Hurricane simulations by Bridges, Bridges-2 inform state decision making

Aug 8, 2021

Destruction of coastal habitat doesn’t just affect wildlife—it endangers human lives and impacts employment and the larger economy. Working for the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), a team of government, industry and academic scientists has used PSC’s Bridges and Bridges-2 to create a simulation of storm effects on the state’s coast. The team validated that tool by simulating five historical hurricanes in the region. Predictions from further simulations will underlie the upcoming 2023 Coastal Master Plan to help state policymakers decide on risk reduction and restoration projects.

Hurricane Katrina in 2005 looms large among disasters along the U.S. Gulf Coast. But the problem neither started nor ended there. There’s the 1856 Last Island hurricane that devastated the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts. The deadly Galveston, Texas, hurricane of 1900 killed an estimated 8,000 people. More recently, in 2010 the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill devastated marine and coastal life throughout the Gulf—not to mention the spill’s devastation of the region’s $4-billion-a-year fishing and tourism industries. Land loss in coastal areas can also affect the land-based economy, by making places disappear.

When we talk about the environmental health of coastal regions, then, we’re talking about risk to human lives and livelihoods, not just to wildlife. Since 2012, the CPRA has produced iterative master plan updates, which evaluate the effects of storm surges and their associated waves on the state’s coastlines. Louisiana’s regulatory agencies and legislature use the current Master Plan to decide which protective and restorative plans to pursue.

Using the simulation power of PSC’s Bridges and Bridges-2 advanced research computers, Zach Cobell of The Water Institute of the Gulf, working with a team of scientists and state officials from government, industry and academia that included Jordan Fischbach of the RAND Corporation, who recently moved to The Water Institute; Elizabeth Jarrell, Sam Martin and Eric White of the CPRA; and David Johnson of Purdue University has created a simulation tool to predict and evaluate the effects of different storm scenarios on the Louisiana coast. Read the full story here.