URI professor’s storm monitoring system informs emergency management

TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPED BY University of Rhode Island professor and oceanographer Isaac Ginis will assist Rhode Island emergency management officials in preparing for severe weather events such as hurricanes by providing real-time wind strength and flooding data. / COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF RHODE ISLAND

SOUTH KINGSTOWN – To prepare for major storms, state and local officials are getting ready to implement a new weather monitoring system developed by a University of Rhode Island oceanographer.

The Rhode Island Coastal Hazards, Analysis, Modeling and Prediction system, created by URI professor and oceanographer Isaac Ginis, provides real-time wind strength and flooding information intended to assist officials in making emergency management decisions.

“This is the first system of its kind built in the country,” Ginis said in a statement. “We are a pilot project to demonstrate that this system can be developed and implemented.”

The technology predicts wind and coastal flooding even based on the state’s unique coastline.

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“When a hurricane approaches land, we are not only concerned with the strength of the wind but with flooding – what we call the storm surge produced by hurricanes,” Ginis said. “We need a special model that simulates what is going to happen in response to hurricane-force winds to predict storm surge.”

The R.I. Emergency Management Agency recently held an RI-CHAMP training session for staff and other state agency members, including R.I. Department of Transportation and Red Cross personnel. At the training, the technology evaluated a simulated version of two real storms – Tropical Storm Henry and a December 2022 nor’easter – to demonstrate its accuracy against recorded data.

The simulation provided “an opportunity for the center’s staff to learn and practice using information from RI-CHAMP to make real-time decisions during emergency responses to extreme weather events, such as hurricanes and nor’easters,” Ginis said.

The state’s EMA is still determining the precise ways it will use the technology, said Deputy Director Thomas Guthlein, but hopes to solidify these applications by the end of summer.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security funded RI-CHAMP development, which Ginis’ team has been working on for eight years.

Ginis’ past work has been adopted by the National Weather Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which awarded him a $1.5 million grant for research on the impact of sea-level rise and extreme weather.

Jacquelyn Voghel is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Voghel@PBN.com.

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