Emergency responders rely on UNC software during Hurricane Isaac

As Hurricane Isaac pounds the Gulf Coast, emergency responders are relying on a storm surge-flooding computer model developed at Carolina to make crucial decisions about emergency operations and safety.

“It’s exciting to see that our research efforts at Carolina have yielded such a powerful decision support tool for safeguarding lives and property due to these extreme storm events,” said Rick Luettich, Ph.D., director of the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences.

Luettich and his team have used the ADvanced CIRCulation model (ADCIRC) to make more than 300 forecasts that predict the ocean’s behavior in response to the hurricane.

“Every six hours, the national hurricane center releases a forecast of what the storm is going to do,” said Luettich. “We take that information and use the ADCIRC surge guidance system to figure out what the ocean is going to do – where the water is most likely to flood and what time it is supposed to get high.”

As of this hour, ADCIRC predicts that the wall of water pushed up by the hurricane’s high winds will reach six to 12 feet, an estimate used by The New York Times in its coverage of the storm.

Luettich and his team have developed and honed ADCIRC over the past 20 years to track the effects of hurricanes. During this time, the model has been adopted by national and international agencies, including several branches of the U.S. federal government, to predict and study storm behavior.

Published August 29, 2012.