results to numerical modeling when referencing the local mean higher-high water tide datum (generally typical of flood studies). These findings have the potential to spur preliminary understanding of GWI impacts in municipalities that lack the required data to conduct rigorous groundwater-modeling investigations. We note that the methods explored here for Honolulu do not simulate dynamic coastal processes (i.e., coastal erosion, sediment accretion or changes in land cover) and thus are most appropriately applied to regions that host heavily armored shorelines behind which GWI can develop.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2019
Title Comparison of a simple hydrostatic and a data-intensive 3D numerical modeling method of simulating sea-level rise induced groundwater inundation for Honolulu, Hawai'i, USA
DOI 10.1088/2515-7620/ab21fe
Authors Shellie Habel, Charles H. Fletcher, Kolja Rotzoll, Aly I. El-Kadi, Delwyn S. Oki
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Environmental Research Letters
Series Number
Index ID 70219920
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pacific Islands Water Science Center