PREEVENTS Track 2: Collaborative Research: Predicting Hurricane Risk along the United States East Coast in a Changing Climate
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Changes to hurricane activity in the coming century has the potential to catastrophically impact the entire economic landscape of American coastal region. Unfortunately, significant uncertainty in projections of future hurricane risk exist because the climatic drivers of changes in hurricane activity is poorly known. This is exacerbated by the exceedingly short instrumental record of hurricane occurrence in the western Atlantic, which makes diagnosing the climatic controls on hurricane activity difficult. This project utilizes historical and long-term geological reconstructions of hurricane activity in the western North Atlantic, which extends our knowledge of hurricane occurrence back centuries and even millennia. This approach allows assessment of how the risk posed by hurricanes along the east coast of the United States has changed. Further, the researchers will use state of the art numerical models to both diagnose the key climatic conditions that contribute to changes in hurricane activity and to provide improved projections of future hurricane risk. Many of the lessons learned from this work will be used by the broader scientific community and planners and decision-makers to improve our preparedness and resilience to possible future changes in hurricane risk. The results will inform risk modeling, which in turn informs the insurance and re-insurance industries, as well as efforts to mitigate tropical cyclone hazards at the city, state and federal levels. Finally, the project will provide the opportunity to train and educate the next generation of scientists with the engagement of graduate, undergraduate and high school students.This study takes an integrated research approach that addresses two broad questions: 1) How is the risk of floods changing due to (a) storm surge and (b) rainfall? 2) How do processes like changes in ocean circulations (e.g., Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation) and the response to low latitude volcanic eruptions modulate hurricane activity, both generally and specifically for US landfalling storms? Reconstruction of past changes in hurricane landfalls along the Northeast US, Florida east coast, and northwestern Gulf of Mexico will be coupled with hydrodynamic modeling of tropical cyclone related storm surges and waves and downscaled estimates of TC-related rainfall. This approach will allow determination of changes in risk of TC-induced flooding over the last millennium. This will form the baseline for examining future risk and for examining critical forcing mechanisms that may significantly alter future regional landfall probabilities. Downscaling the latest (CMIP6) global model output coupled with hydrodynamic modeling of surge and waves will be used to assess current and future risk of TC-induced flooding. In addition, we will explore the potential influence of volcanic aerosols that penetrate the stratosphere on TC activity. Further, this study plans to examine the influence of changes in ocean circulation on TCs, which affects the probability of intense hurricane landfalls by altering the amount of ocean heat content available to TCs close to landfall.This award reflects NSF''s statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation''s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.