A team of researchers at the College of William & Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), accurately hindcasted Hurricane Sandy’s landfall along the U.S. Atlantic coast using a large-scale, unstructured grid storm tide model, called Semi-implicit Eulerian Lagrangian Finite Element. The researchers used data collected before Hurricane Sandy and tested the results with observations recorded during the event.

This type of forecasting is difficult due to the number of variables at play. In the case of Hurricane Sandy, water was cast ashore by forces at work far out in the Atlantic Ocean. However, being able to model a hurricane’s storm tide on the neighborhood or street level is a powerful tool in preparing a response. To do so, however, modelers need the right data far enough in advance of the storm for people and agencies to respond.

With the right input, the VIMS team was able to simulate water levels to within 152mm – 203 mm (6 in. – 8 in.) of those observed in New York City and surrounding areas during Hurricane Sandy’s approach and landfall in late October 2012. These results include sections of Manhattan with buildings and other infrastructure that diverts and channels floodwaters in complex ways. An article detailing the study was published in the Journal of Marine Science and Engineering on March 19. Read more.