Assessing coastal hazard from extreme storms with a phase resolving wave model: Case study of Narragansett, RI, USA

Document Type


Date of Original Version



Coastal hazard at the residential scale, resulting from the combined effects of storm surge and waves including dynamic set-up and wave runup, is assessed for the local 100-year Synthetic Design Storm (SDS) in Narragansett, RI, USA, based on high resolution (2 m) simulations with the nonlinear phase-resolving Boussinesq wave model FUNWAVE. The accuracy of wave-flow-structure interaction modeling is improved using a built-up DEM, defined by adding coastal structures to the bare-earth DEM. In addition, bathymetry and topography are modified to reflect post-storm conditions based on simulating the same storm with the morphodynamic model XBeach. Comparisons of FUNWAVE results with those of the phase-averaged model STWAVE, for the same storm conditions, show that including individual wave effects increases the inundated area by 13% and maximum water levels (TWL) across the shoreline by 11%, in average; however, in high runup areas (such as along exposed structures), the predicted maximum water levels can increase by up to 100%. FUNWAVE predicts maximum runups on the order of ∼1.5Hs (with Hs the offshore significant wave height), which is consistent with empirical formulae for steep seawalls (Van der Meer, 2002), and these occur at the most exposed structures, which historical records show have been periodically damaged by large storms. The maximum momentum forces predicted by FUNWAVE are much larger than those derived from STWAVE simulations (based on linear wave theory and assuming Rayleigh distributed waves), and also occur on the most exposed structures. The study provides a quantitative assessment of the local coastal hazard associated with the selected SDS at the scale of individual structures, and stresses the importance of accurately modeling individual wave effects, runups and associated forces in coastal hazard assessment modeling studies.

Publication Title

Coastal Engineering