Improving wave height prediction during barrier island overtopping

End Date: 4/1/14


The purpose of this project is to improve guidance on building elevations in high hazard flood plain areas where wave action is the primary structural damage mechanism.  The proposed activities will both support and enhance guidance on construction materials, techniques, and building elevations in coastal communities.  The specific objectives of this project are to:

  1. Implement a wave and water level monitoring program on Dauphin Island, Alabama in advance of an overtopping event;
  2. Characterize the transformation of a wave’s height as it travels over a submerged barrier island; and
  3. Determine relationships between water levels, wave heights, building elevations, and structural damage from coordinated ground surveys (USGS – St. Petersburg).


A number of unique wave gauges (developed under FL SG funding by Co-PI Kennedy) will be affixed to permanent structures (e.g. pilings) across a transect of Dauphin Island, Alabama, to measure water levels and wave heights across the barrier island during an overtopping event. A line of homes running parallel to St. Stephens Road will provide an ideal location for gauge deployment, but autonomous field mounts will also be fabricated to provide deployment flexibility. An inexpensive meteorological station will be mounted in the project area to provide atmospheric data (e.g. wind speed and direction, pressure) for further evaluation of the wave climate and water levels during the storm. Data obtained from the wave gauges will be combined with island and building elevations provided by the USGS Coastal & Marine Science Center (Dr. Abby Sallenger – St. Petersburg, FL) to characterize wave transformation across the barrier island, and for post-storm structural damage assessment.