May 01

Publication | Assessment of the temporal evolution of storm surge across coastal Louisiana

C.G. Siverd, S.C. Hagen, M.V. Bilskie, D.H. Braud, S. Gao, R.H. Peele, R.R. Twilley (2019). “Assessment of the temporal evolution of storm surge across coastal Louisiana.” Coastal Engineering, 150, pp. 59-78.

Abstract The co-evolution of wetland loss and flood risk in the Mississippi River Delta is tested by contrasting the response of storm surge in coastal basins with varying historical riverine sediment inputs. A previously developed method to construct hydrodynamic storm surge models is employed to quantify historical changes in coastal storm surge. Simplified historical landscapes facilitate comparability while storm surge model meshes developed from historical data are incomparable due to the only recent (post-2000) extensive use of lidar for topographic mapping. Storm surge model meshes circa 1930, 1970 and 2010 are constructed via application of land to water (L:W) isopleths, lines that indicate areas of constant land to water ratio across coastal Louisiana. The ADvanced CIRCulation (ADCIRC) code, coupled with the Simulating WAves Nearshore (SWAN) wave model, is used to compute water surface elevations, time of inundation, depth-averaged currents and wave statistics from a suite of 14 hurricane wind and pressure fields for each mesh year. Maximum water surface elevation and inundation time differences correspond with coastal basins featuring historically negligible riverine sediment inputs and wetland loss as well as a coastal basin with historically substantial riverine inputs and wetland gain. The major finding of this analysis is maximum water surface elevations differences from 1970 to 2010 are 0.247 m and 0.282 m within sediment-starved Terrebonne and Barataria coastal basins, respectively. This difference is only 0.096 m across the adjacent sediment-abundant Atchafalaya-Vermilion coastal basin. Hurricane Rita inundation time results from 1970 to 2010 demonstrate an increase of approximately one day across Terrebonne and Barataria while little change occurs across Atchafalaya-Vermilion. The connection between storm surge characteristics and changes in riverine sediment inputs is also demonstrated via a sensitivity analysis which identifies changes in sediment inputs as the greatest contributor to changes in storm surge when compared with historical global mean sea level (GMSL) rise and the excavation of major navigation waterways. Results imply the magnitude of the challenge of preparing this area for future subsidence and GMSL rise.

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