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Probabilistic assessment of erosion and flooding risk in the northern Gulf of Mexico

August 31, 2016

We assess erosion and flooding risk in the northern Gulf of Mexico by identifying interdependencies among oceanographic drivers and probabilistically modeling the resulting potential for coastal change. Wave and water level observations are used to determine relationships between six hydrodynamic parameters that influence total water level and therefore erosion and flooding, through consideration of a wide range of univariate distribution functions and multivariate elliptical copulas. Using these relationships, we explore how different our interpretation of the present-day erosion/flooding risk could be if we had seen more or fewer extreme realizations of individual and combinations of parameters in the past by simulating 10,000 physically and statistically consistent sea-storm time series. We find that seasonal total water levels associated with the 100 year return period could be up to 3 m higher in summer and 0.6 m higher in winter relative to our best estimate based on the observational records. Impact hours of collision and overwash—where total water levels exceed the dune toe or dune crest elevations—could be on average 70% (collision) and 100% (overwash) larger than inferred from the observations. Our model accounts for non-stationarity in a straightforward, non-parametric way that can be applied (with little adjustments) to many other coastlines. The probabilistic model presented here, which accounts for observational uncertainty, can be applied to other coastlines where short record lengths limit the ability to identify the full range of possible wave and water level conditions that coastal mangers and planners must consider to develop sustainable management strategies.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2016
Title Probabilistic assessment of erosion and flooding risk in the northern Gulf of Mexico
DOI 10.1002/2015JC011482
Authors Nathaniel G. Plant, Thomas Wahl, Joseph W. Long
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Geophysical Research C: Oceans
Index ID 70176143
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center