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Inundation Analysis Tool

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Inundation Analysis User’s Guide

Positioning America for the Future

NOAA’s Inundation Analysis Tool Places Flood Data at Planners’ Fingertips

May 21, 2012
NOAA’s Inundation Analysis Tool Places Flood Data at Planners’ Fingertips

NOAA’s Inundation Analysis Tool provided statistical summaries of data from a NOAA tide station to help guide this marsh restoration project at Fort McHenry in Baltimore. Marsh construction is shown during (top) and immediately following (bottom) an inundation event. Inundation analyses are available for more than 120 tide gauge stations around the nation.

NOAA's Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS) will launch an innovative new tool for coastal resource managers this week at the Association of State Floodplain Managers’ annual conference in San Antonio. Called the Inundation Analysis Tool, the web-based application employs data collected at NOAA tide gauge stations to provide statistical summaries of the historical frequency and duration of observed high waters.

The Inundation Analysis Tool was originally developed to support marsh restoration activities and has recently evolved to assist coastal managers in making decisions due to climate change and sea-level rise. The tool captures normal changes in water levels from gravitational forces exerted by the moon, sun, and rotation of the Earth, as well as anomalous changes associated with coastal storms and other meteorological events. All of these factors influence how high, and how often, water levels rise and a surface is inundated.

Restoration practitioners can use the tool to figure out how much time plants in a marsh are likely to spend underwater. This helps to create and restore marshes, and gives planners the knowledge needed to replant the type of vegetation most likely to survive and thrive in those particular conditions. A recent marsh restoration project at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland, illustrated that this type of planning reduces the likelihood of invasive species taking hold in a recovering marsh.

"The utility of the Inundation Analysis Tool is significant because it is very adaptable to a coastal planner’s needs," says Allison Allen, manager of the CO-OPS Coastal Program.

The tool can also perform analyses with broader applications for the coastal engineering and mapping communities, such as ecosystem management and regional climate change. As examples, notes Allen, "Weather forecasters are using it to understand the statistical probability of certain flood scenarios occurring. Similarly, coastal planners can obtain historical high-water data relevant to a certain levee or seawall, and use that information, coupled with long-term sea-level trends, to plan for the future."

The Inundation Analysis Tool is a product of NOAA’s COASTAL Program, which addresses special challenges facing our nation’s land-water interface. Since 2005, state and local governments, academic and private institutions, and federal agencies including the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service have contributed to successful COASTAL partnerships.