New storm surge model for Cayman

Cayman’s Meteorological Office has a new storm surge model.

The Arbiter of Storm – TAOS – is designed to eliminate some of the difficulties of previous models, requiring minimum data (location and maximum wind speed) to predict a time series for storm surge, winds and waves at selected locations, said a GIS press release.

Horace Burton, Chief Meteorologist, and Selvin Burton, Chief of Data and Information Services of the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology in Barbados, presented this model to members of the Met Office, Lands and Survey and the National Hurricane Committee at a workshop earlier this month.

Refining a design created by Charles Watson, the twin scientist brothers focussed on the Caribbean region. Cayman is one of the nine Caribbean countries which they examined.

The main thrust of the seminar was storm surge and wave action caused by the wind, which are the most damaging agents in any storm. Storm surge is water penetrating inland; if the region is flat (like Cayman), maximum wind speeds will bring significant increases in water levels, the release said.

‘Continuation of wave action brings in water, but that is not storm surge. Waves ride on top of the surge,’ explained Fred Sambula, Senior Manager of Meteorological Services.

The model was researched, tested and verified before it was presented. Designed specifically for the Cayman Islands, it is a tool that gives ‘pictorial information on possible impacts and predicts how storm surge affects the coastline,’ Mr. Sambula said.

Within the Caribbean region, loss of life has decreased but loss of property has increased due to accelerated property development in coastal zones. Cayman is a prime example of this; since tourism is a major industry, coastal construction will continue, the release said.

NHC Chairman Donnie Ebanks concluded, ‘We are grateful for the effort, as this has been an area of interest for a long time. This is the right season to see what has been produced.’

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