Sara Davila

MIT Department: Earth and Planetary Sciences
Undergraduate institution: The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
Faculty Mentor: Sai Ravela
Website: LinkedIn

2019 Research Poster


I am a third year Civil Engineering student pursuing a minor in Environmental Science at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV). I was born and raised in the city of Mercedes, which is located deep in South Texas. My research interests include natural disaster resilience, specifically, hurricane storm surge coastal mitigation. My goal is to design resilient cities that can not only withstand any natural hazard but can also utilize that energy to improve the adaptability of structures and infrastructure. I enjoy running, hiking, bike riding, being with my family and watching sitcoms.

2019 Research Abstract

Development of a Tropical Cyclone Intensity Simulator and Storm Surge Model to Adequately Assess Risk 

Sara E. Davila1 and Sai Ravela2
1Department of Civil Engineering, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
2Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The assessment of climate impacts on geophysical natural hazards such as earthquakes, storms, and floods are an area of significant interest. Tropical cyclones, in particular, are the cause of fatalities as well as millions of dollars in property damage yearly, so accurate risk assessment of these events are of great interest to governments, industries, and communities in areas of vulnerability. A key step in this process is efficaciously downscaled cyclone simulations driven by large-scale climate factors.  Here, we implement a hurricane intensity algorithm that is physically motivated with parameter distributions that can be sampled to simulate intensity variability within a large-scale environment. This algorithm uses a set of coupled ordinary differential equations to predict circular wind speed evolution and an inner core moisture variable, which are important parameters for risk assessment. Additionally, environmental wind shear and ocean coupling are included into the algorithm. This practical intensity simulator has high computational efficiency without using as much power as other currently used models, and therefore can produce results at a faster rate. The hurricane intensity simulator is coupled with a storm surge hydrodynamic model to predict storm surge height distributions, ultimately administering this information to government agencies and emergency management planners to better prepare for these storms.