ADCIRC Week focuses on comprehensive coastal modeling, 21st-century risk analysis

Meeting for its 21st year, organizers of the ADCIRC Users Group Meeting tried something new – recognizing individuals who have made significant contributions to the ADCIRC community.

Nate Dill of Ransom Consulting was named ADCIRC Community Man of the Year 2017, and Dr. Jennifer Proft of the Institute for Computational Engineering Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin was named ADCIRC Community Woman of the Year 2017 at the event, held in early May in Norwood, Mass. Zach Cobell of ARCADIS and Rosemary Cyriac with the Coastal & Computational Hydraulics Team at North Carolina State University were also finalists for the awards.

The community awards were based on individuals’ visibility on the ADCIRC listservs (online communities that discuss coastal modeling issues); leadership, outreach and capacity-building contributions beyond their official job descriptions; and developing, documenting and distributing ADCIRC-related code to the wider community.

Nate Dill, left, and Dr. Jennifer Proft were named ADCIRC Man of the Yea and Woman of the Year during the 2017 ADCIRC Users Group meeting.
Nate Dill, left, and Dr. Jennifer Proft were named ADCIRC Man of the Yea and Woman of the Year during the 2017 ADCIRC Users Group meeting. Photo by Clint Dawson.

The awards were part of ADCIRC Week, held in early May, which consisted of presentations of ADCIRC projects along with interactive discussions to advance the state of the art in ADCIRC modeling.

The event is a way for the ADCIRC community to share experiences, teach, learn, discuss, plan and build capacity for coastal ocean modeling using ADCIRC. The Users Group Meeting was preceded by a three-day ADCIRC Boot Camp for novice users, organized by Dr. Jason Fleming of Seahorse Coastal Consulting. Dr. Fleming is a co-PI on a Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (CRC) project led by Dr. Brian Blanton.  The Boot Camp, supported by the CRC, is a mix of lecture, demonstration and interactive discussion focusing on creating, running and analyzing ADCIRC models.

Award nominations were judged by a committee including Drs. Rick Luettich, Joannes Westerink, Clint Dawson, Chris Massey, Casey Dietrich and Fleming. Each winner received artwork made from reclaimed metal depicting mythical creatures that symbolize the duality of technical excellence and community engagement. The Man of the Year Award was a sculpture of a horse with a mane made of seaweed, representing the terrestrial aspect of Poseidon, Greek god of the sea. The Woman of the Year award depicted a mermaid, a hybrid creature with marine and terrestrial elements.

“These were really Lifetime Achievement Awards for Nate and Jennifer,” Dr. Luettich said. “They’ve made substantial contributions to the community for a number of years, and I couldn’t be happier that they have received this recognition.”

Dill was nominated based on his long-standing dedication to answering technical questions on the ADCIRC mailing lists, including taking the time to write software that addresses concerns and technical issues reported by other ADCIRC analysts. His expertise and willingness to sharing code and solutions have benefited newcomers as well as experienced professionals within the ADCIRC community.

Proft has been closely involved in engineering studies with ADCIRC following Hurricane Ike (2008) and has provided ADCIRC training and mentorship to new graduate students at the University of Texas and Rice University. She also leveraged her Ike experience to provide many hours of technical assistance for an investigative journalism piece produced by ProPublica and the Texas Tribune that used ADCIRC extensively. The project, called “Hell and High Water,” won a Peabody Award.

Attendees of the ADCIRC Boot Camp learn the basics of the modeling system during ADCIRC Week. Photo by Jason Fleming.
Attendees of the ADCIRC Boot Camp learn the basics of the modeling system during ADCIRC Week. Photo by Jason Fleming.

Cobell has taken the initiative over the past year to modernize the ADCIRC development process by migrating the code base from a legacy Subversion development system to a repository on GitHub. This new development paradigm improves code management, issue tracking, documentation and developer communication. His other recent contributions include the introduction of a cross-platform build system for ADCIRC on both Windows and Linux, and the implementation of an automated code testing system that will enhance code robustness.

Cyriac has developed, documented, and released an open source program called Kalpana to the ADCIRC Community for use in converting ADCIRC output files to shapefiles that can be used in commonly available GIS systems. Risk analysts and emergency managers generally work within a GIS framework to perform their calculations and make decisions; as a result, the free availability of her software enhances the value of ADCIRC in the wider context of decision support.

Students, professionals learn the basics

ADCIRC, short for the Advanced CIRCulation model, was originally developed by Dr. Luettich, CRC Lead Principal Investigator and a UNC-Chapel Hill professor, and Dr. Westerink of the University of Notre Dame, in the early 1990s and has been undergoing development and improvement since that time . It combines information on tides, river flows, wind, atmospheric pressure and surface waves to predict the response of the coastal ocean, including when, where and to what extent storm surge and flooding will impact a coastal community, often with greater precision than other available models.

Within the CRC, researchers in several ongoing projects are continuing to improve ADCIRC, by adding new sources of water, such as precipitation, and decreasing the computer power needed to run simulations. In recent years, ADCIRC has been used to evaluate coastal flood risk worldwide.

Topics of presentations at the ADCIRC Users Group Meeting included “ADCIRC and the coastal dynamics of sea level rise,” “Development of an optimized tide and hurricane storm surge model for the northern Gulf of Mexico for use with the ASGS,” “Development of high resolution ADCIRC model for the US northeast coast: Challenges, Issues, and Solutions” and “Probabilistic Storm Surge Risk Assessment Using a Synthetic Hurricane Database”

The event also included a GitHub Migration Workshop, an ADCIRC Career Fair and an ASGS Advisory Board formation meeting.

“This was our largest and most comprehensive ADCIRC Boot Camp yet, with attendance up over 50% from previous years,” Fleming said. “Our Boot Camp participants from federal agencies included professionals from NOAA, FEMA, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, NASA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Our private sector participants included professionals from Bechtel, Moffat & Nichol, RPS ASA, Stantec, AECOM, Risk Management Solutions and Oceanweather. Our internationally-based Boot Camp participants travelled from the UK, Spain and Korea for our training.”

Dr. Luettich said, “We were pleased that the US Coast Guard was able to send a representative to see the ADCIRC Users Group Meeting presentations and to learn more about how ADCIRC’s capabilities can benefit the USCG.”

Attendees of the ADCIRC Users Group Meeting. Photo by Shangyao Nong.
Attendees of the ADCIRC Users Group Meeting. Photo by Shangyao Nong.

Several students also participated in the event, with costs subsidized by the Coastal Resilience Center. Sabrina Welch, a graduate student at Jackson State University who is part of a CRC education project, said the introduction to ADCIRC was a beneficial experience.

“As a new user in the ADCIRC community it is very heartening to know that there are other users out there who can and are willing to offer assistance to fellow users, and also that the developers of this software took the time to organize this event for the benefit of the community,” Welch said. “I had a great experience at the 2017 ADCIRC Week Boot Camp where I was exposed to the vast capabilities of this software, as well as the opportunity to improve my use of ADCIRC.”

How ADCIRC works

ADCIRC predicts the response of the coastal ocean to various forces including tides, river discharge, wind, atmospheric pressure and waves.  It can be used for a variety of applications, including predicting storm surge and flooding due to strong storms such as hurricanes.  ADCIRC can be used to analyze the response due to historical storms, statistical sets of storms for risk analysis and design, hypothetical storms scenarios for planning and for forecasting storm events in real time.

ADCIRC coastal forecasts are currently run on supercomputers at the Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) at UNC-Chapel Hill. Forecast results are displayed using a Louisiana State University (LSU)-based platform, CERA, that projects results onto a map for presentation. In addition, shape files can be downloaded for use with standard GIS applications. During active hurricane events, ADCIRC model runs are initiated every time a new storm forecast is released by the National Hurricane Center. Results using the forecast track and several alternate tracks can be accessed from the adcirc.org website.

Results generated by ADCIRC are used by multiple federal and state agencies to help predict flooding associated with storm surge. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the North Carolina Department of Emergency Management are among the agencies that factor ADCIRC modeling into their operations.  At the local level, results are shared with coastal emergency managers to assist with decision making including road closings, evacuations and search and rescue operations.