RAPID: Groundwater resilience to hydrologic extremes and climate variability: The case of Hurricane Dorian

Project Details


The impact of Hurricane Dorian (September 2019) was catastrophic, especially in Grand Bahama, where the hurricane generated a storm surge that drove extensive flooding and saltwater contamination of the groundwater resources of the island. Groundwater, in the form of freshwater lenses (FWLs), is the sole source of drinking water on the island. It is unclear how quickly FWLs recover from saltwater contamination, and how that recovery is driven by the intensity, duration, and frequency of precipitation during the wet season and the characteristics of groundwater aquifers. The overarching goal of this study is to understand how the rate of recovery of FWLs that have been impacted by storm-induced salinization is connected to climatological characteristics (intensity, duration and frequency of precipitation) and how future FWL recovery will be affected by elevated sea level and extended periods of drought induced by climate change, as well as the human response to these events, such as excessive pumping activity. The study will provide opportunities for training and international research experiences for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as engagement with stakeholders in the region impacted by saltwater intrusion.

It is hypothesized that the rate of recovery of freshwater lenses (FWLs) impacted by storm-induced saltwater intrusion is primarily driven by climatic variability and climate change. This study will enable the collection of time-sensitive, perishable groundwater data pertaining to storm-induced saltwater intrusion on the island of Grand Bahama following Hurricane Dorian. These datasets will later be used to build a robust three-dimensional, density dependent model to simulate the saltwater intrusion process in the FWL system and accurately predict the seawater intrusion extent, its temporal dynamics and the flushing process, as well as the combined effect of climate stressors such as sea level rise and change in recharge. The ultimate goal is to develop a framework that combines seasonal forecasts of precipitation with state-of-the art numerical models to assess the impact of climatic variability and climate change on the rate of recovery of the FWLs. This project will provide training opportunities and international research experiences to students at Sacramento State, which is a Hispanic Serving Institution and an Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution, and at Florida Institute of Technology. The citizen science data collection initiative will provide opportunities to local high school students and students from University of the Bahamas to interact and participate in the generation of scientific knowledge. Local water management authorities will benefit from the generation of new data. Subsequent development of models based on these data will be available to the local authorities and will assist them in decision making and planning procedures.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date1/15/2012/31/21


  • National Science Foundation: $49,104.00


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