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Christie A. Hegermiller, John C. Warner, Maitane Olabarrieta, and Christopher R. Sherwood


Hurricanes interact with the Gulf Stream in the South Atlantic Bight (SAB) through a wide variety of processes, which are crucial to understand for prediction of open-ocean and coastal hazards during storms. However, it remains unclear how waves are modified by large-scale ocean currents under storm conditions, when waves are aligned with the storm-driven circulation and tightly coupled to the overlying wind field. Hurricane Matthew (2016) impacted the U.S. Southeast coast, causing extensive coastal change due to large waves and elevated water levels. The hurricane traveled on the continental shelf parallel to the SAB coastline, with the right side of the hurricane directly over the Gulf Stream. Using the Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere–Wave–Sediment Transport modeling system, we investigate wave–current interaction between Hurricane Matthew and the Gulf Stream. The model simulates ocean currents and waves over a grid encompassing the U.S. East Coast, with varied coupling of the hydrodynamic and wave components to isolate the effect of the currents on the waves, and the effect of the Gulf Stream relative to storm-driven circulation. The Gulf Stream modifies the direction of the storm-driven currents beneath the right side of the hurricane. Waves transitioned from following currents that result in wave lengthening, through negative current gradients that result in wave steepening and dissipation. Wave–current interaction over the Gulf Stream modified maximum coastal total water levels and changed incident wave directions at the coast by up to 20°, with strong implications for the morphodynamic response and stability of the coast to the hurricane.

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Joseph B. Zambon, Ruoying He, John C. Warner, and Christie A. Hegermiller


Hurricane Florence (2018) devastated the coastal communities of the Carolinas through heavy rainfall that resulted in massive flooding. Florence was characterized by an abrupt reduction in intensity (Saffir–Simpson category 4 to category 1) just prior to landfall and synoptic-scale interactions that stalled the storm over the Carolinas for several days. We conducted a series of numerical modeling experiments in coupled and uncoupled configurations to examine the impact of sea surface temperature (SST) and ocean waves on storm characteristics. In addition to experiments using a fully coupled atmosphere–ocean–wave model, we introduced the capability of the atmospheric model to modulate wind stress and surface fluxes by ocean waves through data from an uncoupled wave model. We examined these experiments by comparing track, intensity, strength, SST, storm structure, wave height, surface roughness, heat fluxes, and precipitation in order to determine the impacts of resolving ocean conditions with varying degrees of coupling. We found differences in the storm’s intensity and strength, with the best correlation coefficient of intensity (r = 0.89) and strength (r = 0.95) coming from the fully coupled simulations. Further analysis into surface roughness parameterizations added to the atmospheric model revealed differences in the spatial distribution and magnitude of the largest roughness lengths. Adding ocean and wave features to the model further modified the fluxes due to more realistic cooling beneath the storm, which in turn modified the precipitation field. Our experiments highlight significant differences in how air–sea processes impact hurricane modeling. The storm characteristics of track, intensity, strength, and precipitation at landfall are crucial to predictability and forecasting of future landfalling hurricanes.

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