Coastal flooding from wave overtopping and sea level rise adaptation in the northeastern USA
In the northeastern United States, flooding arising from wave overtopping poses a constant threat to coastal communities during storm events. The purpose of this study is to construct a novel integrated atmosphere-ocean-coast modeling framework based on the coupled tide, surge and wave model, ADCIRC-SWAN, to assess risk and facilitate coastal adaptation and resilience to flooding in a changing climate in this region. The integrated modeling system was validated against the field observations of water level, wave height and period during the January 2015 North American blizzard. Water level measurements by a sensor in the Avenues Basin behind the Seawall in Scituate, Massachusetts were combined with the basin volume determined by the USGS LIDAR data to verify the model predictions of wave overtopping volume. At the storm peak, the significant wave height was increased by 0.7 m at the coast by tide and surge. The wave setup along the coast varied from 0.1 m to 0.25 m depending on the coastline geometry. The interaction between tide-surge and waves increased the wave overtopping rate by five folds mainly due to increased wave height at the toe of the seawall. The wave overtopping discharge would approximately double in an intermediate sea level rise scenario of 0.36 m by 2050 for a storm like the January 2015 North American blizzard. The wave overtopping discharge would increase by 1.5 times if the seawall crest elevation was raised by the same amount as sea level rise. An increase of 0.9 m in the seawall crest elevation is required to bring the wave overtopping discharge to the current level under a 0.36 m sea level rise scenario, primarily due to larger waves arriving at the seawall without breaking in the presence of larger water depth.