Speaking Simply About Complex Coral Reef Hydrodynamics

Activity: Talk or presentationTalk or presentation at a conference


Low-lying tropical islands and coral reef-lined coasts around the world are threatened by wave-induced flooding and sea level rise, and we expect these hazards to grow in the coming decades. To mitigate these threats, we need a better understanding of how waves change as they pass over coral reefs, and to translate this knowledge to predictive tools. To share our recent progress on this topic with a more general audience, we presented our findings in AGU’s 2021 “Up-Goer-Five” session (“Weird waves cause big trouble on small lands in the middle of the big blue wet thing”). In this session, only the 1000 most-common words in the English language were allowed (inconveniently but amusingly, “island”, “hazard”, or “ocean” were not included). In our research, we used a non-hydrostatic short wave-resolving numerical model (XBeach) to predict wave runup (a proxy for coastal flooding) based on O(10,000) combinations of coral reef bathymetry and hydrodynamic forcing. The resulting database of reef hydrodynamic conditions then serves as the basis for early warning systems that provide probabilistic estimates of wave runup. Translating scientific jargon (“resonant infragravity waves” or “undular bores”) into simpler words (“weird waves”) helped to clarify the key messages of our research and share them with a broader community. In doing so, we hope that we can “keep everyone's feet dry until long after our kids are old”.
Period14 Dec 2022
Event titleAGU Fall Meeting 2022
Event typeConference
LocationChicago, United States
Degree of RecognitionInternational