Assessing coastal vulnerability: Advanced modeling methods and dynamic hydraulic characteristics of Gulf Coastal systems
Christian, Jason Keigh
Bedient, Philip B.
Doctor of Philosophy
The United States coastline contain some of the most valued ecological resources, the most populated urban areas, the most complex infrastructure systems, the most prolific economic engines, and the busiest ports of trade. However important the coastline may be to our nation, the history of our coastal communities suggests that they are extremely vulnerable to natural disasters, including hurricane landfall. There are many potential reasons for this vulnerability, and several of them are considered in this work. The common goal of research presented here is to better understand the hydrodynamic forces developed as hurricanes impact the coast so that the resulting effects on coastal resources can be better understood and managed, and vulnerability can be significantly minimized. This work begins with consideration of the hydraulic domain at the interface between inland riverine and coastal environments. Regulators, and therefore those being regulated, generally prefer to separate riverine systems from coastal systems in the design and analysis of coastal infrastructure. Although analysis is greatly simplified, important synergistic hydrodynamic effects are not considered which can have dramatic negative effects on the ability of infrastructure to withstand hurricane impact. Research continues by evaluating how society delineates the coastal flood hazard. Current methods apply a deterministic, steady-state approach to defining this highly dynamic feature influenced by multiple uncertain and variable parameters. By ignoring the variability inherent in the coastal floodplain, society is not able to correctly define the flood hazard, and therefore cannot fully asses the risk to which it is exposed. A methodology is presented to more realistically quantify the coastal flood hazard and to calculate an appropriate flood risk metric. Finally, this research considers the reliability of a coastal community's water distribution system under hurricane impact. By understanding system vulnerability and system interdependence, community leaders can provide more reliable infrastructure systems, thereby reducing the magnitude of disaster and shortening the recovery time. A methodology is presented to quantify the reliability of a water system under several hurricane impact scenarios.