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NCCOS Project

Tool to Forecast the Effect of Waves on Waterbodies and Shorelines

This project began in January 2005 and is Ongoing

We created a tool to help coastal community managers, resource managers, and biologists estimate the wave impact potential to a given area. Wave forms included in the tool range from extreme wind-driven waves created by hurricanes to persistent low-amplitude waves from boat traffic. Exposure estimates are helping coastal managers prepare for storm surge and oil spill events and identify areas most vulnerable to shoreline erosion.

Why We Care
Coastal communities are in need of simple-to-use yet accurate tools to help them develop coastal management policies that must address the often contentious interests of land owners, developers, municipal officials, business owners, and the public with environmental, safety, and cost constraints. The issues pressuring coastal community managers include:

  • Storm exposure and damage (especially hurricanes)
  • Oil spill vulnerability
  • Shoreline erosion and loss of property
  • Increasing sea level and loss of property
  • Commercial boat traffic
  • Coastal ecosystem restoration
  • Cost of shoreline stabilization.

Tools that provide data necessary for making responsible policy decisions (hurricane preparedness, shoreline stabilization, oil spill response, and coastal restoration efforts) are critical.

What We Did
We developed and tested a Wave Exposure Model (WEMo)—a free, user-friendly, downloadable tool that forecasts local wind-wave energy regimes with great accuracy in sheltered coastal waters. In use worldwide, this tool forecasts wave energy to identify shoreline vulnerability hot spots, effects of seawalls on habitats in the presence of wind and boat-generated waves, and the suitability of a restoration site based on wave exposure.

Next Steps
new BoMo (Boat Wake Model) tool can also be used to evaluate boat wake energy and its influence on aquatic habitats, particularly in the Intercoastal Waterway (ICW). Our future work will:

  • Provide storm event atlases to coastal communities
  • Create point forecasts of wave height for wind events in support of National Weather Service emergency notification needs
  • Modify BoMo to accurately estimate seafloor and shoreline energy distribution from localized boat wakes.

Additional Resources

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NCCOS delivers ecosystem science solutions for stewardship of the nation’s ocean and coastal resources to sustain thriving coastal communities and economies.

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