BEAUFORT — Local scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration lab on Pivers Island are developing a model to forecast wave activity in Albemarle and Pamlico sounds.
Dr. Mark Fonseca, chief of the Applied Ecology and Restoration Research Branch at the lab, and Amit Malhotra, geographic information system scientist at the lab, are developing a wave exposure model, or WEMO, for the National Weather Service office in Newport. This program will use data from 440 locations and 90 wind scenarios over eight forecast zones to predict wave activity in the Albemarle-Pamlico Sound area.
Dr. Fonseca said the idea for the model came from user group meetings the lab staff had with the NWS office. The model was already being used for ecological studies and will now be designed for use in weather forecasting.
Mr. Malhotra said the model is designed for inner sound purposes. This means it won’t be a replacement for larger, more sophisticated modeling systems, like the one developed by Dr. Rick Luettich, director of the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences in Morehead City, for forecasting wave activity in the open ocean during hurricanes.
“There are lots of wave energy models out there,” Dr. Fonseca said. “We’re trying to make something you don’t have to be an oceanographer or an engineer to use…this fills a niche between the coast and the open-ocean models.”
The model will use standard GIS programs and a graphic user interface. By clicking on a point on the model’s map and entering wind data and water depth, the model will predict wave height and action in the given area.
The NWS Newport/Morehead City office has only been using wave models for the last two years. John Elrado, NWS marine program leader at the Newport office, said his office had been using reports from ferries on wind speed and direction to make rudimentary wave charts before then.
“Three years ago, we entered into a project with the Army Corps of Engineers and UNC Institute of Marine Sciences to create a model,” Mr. Elrado said, “but that model wasn’t really enough, because the information was text-only. We needed more graphical information, so I heard about this WEMO program. It seems to work well with small bodies of water.”
Mr. Elrado said the model will be worked into the service’s daily forecasts. He also said the development of the model is a good example of cooperation between government departments.
“We’re very appreciative for all the work they have done for us,” Mr. Elrado said.
Mr. Malhotra said the model should be ready before spring. It will be made available for use on the NWS website at www.weather.gov. The WEMO program is available for download at the website www.csc.noaa.gov/digitalcoast/tools/wemo/index.html.