Atlantic Coastal Sea Level Variability and Synoptic-Scale Meteorological Forcing
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Atlantic Coastal Sea Level Variability and Synoptic-Scale Meteorological Forcing

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  • Journal Title:
    Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology
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    Anomalous sea levels along the mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic coasts of the United States are often linked to atmosphere–ocean dynamics, remote- and local-scale forcing, and other factors linked to cyclone passage, winds, waves, and storm surge. Herein, we examine sea level variability along the U.S. Atlantic coast through satellite altimeter and coastal tide gauge data within the context of synoptic-scale weather pattern forcing. Altimetry data, derived from sea level anomaly (SLA) data between 1993 and 2019, were compared with self-organizing map (SOM)-based atmospheric circulation and surface wind field categorizations to reveal spatiotemporal patterns and their interrelationships with high-water-level conditions at tide gauges. Regional elevated sea level patterns and variability were strongly associated with synergistic patterns of atmospheric circulation and wind. Recurring atmospheric patterns associated with high-tide flooding events and flood risk were identified, as were specific regional oceanographic variability patterns of SLA response. The incorporation of combined metrics of wind and circulation patterns further isolate atmospheric drivers of high-tide flood events and may have particular significance for predicting future flood events over multiple spatial and temporal scales. Significance Statement Mean sea level and minor to moderate coastal flood events, also called blue-sky or high-tide floods, are increasing along many U.S. coastlines. While the drivers of such events are numerous, here we identified key contributing weather patterns and environmental factors linked to increased risk of regional and local high-water conditions along the Atlantic coast. Our results indicate that the predictability of elevated sea levels and high-tide floods is highly dependent upon atmospheric drivers including wind and circulation patterns and, if applied in a tested modeling framework, may prove useful for predicting future floods at various time scales.
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    Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, 61(3), 205-222
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    1558-8424;1558-8432;
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