NOAA to implement improved high-tide flood predictor

NOAA plans to implement a new high-tide flood prediction model in 2023. — Eunki Seonwoo

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced in a press release it is planning to “unveil a new model to more accurately predict when and where high-tide flooding will likely occur, up to a year ahead of time,” in 2023. NOAA scientists detailed the effort in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Marine Science.

The model “relies on tide predictions, sea level rise trends, and seasonal changes in coastal sea level,” according to the release. The new statistical model will “help coastal communities better prepare and respond to potential flooding days to help lessen possible impacts from climate change.” This tool to predict the daily likelihood of high-tide flooding days “will become even more capable of predicting the increasing number of flood events” as sea levels continue rising. 

Currently, NOAA provides “a range of dates” each season on when tides will be the highest. The model will assign a likelihood of actual flooding to occur on “each day in the calendar year.” This can “better enable communities to make risk-informed management decisions, like whether to close roads, perform maintenance on storm drain systems, or prepare flood mitigation actions for vulnerable infrastructure,” according to the release. 

“We know that in many locations, places that were once inland are now inundated more often, even during less extreme storms, or sunny days,” the release states. 

The 2022 interagency report on the national sea level rise projected an average sea level rise of around 10 to 12 inches in the next 30 years, equivalent to the level increases “measured over the past 100 years.” Models also indicate that moderate flooding, which can cause damage, will increase tenfold by 2050. 

There are numerous places on Martha’s Vineyard that can flood, and a study was done to map out the Island’s storm tide pathways, or routes flowing water would take in low-lying coastal areas, by the Center for Coastal Studies team from Provincetown. The study also found that rising sea levels threatened to permanently inundate some parts of Martha’s Vineyard. 

According to the release, NOAA’s National Ocean Service plans to implement the model by the end of 2023, and incorporate it into a “new seasonal annual coastal flood outlook” when ready, building on the agency’s seasonal high-tide bulletin and high-tide flooding annual outlook

The release states that this improvement “will be made possible” through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill. Listed partners in this work included the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information and the NOAA-supported Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research at the University of Hawaii.