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The Arbiter of Storms (TAOS)

Beginning with a study of storm surge and flooding hazard in Hilton Head, SC, in the early 1990s, and perfected through many diverse applications for national and international clients, KAC has developed an advanced, integrated and modular numerical storm hazard modeling platform called The Arbiter of Storms (TAOS).

TAOS is a scalable, three-dimensional composite, physics-based modeling platform, with user-selectable modules. TAOS incorporates the most important wind models (14 models), wave models (5), boundary layer models (4), hydrodynamic models (3) and damage models (15) published in the scientific literature. In simulating a storm, TAOS uses a moving, storm-centered grid, with varying spatial resolution, moving from low resolution in the outer reaches of the storm field to high resolution in the storm center and landfall areas.

In addition to using existing socio-economic and geo-physical data bases, KAC makes extensive use of remotely sensed data to produce digital elevation models (DEM) and land use/land cover data bases. For coastal wave and inundation analysis, KAC uses high-resolution bathymetry and coastal topography data. High-resolution DEMs are used in computing the proper water flow for storm surge and inland flooding. Similar high-resolution land use/land cover data bases are used to determine friction effects to compute wind speeds and flow rates and to estimate debris generation from storms.

KAC has compiled and tested damage functions for the main types of residential and commercial construction and infrastructure. These damage functions are primarily based on engineering, and combine the impact of wind gusts, duration of average wind, and debris into the overall damage estimates.

Climate variability, such as the alternation of El Niño and La Niña episodes, is addressed in the analysis and production of storm hazard estimates. KAC is conducting research into longer term trends in tropical cyclone frequency and intensity that may be driven by climate change.

TAOS was originally approved in 1995 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Region IV Committee for storm surge, wind, and wave hazard modeling in the Caribbean. TAOS system outputs have since been subjected to various validation studies.

Strengths of the TAOS approach

  • TAOS accurately models coastal and storm hazards, using a coupled hazard modeling approach that reflects the actual interaction of these hazards within a storm system.

  • TAOS can use the best-available, current elevation and land cover information for storm hazard modeling.

  • TAOS hazard estimates are provided at a variety of prediction limits, enabling informed selection of hazard-related safety factors in engineering design.


The techniques employed in TAOS are described in greater detail in papers published in the scientific literature. A list of published TAOS references is available.

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Last modified: 10/17/07