Two maps using colors to show flood depths.
100-year flood depths across the Cape Fear Estuary in North Carolina, USA for (left) the historical period (1980–2005) and (right) future simulations of hurricane characteristics (2070-2100) and sea-level rise (2100) under a high-emissions future. Credit: Gori and Lin [2022], Figure 5(a,c)
Editors’ Highlights are summaries of recent papers by AGU’s journal editors.
Source: Earth’s Future

To fully understand the flood hazard associated with hurricanes, it is vital to understand not only storm surge and rainfall run-off, but also interactions between the two. Furthermore, in a warming climate, it is also critical to know how sea-level rise and evolving storm characteristics will impact hurricane flood hazards along our coasts. Accurately modeling all of these factors at high resolutions, however, can quickly become computationally expensive and difficult to accomplish. 

Recognizing these challenges, Gori and Lin [2022] present an innovative approach to assess regional-scale hurricane flood hazard (due to both rainfall runoff and storm surge) under varying climates. Using physics-based storm simulations and a new statistical method, the authors find that it is possible to accurately quantify hurricane flood hazard under a variety of climatological conditions by running a high-resolution flood model for a relatively small number of events. 

Their results indicate an amplified future hurricane flood hazard for the Cape Fear River Estuary in North Carolina, USA due to both increased storm tides (largely driven by sea-level rise) and more intense rainfall rates in a warmer climate. Findings show that by 2100, sea-level rise and changing precipitation rates lead to a 27% increase in the 100-year flood extent, and a 62% increase in the 100-year flood volume along the Cape Fear Estuary. The authors’ results illustrate the potential of this cutting-edge approach to improve our understanding of regional hurricane flood hazards and how they change in a warmer climate, and thus to provide a pathway to better coastal risk assessments in the face of climate change.   

Gori, A., & Lin, N. (2022). Projecting compound flood hazard under climate change with physical models and joint probability methods. Earth’s Future, 10, e2022EF003097.

—Andra Garner, Associate Editor, Earth’s Future

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