E. Gica

Edison Gica's desire to help coastal communities led him to specialize in coastal hazards

Edison Growing up on one of the over 7,100 islands in the Philippines, Edison Gica clearly understands the importance of protecting coastal areas from natural hazards (e.g., hurricanes and landslide- and earthquake-generated tsunamis) for commerce, tourism and local inhabitant’s livelihood. Situated in the Ring of Fire, the Philippines is among the most natural disaster-prone countries of the world. Every year, hundreds to thousands of people, especially those on or near coastal areas, are affected by storms, earthquakes, floods, and volcanic eruptions. This led Edison to become an engineer and researcher in the areas of civil and environmental engineering, hydraulics, and natural hazards risk analysis. His area of expertise includes numerical simulations of natural coastal phenomena, risk analysis of natural coastal hazards (e.g., hurricane-generated storm surge, landslide- and earthquake-generated tsunamis), and coastal hazards mitigation.

Edison is a tsunami research scientist in JISAO assigned to the NOAA Center for Tsunami Research (NCTR). The Center’s objectives are to develop numerical tsunami models that will be used to forecast tsunami as it propagates in the ocean and coastal areas. The results from this research are used in the design, development and deployment of Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis (DART) buoys and inundation mapping for hazard assessment. Tsunamis are large water waves, usually generated by seismic activity. Historically, it has caused significant damage to coastal communities throughout the world as seen in the Sumatra 2004 disaster. Tsunamis are also generated by submarine volcanic eruptions, meteoroid impacts, and landslides.

As a Research Scientist, Edison develops the forecast propagation database which is set up by pre-computing earthquake events for all potential tsunamigenic regions. The bottom pressure data at deep-water sites detect the passage of tsunami waves, and then invert these signals to identify the linear combination of pre-computed propagation solutions that best matches the evolving wave train. Linear combination of pre-computed propagation solutions is possible due to the linearity of the generation and deep-water propagation dynamics of tsunami waves. The propagation database is a crucial part of the tsunami forecast modeling since the combined propagation solution provides the offshore boundary conditions to drive sets of nested models, optimized to run quickly in real-time and produce detailed forecasts of actual inundation for threatened coastal communities

Numerical simulations and computer modeling are important tools for coastal hazard studies. Currently, DART buoys are operating to monitor if a destructive tsunami is generated after an earthquake. However, if a coastal state has not properly assessed or even considered the probability or risk of tsunami attack in the development tsunami wave height distribution illustrationof a critical coastal area then coastal structures, residential and industrial communities will not be properly designed to withstand such destructive waves. Results of the risk analysis conducted using numerical simulations and computer modeling provides invaluable firsthand information of the extent of a probable tsunami attack and such studies are inexpensive.

Edison first joined NOAA/PMEL (Pacific Mapping Environmental Lab) in 2005 as a National Research Council Post-Doc research associate, with Dr. Harold Mofjeld as his adviser. Before joining the team of NOAA/PMEL scientists, Edison was working with Dr. Michelle H. Teng of the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa for his Ph.D. research. With support from NOAA Sea Grant College Program, NOAA Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR) and assistantship from the CEE department at the University of Hawai‘i, he developed an improved risk assessment methodology that can predict the probability of occurrence of tsunami inundation on coastal lands due to distant tsunamis in the Pacific Basin. The importance of his study was recognized by the American Geophysical Union with an 'Outstanding Student Paper Award' during the fall 2004 meeting.

Previously, Edison had also worked in a research study which involves applying a large-scale numerical simulation model to predict hurricane-generated storm surge in Hawai‘i. It was funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)-Office of Earth Science. Specifically, he investigated the effect of wind forcing on storm surge generation and how sensitive the simulated surge is to different wind models for the Pacific insular environment. Part of his study was to investigate the effects of barometric pressure and wind stress in generating storm surge in the Pacific insular environment.

Among his significant accomplishments is the development of a new numerical landslide model to study tsunami wave generation due to landslide. He accomplished this while he was a Master’s graduate student with a scholarship from the government of New Zealand at the Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand. He studied tsunami damaged hutunder the supervision of Prof. Fumihiko Imamura (Disaster Control Research Center, Tohoku University), an internationally renowned tsunami expert and modeler. Tsunami wave generation due to local effects, i.e., motion of landslides, is one area that was not given much research attention before.

While working for Prof. Imamura, he had the opportunity to join the International Tsunami Survey Team to conduct field surveys. They gathered firsthand information on tsunami events in the Philippines and Indonesia with other renowned tsunami researchers such as Prof. Costas Synolakis from University of Southern California and Dr. Vasily Titov of JISAO-NCTR. (Photo 1 shows Edison interviewing the owner of a house, his extended arm indicates depth of water that inundated the house (1994).) Sponsored by the Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution of Japan, a team of Japanese tsunami experts invited him to collect further information about the landslide-generated tsunami that occurred in Skagway, AK in 1994. Owing to his considerable experiences in conducting tsunami surveys, he was invited by Hawai‘i State Civil Defense to be a Tsunami Observer Volunteer.

Even before coming to the U.S., Edison already had vast engineering experiences in the Philippines and Thailand. Edison obtained his B. Sc. Civil Engineering degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of San Jose-Recoletos in the Philippines. After completing his Bachelor’s degree, he had been involved in various projects in the Philippines wherein he supervised construction projects. He was also involved in constructing a sea wall, an important coastal structure that protects coastline properties from strong wave action and preventing shoreline retreat. (Photo 2 shows severe coastal erosion due to tsunami waves (maximum depth of erosion approximately 1.5m) at Sitio Pino, Baco Island, Philippines (1994).) He also worked as a structural designer during his undergraduate years. In Thailand, Edison had also worked as a Hydraulics Laboratory coastal erosion caused by tsunamiSupervisor at the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT). While employed at the AIT, he was the field investigator in conducting wave measurement and analysis for various projects in Thailand for private clients and the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT).

With advanced training, extensive international coastal research experiences and years of research experience in modeling coastal phenomena, Edison has been actively participating in local and international conferences. Recognizing his expertise, the Coastal Development Institute of Technology (CDIT) of Japan invited him to give a talk during the International Workshop on Natural Hazards in Coastal Areas (Coastal Hazards 2003) in Yokosuka, Japan. A research engineer filled with enthusiasm, creative ideas and vision, Edison is looking forward to conduct more tsunami studies and contribute further to the attainment of JISAO-NCTR’s objectives.

Edison’s personal life is also very interesting. Science has always fascinated him, from archeology to zoology, astronomy and more. He does his best to keep up-to-date by reading, watching and listening. He is also very fond of music. During his high school days, he played the drum and trumpet in the band. When not on the computer keyboard, his fingers are playing classical guitar, or self-studying the piano. He sings and plays his guitar in the church choir. He also enjoys rollerblading, badminton, swimming, bowling, RC helicopter and aircraft models. He also enjoys interacting with people. Most of all, he loves to spend quality family time with Rowena (who recently completed her Ph.D. in Plant and Soil Sciences from University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa) and their toddler son, Gabriel Elindil.  Edison says, "There's so much interesting stuff to learn and do, I want to learn as much as I can, spend and enjoy every moment of my life with my family and friends because life is short.”