Welcome to the Urban Observatory, a blog for the Davidson Laboratory at Stevens Institute of Technology where you will find frequent updates of weather and flood events, publications and other noteworthy developments related to our research.


May 4, 2016

On April 21, 2016, a team of Stevens researchers from the Davidson Laboratory won the 1st place in the 29th Annual NJDEP GIS Mapping Contest for the category of Best Software Integration with a Flooding Map in Hoboken and downtown Jersey City during Hurricane Sandy.

Local coastal mapping of the Hudson RiverThis work represents the culmination of ongoing efforts to visualize the flood, to demonstrate what occurred to the general public. Viewers can recognize their apartment and office buildings in the map and see how deep the water was on their streets.

“Looking under the hood,” the flooding map was based on observation data - retrieved from the Stevens Flood Advisory System (SFAS). The most challenging part was the interpolation of the flood surface with barriers. We created a least cost distance map for each station, to provide the distance weights as a matrix for the inverse distance weighting (IDW) algorithm. So the computation was among matrices and therefore fast. The implication is that with this method we can quickly create flooding maps for any area based on the surrounding observations at any moment in the recorded history, or in near real-time.

At the Davidson Laboratory, we also use computational models to simulate floods. With the Stevens Estuarine and Coastal Ocean Model (sECOM), we are capable of creating flood surfaces based on physics instead of interpolated observations, not only showing the past and the present, but also the future. Since Hurricane Sandy, nearly continuous work has been done seeking to accurately simulate the flooding in Hoboken and Jersey City. The modeling work was published in the Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology in 2015. A New York Times article also highlighted the simulation of how Hoboken flooded and how the model can help to plan protections for the city.

Finally, we thank New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) for organizing this contest. It was a great opportunity for professionals and students to learn from each other, expanding the horizon of information exhibition and knowledge discovery through mapping.