Ocean Sensors Study Wave and Storm Surge as Hurricane Lee Approaches

CEE Assistant Professor Julia Hopkins and CEE/MES Professor Jim Chen are deploying buoys and pressure sensors to collect data during Hurricane Lee to improve storm modeling and design nature-based solutions for coastal resilience.

This article originally appeared on Northeastern Global News. It was published by Cyrus Moulton. Main photo: In this satellite image provided by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration via NASA, Hurricane Lee continues its slow west-northwest trajectory across the Atlantic Ocean on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023. (NOAA/NASA via AP)

A hurricane is coming.

Northeastern researchers with the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering are preparing for the storm.

“We’re trying to get as much data from the storm as we can, and it’s a huge effort to see what we have available to toss into the water,” Julia Hopkins, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and affiliated faculty in marine and environmental sciences, says Thursday. “But enough of us are working together that I think we’re going to get some interesting data out of this.”

Hurricane Lee is predicted to remain mainly offshore when it approaches New England early Saturday. But while most of the population will likely see rain and higher winds, Northeastern scientists see the storm as data.

Hopkins and Jim Chen, professor in civil and environmental engineering and marine and environmental sciences, will be monitoring wave action and storm surge in Boston Harbor near Quincy, a portion of Cape Cod and western Penobscot Bay in Maine.

They will be collecting data through buoys aligned with GPS to detect wave activity and pressure sensors that measure the weight of the water above them to record wave energy and storm surge. The scientists are part of a cohort of scientists along the East Coast who collect and share data from storms.

Chen spent Thursday deploying pressure sensors near Quincy, while Hopkins plans to spend Friday putting cameras out to record data.

Hopkins — whose lab studies nature-based solutions as coastal resilience strategies — says that Lee presents a unique opportunity.

“This is one of those rare instances where a hurricane is going to skim Boston and hit Maine,” Hopkins says. “It’s one of the few times where we might see something fairly significant.”

And Hopkins says that, surprisingly, there is little data concerning a storm’s impact on Boston Harbor. She notes that hurricanes and major storms typically get deflected by Cape Cod, and the Boston Harbor islands somewhat protect the inner harbor from severe wave action and storm surge.

Read full story at Northeastern Global News

Related Faculty: Julia Hopkins, Qin Jim Chen

Related Departments:Civil & Environmental Engineering