A Dalhousie oceanographer is hoping a new crowdsourcing project will help to track the storm surge of Hurricane Arthur as it passes Atlantic Canada on the weekend.

Diego Ibarra is an oceanographer at Dalhousie University and a research associate with the Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response Network.

He hopes their new project oceanviewer.org will help them determine how high the storm surge associated with Hurricane Arthur reaches in Atlantic Canada.

“A storm surge is the extra added increase in sea level due to a storm that is passing by,” said Ibarra. “The biggest storms which are these hurricanes create the highest storm surges.”

He says people can help with their research by heading to a beach as soon as the storm passes and marking how high the debris (trash, seaweed, etc.) comes up. 

All people have to do is pull out their smartphone or a GPS device while standing at the edge of the debris to get the latitude and longitude of the place marking how high the water came up. 

Then they just click on the link provided at oceanviewer.org to send in their information.

“Oceanviewer.org is like a Kijiji for ocean data,” said Ibarra. He said they are gathering ocean data from NASA satellites, Dalhousie underwater drones and Environment Canada models and placing them in one easy-to-use portal.

He said currently, storm surges are extremely hard to predict with a number of factors weighing in.

“You need to do a 3D model of the atmosphere and a 3D model of the ocean, and put everything into it, the current, tides, wind and everything,” he said.

“Then add the extra complexity of what happens when the hurricane passes by and if you get one of those things wrong the results you get will not be what you observe.”

He says by collecting accurate data through the crowdsourcing project, they can refine their models to make better predictions for the next hurricane.