NHRP / Hazard themes / Weather, Flood and Coastal Hazards / Research Highlights 2012-13

Research Highlights 2012-13

Aftermath of Hobsonville tornado, 2012.

Aftermath of Hobsonville tornado, 2012.

The primary goal of this research is to increase the resilience of New Zealand communities to weather-related hazards by conducting research that will lead to an improved understanding of, and ability to model (i.e. numerically simulate), the key processes that influence and determine the predictability of New Zealand weather-related hazards such as severe weather, flooding, inundation, storm surge, damaging waves and erosion. Incorporating these new models into an operational multi-hazard forecasting system that will provide increasingly accurate forecasts of high-impact events, will lead to improved readiness, reduced losses, and faster recovery.

In order to achieve this outcome, the research is focused on developing and testing a system of coupled physical models that are capable of accurately predicting the time-varying states of our environment, from hours to days ahead, and, in some cases, the effects of high-impact weather related events on the built infrastructure, such as transmission lines. This has led to a number of important foundational advances, including:

1. Successfully simulating many details of severe weather events with a numerical weather prediction model with up to 100 m horizontal resolution (Natural Hazards 2012);

2. Development and demonstration of a reliable and accurate flood forecasting system that is capable of forecasting flood flows in advance of rain falling into a catchment and hence providing flash-flood warnings (Natural Hazards 2011);

3. Development of new adaptive-grid methods utilising NIWA's supercomputer to reveal the potential for specific forecasts of flood inundation given a flood forecast hydrograph; and

4. Implementation of an ultra-high resolution global wave forecasting model.

Adaptive modelling with Gerris.

Adaptive modelling with Gerris.

Applied research underpinned by this programme has led to the development of new tools of national significance, such as the national Fire Weather System (FWSYS) in collaboration with Scion, which is scheduled to “go live” on 7 August 2013; a coastal wave and storm surge climatology for both present and future (2070–2100) climates, together with guidance and policy development material for regional councils on storm-tide hazards to inform best-practice for specifying coastal hazard set-back zones for managing coastal risk [Link ♦ ]

In parallel, the programme is developing and enhancing operational (24 / 7) forecasting and decision-enabling tools (EcoConnect) that provide direct access to an increasing set of operational outputs from the research programme. EcoConnect users can access multi-hazard forecasts (both historical and current) of weather parameters, river flows, sea state and sea-level (storm surge and tides), and many related products that make up the FWSYS. This tool is already being used to inform risk management for urban coastal regions, ship operations in enclosed harbours, Psa-V spread in kiwifruit orchards, advanced warning of river flood likelihood, and the management of fire in the rural landscape. Outputs from the weather, wave and storm surge models also describe, in detail, the spatial and temporal variability of New Zealand’s physical environment, leading to the potential to improve risk assessments of the likely occurrence of infrequent events. Accordingly, the research is also informing coastal policy development such as setting of coastal hazard set back zones taking account of interactions between weather, sea-state, tide and storm surge both in the current climate, and in the context of likely climate change scenarios. End users of EcoConnect (and the FWSYS) have reported very high confidence in the accuracy of the forecasts, and in their usefulness for making decisions that mitigate risks to their services and/or the public.

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Last updated 24 September 2013