Using a High-Resolution Global Climate Model to Simulate Extratropical Cyclones with Large Storm Surge Potential

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Arielle J Alpert1, Anthony J Broccoli1 and Sarah B Kapnick2, (1)Rutgers University New Brunswick, New Brunswick, NJ, United States, (2)Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, United States
The storm surge caused by Hurricane Sandy triggered a need for new research on surge inundation and associated risk. However, observational records of coastal water levels are limited, which increases uncertainty in risk analysis. Global climate models provide a means of simulating a much larger sample of potential surge-producing events, allowing for better resolution of the tail of the frequency distribution. The resolution of current climate models may be sufficient to simulate the structure and intensity of extratropical cyclones. Since 17 of the 20 greatest storm surge events at The Battery in New York City occurred in association with extratropical cyclones, we examine the ability of a coupled atmosphere-ocean general circulation model with 50 km atmospheric resolution (the GFDL CM2.5 model) to realistically simulate extratropical cyclones in the western North Atlantic Ocean that are capable of producing large storm surges. We analyze the similarities between CM2.5 and reanalysis products, including NASA’s MERRA (Modern-Era Retrospective analysis for Research and Applications). After considering differences in spatial and temporal resolution, preliminary analyses suggest that indicators of cyclone strength in CM2.5 and MERRA are comparable. We also investigate a simple screening method based on wind speed and direction to identify potential surge-producing events in CM2.5 for determining a subset of events for more detailed analysis.