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Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 16, 209-222, 2016
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-16-209-2016
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
21 Jan 2016
Can an early-warning system help minimize the impacts of coastal storms? A case study of the 2012 Halloween storm, northern Italy
M. D. Harley1, A. Valentini2, C. Armaroli1,3, L. Perini3, L. Calabrese3, and P. Ciavola1 1Department of Physics and Earth Sciences, University of Ferrara, Via Saragat 1, 44121, Ferrara (FE), Italy
2Hydro, Meteo and Climate Service of the Emilia-Romagna Region (ARPA-SIMC), Viale Silvani 6, 40122, Bologna (BO), Italy
3Geological, Seismic and Soil Service of the Emilia-Romagna Region (SGSS), Viale della Fiera 8, 40127, Bologna (BO), Italy
Abstract. The Emilia-Romagna early-warning system (ER-EWS) is a state-of-the-art coastal forecasting system that comprises a series of numerical models (COSMO, ROMS, SWAN and XBeach) to obtain a daily 3-day forecast of coastal storm hazard at eight key sites along the Emilia-Romagna coastline (northern Italy). On the night of 31 October 2012, a major storm event occurred that resulted in elevated water levels (equivalent to a 1-in-20- to 1-in-50-year event) and widespread erosion and flooding. Since this storm happened just 1 month prior to the roll-out of the ER-EWS, the forecast performance related to this event is unknown. The aim of this study was to therefore reanalyse the ER-EWS as if it had been operating a day before the event and determine to what extent the forecasts may have helped reduce storm impacts. Three different reanalysis modes were undertaken: (1) a default forecast (DF) mode based on 3-day wave and water-level forecasts and default XBeach parameters; (2) a measured offshore (MO) forecast mode using wave and water-level measurements and default XBeach parameters; and (3) a calibrated XBeach (CX) mode using measured boundary conditions and an optimized parameter set obtained through an extensive calibration process. The results indicate that, while a "code-red" alert would have been issued for the DF mode, an underprediction of the extreme water levels of this event limited high-hazard forecasts to only two of the eight ER-EWS sites. Forecasts based on measured offshore conditions (the MO mode) more-accurately indicate high-hazard conditions for all eight sites. Further considerable improvements are observed using an optimized XBeach parameter set (the CX mode) compared to default parameters. A series of what-if scenarios at one of the sites show that artificial dunes, which are a common management strategy along this coastline, could have hypothetically been constructed as an emergency procedure to potentially reduce storm impacts.

Citation: Harley, M. D., Valentini, A., Armaroli, C., Perini, L., Calabrese, L., and Ciavola, P.: Can an early-warning system help minimize the impacts of coastal storms? A case study of the 2012 Halloween storm, northern Italy, Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 16, 209-222, https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-16-209-2016, 2016.
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Short summary
The performance of a state-of-the-art early-warning system for the coastline of Emilia-Romagna in northern Italy is rigorously assessed with regards to a major storm event that occurred in October 2012. It is found that such a system has great potential as a new tool for coastal management, following several improvements to the forecast model chain. What-if scenarios in terms of the construction of artificial dunes prior to this event suggest that this may have helped minimize storm impacts.
The performance of a state-of-the-art early-warning system for the coastline of Emilia-Romagna...
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