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NOAA Improves Forecasts for Coastal Flood Impacts in Maine and New Hampshire

New York, NY, February 22, 2010 --( NOAA’s National Weather Service in Gray, Maine, created a new way to allow first responders to know the dangerous impacts of coastal flooding and make quicker, more accurate decisions to save life and property. The “Coastal Flood Nomogram,” a new experimental forecast technique combines the effects of storm tides and large, breaking waves to better predict damage potential from flooding along the southwest coast of Maine and New Hampshire.

This forecast technique visually shows the combined effects of storm tides and wave heights to accurately predict the impacts of “splash-over” damage, beach erosion, and coastal flooding. It incorporates new coastal flood climatology to more accurately predict flooding and provide better decision support for emergency managers and first responders.

The nomogram was first tested in 2007 during Portland’s seventh highest storm tide in history, which produced 32-foot waves near the shore. “This tool can help us provide early warnings and allow property owners and emergency responders to take quick action to prevent loss of life and save millions of dollars in property damage,” said NOAA’s Christopher Strager, director, National Weather Service, eastern region.

John Cannon, senior forecaster at the weather forecast office in Gray, Maine, developed the Coastal Flood Nomogram. He continues to collaborate with several federal, state, non-profit and academic groups to improve coastal flood predictions. Cannon recently received the National Weather Service’s prestigious Isaac Cline award for initiative and creativity in improving marine services.

“It’s the combined effects of storm tides and high energy waves that cause damage along our shoreline,” said Cannon. “Wave action can lead to severe beach erosion and substantial structural damage, which makes this new research critical to the warning process. In northern New England, these dynamic forces usually develop from the intense, slow moving Nor’easters that impact our area.”

The Web-based Coastal Flood Nomogram animates hourly forecasts of storm tides in Portland Harbor with wave predictions using advanced computer modeling programs. The product is available through a partnership with the Gulf of Maine Ocean Observing System (GoMOOS) and is posted on their Web site twice daily at

“Continuing research in measuring and understanding complex storm tide interactions and the installation of additional tide gages in vulnerable coastal communities will enable us to advance this new forecasting technique. This will continue to provide emergency managers with more accurate information to keep our communities safer,” said Cumberland County Emergency Manager, Jim Budway. “The flood forecast was of great benefit during the 2010 New Year’s Day storm when we had to make critical decisions to shut down water and sewer plants near the ocean.”

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.

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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Marcie Katcher

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