Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Evaluation of airborne lidar elevation surfaces for propagation of coastal inundation: the importance of hydrologic connectivity

January 1, 2015

Detailed information about coastal inundation is vital to understanding dynamic and populated areas that are impacted by storm surge and flooding. To understand these natural hazard risks, lidar elevation surfaces are frequently used to model inundation in coastal areas. A single-value surface method is sometimes used to inundate areas in lidar elevation surfaces that are below a specified elevation value. However, such an approach does not take into consideration hydrologic connectivity between elevation grids cells resulting in inland areas that should be hydrologically connected to the ocean, but are not. Because inland areas that should drain to the ocean are hydrologically disconnected by raised features in a lidar elevation surface, simply raising the water level to propagate coastal inundation will lead to inundation uncertainties. We took advantage of this problem to identify hydrologically disconnected inland areas to point out that they should be considered for coastal inundation, and that a lidar-based hydrologic surface should be developed with hydrologic connectivity prior to inundation analysis. The process of achieving hydrologic connectivity with hydrologic-enforcement is not new, however, the application of hydrologically-enforced lidar elevation surfaces for improved coastal inundation mapping as approached in this research is innovative. In this article, we propagated a high-resolution lidar elevation surface in coastal Staten Island, New York to demonstrate that inland areas lacking hydrologic connectivity to the ocean could potentially be included in inundation delineations. For inland areas that were hydrologically disconnected, we evaluated if drainage to the ocean was evident, and calculated an area exceeding 11 ha (~0.11 km2) that could be considered in inundation delineations. We also assessed land cover for each inland area to determine the type of physical surfaces that would be potentially impacted if the inland areas were considered as part of a coastal inundation. A visual analysis indicated that developed, medium intensity and palustrine forested wetland land cover types would be impacted for those locations. This article demonstrates that hydrologic connectivity is an important factor to consider when inundating a lidar elevation surface. This information is needed for inundation monitoring and management in sensitive coastal regions.

Publication Year 2015
Title Evaluation of airborne lidar elevation surfaces for propagation of coastal inundation: the importance of hydrologic connectivity
DOI 10.3390/rs70911695
Authors Sandra K. Poppenga, Bruce B. Worstell
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Remote Sensing
Index ID 70157352
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center