UNC Computer System Lets The Coast Know When High Waters Are Coming

Jul 11, 2013

A screen shot from the Surge Guidance System shows storm surge data from Hurricane Sandy, which hit the east coast in October 2012.
Credit RENCI

Researchers at UNC-Chapel Hill are using storm surge data to give coastal communities a better idea of what they can expect during hurricanes. 

The university's Renaissance Computing Institute, or RENCI, has a network called the Surge Guidance System.  It gathers intricate details of ocean activity to calculate where, how and when storm surge will affect certain areas. 

Scientists are now pushing that data to emergency management officials in towns and counties along the coast to help them make decisions about evacuations or where to bolster storm surge barriers. 

UNC oceanographer Brian Blanton is one of the scientists processing the storm surge data.

"The higher-resolution information you have for that, the better you might be able to make tighter decisions or more detailed decisions and not necessarily have to make an assumption about a very large area that may not necessarily be all that accurate," Blanton says.

The project is a joint effort between the department of Marine Sciences and the Institute for the Environment at UNC. Hurricane season started June first and continues through September 30.