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Hurricane Ivan Simulation
 Finite element mesh of the inlet to Pensacola Bay, FL, with color-coded elevation contours. The Coast Survey Development Laboratory (CSDL) is participating in the National Ocean Service’s (NOS) Gulf of Mexico Storm Surge Partnership Project which aims to improve Gulf Coast resiliency to inundation through use of emerging technologies. An important part of the project is the demonstration of a state of the art high resolution storm surge model. Therefore, hindcasts of 2004’s Hurricane Ivan were performed using a finite element hydrodynamic model that can provide high resolution of complex coastal features as part of larger domain that can track the storm across the Gulf of Mexico. The image to the left shows the highly resolved finite element mesh of inlet to Pensacola Bay, FL. The color contours correspond with bathymetric and topographic elevation and sharp vertical flow obstructions which are below grid resolution (such as barrier island dunes) are represented by the thin red-lined features.

Ivan caused extensive flooding throughout the Alabama and the Florida panhandle Gulf Coast (including Mobile, AL and Pensacola, FL). This area was selected for the partnership project because of significant, well-documented past hurricane events involving storm surge flooding such as Hurricane Ivan. Ivan’s meteorological conditions were constructed by using National Weather Service (NWS) best-track data on the storm’s size, forward speed, and minimum pressure. A NWS parametric meteorological model adapted to provide surface wind and pressure fields to the model domain used this information to generate the wind vectors shown in the image of Ivan just before landfall below. This image shows the results of an Ivan hindcast by presenting the water surface elevation in meters (NAVD 88) as the storm makes landfall.

Color-coded water surface elevation caused by simulation of Hurricane Ivan just before landfall with superimposed velocity vectors and storm track.

In the study region the latest available hydrographic surveys are combined with high resolution topographic datasets such as Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) surveys by using VDatum vertical datum transformations to construct a continuous elevation field. This elevation field is used as the basis for the prototype storm surge model that provides high resolution of coastal and inland features for modeling inundation. CSDL developed the state of the art storm surge model which has approximately 450,000 nodes and resolution reaching less than 100 m. It includes land areas up to the 15 meter topographic contour from west of Mobile Bay, AL, to east of Choctawhatchee Bay, FL. The image below illustrates the highly refined computational mesh for the project area.

Finite element mesh of AL and FL panhandle coast up to 15 m NAVD 88 contour

For more information about the Gulf of Mexico Storm Surge Partnership Project and other CSDL storm surge model applications, please view the summary of CSDL's inundation modeling efforts.

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