UNC Institutes Help Model Hurricanes, Floods

By Michael Papich Posted July 16, 2013 at 7:00 am

MOREHEAD CITY – As heavy rains continue to batter the state, UNC’s Hurricane Warning System has been monitoring and predicting storm data with the help of original software developed and hosted by UNC.

The modeling system ADCIRC (which stands for ADvanced CIRCulation) has been developed since the 90s and used by organizations like FEMA, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers since the early-2000s. In order to run, ADCIRC uses computing power provided by UNC’s Renaissance Computing Institute.

Director of the Institute of Marine Sciences, Rick Luettich, developed ADCIRC and says it can be used to track the movement of the ocean, from its changes during tides to its behavior during a storm.

“Not only does it predict what the ocean does in the water, but it also predicts when the water will come up onto land and flood areas,” Luettich says.

Luettich says the predictions made by ADCIRC typically show what the storm will do three to five days in advance of it actually hitting land. This is particularly important now, as Luettich says this is an abnormally active hurricane season.

“Just to give you a summary, I think in response to a normal year, the predictions this year are about 50 percent higher in terms of total numbers of storms and strong storms,” Luettich says.

Luettich says the ability of ADCIRC to show the actions of the ocean have been used to redesign the levies in New Orleans and plan out where nuclear power plants on coastal areas may be vulnerable to tsunamis.

“I’d say for about the last 15 years, it started to catch on and be used more and more in design and risk studies,” Luettich says. “For about the last five years, we’ve started to use it in actual predictions for events.”

ADCIRC was used to track Hurricane Sandy last year and won the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate’s Impact Award in 2010 and 2012.

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