Hurricane Surge Classification for the Northern Gulf of Mexico Coastline


Jan. 24, 2007


Irish, JL

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Galveston Bay Estuary


Over the last quarter-century, hurricane surge has been assumed to be primarily function of maximum storm wind speed as might be estimated from the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. However, Hurricane Katrina demonstrated that wind speed alone cannot reliably describe surge. This presentation will show that storm size plays an important role in surge generation, particularly for very intense storms making landfall in mildly-sloping regions. Prior to Hurricane Katrina, the historical hurricane record evidenced no clear correlation between surge and storm size, and consequently little attention was given to the role of size in surge generation. In this study, the hydrodynamic model ADCIRC was employed simulate storm surge at the coastline for a series of idealized scenarios. The numerical results were used to classify surge at the coastline as a function of meteorological parameters, including storm size, and regional geographic conditions. The resulting classification compares well with observations. It was found during this study that, for a given intensity, surge varies by as much as thirty percent over a reasonable range of storm sizes. These findings clearly demonstrate that storm size must be considered when estimating surge, particularly when predicting socioeconomic and flood risk.




ADCIRC, Hurricane Katrina, Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, storm size, storm surge