Many low lying areas of Pacific Islands are experiencing marine flooding events that currently strike with little to no warning.  Currently, if and when there is a warning, the warnings are vague at best and do little to inform inhabitants of the severity of the impending event.  There is a very real need throughout the pacific islands for a tool that is able to predict when and how severe marine flooding events will be. Effects include but are not limited to:  loss of life from drowning; loss of and damage to property, crops, infrastructure, etc.  There are also a number of environmental effects from inundation that include but are not limited to:  salt intrusion into the water table, erosion, water quality effects on the reef ecosystem after the water recedes, etc.  Long term effects of inundation can lead to an island being uninhabitable.

Project Overview

The project aims to develop a simplified Early Warning System (EWS) that covers most of the Pacific Islands and provides a marine flooding forecast out to about ten days.  This initial EWS would be able to forecast marine flooding events in general terms, picking up the larger events well, but likely missing some smaller events.  

We expect that a working version of this EWS may be run in experimental mode within two to three years (depending on how much time can be devoted to its development).  The initial EWS would be useful for flood forecasting, but will be mostly aimed at demonstrating that it can be done on such a large scale.  It will also serve to help scientists understand the relative importance/sensitivities of the various components of marine flooding models/products.  This will assist scientists as they seek to develop more sophisticated and detailed models and products.

Initially, the project will utilize existing satellite and modelled wave and sea surface height products and outputs, combining them with existing bathymetry with significantly simplified assumptions about friction coefficients, shallow water bathymetry profiles, wave direction, beach morphology, etc.  The result should be an EWS that works, but will have significant room for improvement.  The UFORIC workshop concluded that the lack of good shallow water bathymetry is likely to be the limiting factor in the development of this EWS.  Nevertheless, we believe that there is enough data in existence, when combined with some sensible assumptions, can be used to provide an EWS for marine flooding for most of the major inhabited islands of the Pacific Nations.

User Interaction

The entire process will involve users via workshops and user interactions. User input during the development, user instruction during the delivery and user feedback during the entire process will be a key component to the entire project.

Early Warning System Methodology


Project Team


Name Organisation
Curt Stolazzi USGS, US
William Skirving NOAA, US
Ap van Dongeren Deltares, Netherlands
Robert McCall Deltares, Netherlands 
Ron Hoeke  CSIRO, Australia
Eric Leuliette NOAA, US 
Benjamine Marsh  NOAA, US
Jacqueline De La Cour NOAA, US 
Mark Eakin NOAA, US