Better Storm Surge and Flood Predictions Enabled by AI

September 20, 2022

Protecting Our Coast and Energy Supply

The LSU-developed tool to predict storm surge and flooding during severe weather events—the Coastal Emergency Risks Assessment, or CERA, website—has become an essential resource for thousands of emergency managers and first responders in Louisiana and the nation’s coastal states to help protect people and infrastructure. Now, the tool will become even smarter and faster, thanks to artificial intelligence, or AI, and support from the U.S. Department of Energy, which is looking to secure key energy assets, especially along the Gulf Coast, from stronger and more frequent storms.

Professional users of CERA, such as the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, or CPRA, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, use the LSU visualization tool to see where storm water will go and how high it will rise. For close to 15 years, CPRA has increasingly relied on CERA in its decisions to open or close flood gates. On the local level, coastal emergency managers from Plaquemines to Cameron Parish use CERA to guide road closings and evacuations, as well as search and rescue operations.

Computational coastal modeling is about accurately representing water, wind, soil and sediment—all tangible, yet dynamic—as ones and zeroes. It’s a considerable feat. LSU coastal and computational scientists will now use AI and a state-funded supercomputer to couple different models to provide even more accurate and near-instant forecasts.

AI-generated image of data streams in water

How do you describe water, especially moving water, using ones and zeroes? An LSU flood and storm surge modeling tool, CERA, will now become faster and more accurate through use of AI and a newly state-funded $12.5 million AI supercomputer for Louisiana. The image above was generated by AI based on keywords: storm surge, prediction, visualization.


“LSU’s CERA is the tool we use to operate a multi-billion-dollar flood protection system. Every year it gets better. I’ve been with the agency since 2014, and I will tell you, CERA has come a long way in the last two years. The accuracy of the model has been excellent. Also, in this business, there is no room for error. We have to be right, and AI may make our flood prediction even more accurate.”

CPRA Operations Chief Ignacio Harrouch