World storm surge records

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:41 PM GMT on August 03, 2009

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The Bathurst Bay Cyclone, also known as Tropical Cyclone Mahina, which struck Bathurst Bay, Australia on March 5, 1899, is generally credited with the world record for storm surge. The cyclone's storm surge is variously listed at 13 - 14.6 meters (43 - 48 feet). The Category 5 cyclone was a monster--with sustained winds in excess of 175 mph and a central pressure between 880 and 914 mb. Mahina killed at least 307 people, mostly on pearling ships, and was the deadliest cyclone in Australian history. The eyewitness account of Mahina's record storm surge was provided by Constable J. M. Kenny, who journeyed to Barrow Point on Bathurst Bay to investigate a crime on the day of the storm. While camped on a ridge 40 feet above sea level and 1/2 mile inland, Kenny's camp was inundated by a storm wave, reaching waist-deep. On nearby Flinders Island, fish and dolphins were found on top of 15 meter (49 foot) cliffs. However, an analysis by Nott and Hayne (2000) found no evidence of storm-deposited debris higher than 3 - 5 meters above mean sea level in the region. They also cited two computer storm surge simulations of the cyclone that were unable to generate a surge higher than three meters. Indeed, Bathurst Bay is not ideally situated to receive high storm surges. The Great Barrier Reef lies just 20 - 40 km offshore, and the ocean bottom near the bay is not shallow, but steeply sloped. Both of these factors should conspire to keep storm surges well below the record 13 - 14.6 meters reported. The authors concluded that the actual surge from the Bathurst Bay Cyclone may have been 3 - 5 meters. The observed inundation at 13 meters elevation, plus the observation of dolphins deposited at 15 meters above sea level, could have been caused by high waves on top of the surge, they argue. Waves on top of the surge (called "wave run-up") can reach five times the wave height at the shore for steeply fronted coasts like at Bathurst Bay. Since waves in the Bathurst Bay Cyclone could easily have been 3 meters, 15 meters of wave run-up on top of the surge is quite feasible. Since wave run-up doesn't count as surge, the status of the 1899 Bathurst Bay Hurricane as the world-record holder for storm surge is questionable. However, the event is certainly the record holder for the high water mark set by a tropical cyclone's storm surge, an important category in its own right.


Figure 1. Satellite image of Bathurst Bay, Queensland Province, Australia. The record 43 - 48 foot storm surge wave occurred on Barrow Point, marked by an "x" on the map above. Image credit: NASA.


Figure 2. Track of the 1899 Bathurst Bay cyclone. Bathurst Bay is located at the point where the 914 mb pressure is listed. Image credit: Whittingham, 1958.

Australian storm surge records
The largest storm surges in Australia occur in Gulf of Carpentaria, due to the large expanse of shallow water there (the Gulf of Carpentaria is the large bay to the left of the zoomed-in map of Bathurst Bay shown above). According to an email I received from Australian hurricane scientist Jeffrey Callaghan, "From all reports the storm surge from the disastrous 5 March 1887 cyclone flooded almost all of Burketown (some 30km inland from the Gulf). A copy of a 1918 report to the Queensland Parliament from the Department of Harbours and Rivers Engineer refers to the sea rising to 5.5 metres above the highest spring tide level at the Albert River Heads. This level is about 8 metres (26.2 feet) above Australian Height Datum (AHD). The biggest measured surge in the Gulf of Carpenteria occurred on 30 March 1923, when a surge of 21.4 feet was recorded at a Groote Eylandt Mission".

So what is the world storm surge record if the Bathurst Bay cyclone does not qualify? Well, I haven't researched storms in the Indian Ocean or Pacific Typhoons yet, but it might be difficult to find any storm that beats Hurricane Katrina's 27.8 foot storm surge.

References:
Nott, J, N. Hayne, 2000: How high was the storm surge from Tropical Cyclone Mahina?", Australian Journal of Emergency Management, Autumn 2000.

Anonymous, 1899, The Outridge Report--The Pearling Disaster 1899: A Memorial", The Outridge Company, 1899

Whittingham, 1958, "The Bathurst Bay hurricane and associated storm surge", Australian Meteorological Magazine, No. 27, pp. 40-41. Scanned and put on-line courtesy of John McBride.

I'll have an update on Tuesday, when the latest CSU seasonal hurricane forecast comes out at 11am EDT.
.
Jeff Masters

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FORT COLLINS - The Colorado State University hurricane team today slightly lowered its 2009 Atlantic hurricane forecast based on developing El Nino conditions that are expected to intensify over the remainder of the hurricane season.

The team now anticipates 10 named storms forming in the Atlantic basin between June 1 and Nov. 30. Four of the storms are predicted to become hurricanes, and of those four, two are expected to develop into major hurricanes (Saffir/Simpson category 3-4-5) with sustained winds of 111 mph or greater.

Link
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1959. gator23
Quoting sammywammybamy:
CNN WeatherMen Just mentioned the Wave... he said it had a chance to develop ... and that colorado lowered there numbers


Shouting Thomas is a crappy weather man
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1958. WxLogic
Quoting StormW:


Appears to be more active than normal.
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Quoting Weather456:


the ITCZ is zonal
a tropical wave (which this is) is meridional


In looking at the 850 and 750 vort from CIMMS, the turning is very linear, East / West. Not until you look at the 500mb level do you see a somewhat circular pattern. IMO, she's got a lot of tightening up to do before I would call an invest. MAYBE tomorrow, more likely Thursday as it looks like it will persist.

A question for any

Could the ITCZ be masking it's current organization?
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1956. NOLaHSE
1946. Thanks.
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It doesn't look like shear will kill our yellow circle any time soon.
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:
hi guys sorry I have been off on a fishing trip for about 36 hours or so so what up can anyone give me an update


Nice! Catch the big one???
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Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Funkadelic:
Good morning weather456,
The longer this wave stays in the itcz,the chances will go down that it lifts north and out to see correct? Thanks in advance:)


More like, the longer it remains at 9N, the chances become less of avoiding the islands. It can move out of the ITCZ anytime it feels like but the ITCZ is becoming less of hinderance since it can close off without moving out of the ITCZ. Look at Felicia and Enrique in the EPAC.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
1950. cg2916
Quoting Cotillion:
Oh, and for Hawaii...

Wasn't the last time they were threatened a 'F' storm too?

Uh.. not Florence, that's Atlantic (06-12).

Flossy?

(Was a Cat 4 at its strongest if I remember rightly...)

Flossie. I remember on SIRIUS radio a lady was talking about a monster hurricane named Flossie.. lol.
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Quoting AllStar17:


Flossie was a weak hurricane / strong TS when it grazed Hawaii. Flossie was before a Cat. 4 but slowly weakened as it got closer to Hawaii.


Thanks, my memory was about there. Shear and lower SSTs I think got it in the end (thankfully).

SHIPs only bringing it to Cat 2 at best for the moment, at least. And then weakening it.
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Hurricane Iniki (1992)

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Quoting NOLaHSE:
I read on here a few days ago that the season builds from West to East. The Pacific appears to be having a rather active season thus far; is it logical that the same can be expected in the coming weeks for the Atlantic?



Some on here can better answer than I can but there has been, historically, an inverse relationship between the two basins where activity ramps up in one, and, wanes in the other perhaps due to MJO issues. Notwithstanding what might happen with the wave, I would guess that it would be logical for the two e-pac storms to run their course, things will quiet down in the e-pac in about 10 days, and then, the Atlantic will ramp up right around Aug 14th (the historical norm for August).........But, nothing is written in stone with the tropics.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Cotillion:
Oh, and for Hawaii...

Wasn't the last time they were threatened a 'F' storm too?

Uh.. not Florence, that's Atlantic (06-12).

Flossy?


Flossie was a weak hurricane / strong TS when it grazed Hawaii. Flossie was before a Cat. 4 but slowly weakened as it got closer to Hawaii.
Member Since: June 29, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 5315
hi guys sorry I have been off on a fishing trip for about 36 hours or so so what up can anyone give me an update
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Oh, and for Hawaii...

Wasn't the last time they were threatened a 'F' storm too?

Uh.. not Florence, that's Atlantic (06-12).

Flossy?

(Was a Cat 4 at its strongest if I remember rightly...)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Weather456:


the ITCZ is zonal
a tropical wave (which this is) is meridional


Agreed that an African Wave feature runs North-South (meridional) and the ITCZ is mostly East-West (zonal)...

But aren't African Waves generated usually in the 700mb region of the atmosphere???

You can have a wave moving along the ITCZ which contorts the normal west-east surface trough to a more meridional wavelike pattern.

Oh...and I think we're splitting hairs here...
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Quoting leftovers:
when the "leftovers" of these storms move by hi if they get close might actually get less wind because the system will disrupt the trades.


The SHIPS model has Felicia as a strong tropical storm as it nears Hawaii....you can look at post 1911. I hope they have fixed the 2000 posts limit on Dr. M's blog.
Member Since: June 29, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 5315
Its not a 'trough' not anymore atleast, the NHC classified it as a tropical wave at the 805 AM TWD.
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Those east-pac storms look impressive, indeed.

Not sure how many have Wunderground on their FB accounts but an interesting article (for a 'suspected' UKIP supporter anyhow...) linked about someone in my part of the world complaining about the Met. Wondered if anyone else saw it.

They were wrong (again) on the long term forecasts by giving into trying to hype things up. Though, 10 days time doesn't seem to be too bad from a few consistent runs, may even hit the 70s again! That'll be the day...

According to the EWP, the MJO is nearly here (or is in some places but very low.)

All three (EWP/GFS/CFS) still pinpointing to the action ratcheting up (on the oscillation front) in 10-14 days time.

That's when the Atlantic may see something occur. (If not before then. Natuerlich.)
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Quoting OSUWXGUY:


I just read Chris Lightbrown's discussion at Crown Weather...and he had a good way of putting it.

It's a "trough" of low pressure at the moment...which essentially is what the ITCZ is


the ITCZ is zonal
a tropical wave (which this is) is meridional
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
West. Pac. Goni near China...Morakot about >1000miles E of Taiwan.
Member Since: July 14, 2009 Posts: 51 Comments: 1731
1932. NOLaHSE
I read on here a few days ago that the season builds from West to East. The Pacific appears to be having a rather active season thus far; is it logical that the same can be expected in the coming weeks for the Atlantic?

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1927. leftovers 1:54 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
Quoting AllStar17:
Hawaii better watch out for Felicia.




you should know by now this will have little impact on hi


this is true...but if anything these past few years NOTHING is normal anymore...so HI might just want to keep a sharp eye on it...but damn i would love to catch the ground swell coming coming from these.... LOL
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Hawaii better get out of the way.
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Quoting weathermanwannabe:


Thanks.......Thought I was losing my mind....So do we "split" the difference and call it 15 knots?


I still didnt think it was 30 knots, more like 15-20 knots
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
Quoting Weather456:


before I can answer I should state there is a differentiation between "low pressure" and "surface circulation"

I'm seeing a low pressure area but cannot really find a surface circulation. There is low pressure but not sure if the winds are closed around the low. QuikSCAT did show some impressive turning.



I just read Chris Lightbrown's discussion at Crown Weather...and he had a good way of putting it.

It's a "trough" of low pressure at the moment...which essentially is what the ITCZ is
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Quoting Weather456:


lol ur correct....The shear gone from 30 to 0 in 6 hrs. It was probably algorithm being used to calculate shear.



Thanks.......Thought I was losing my mind....So do we "split" the difference and call it 15 knots?
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I thought when the NHC mentioned they would of said something about "conditions appear only marginal for development" due to the SAL,

ANY
SIGNIFICANT DEVELOPMENT OF THE SYSTEM IS EXPECTED TO BE SLOW TO
OCCUR AS THIS WAVE MOVES TO WEST AT ABOUT 15 MPH.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
Very Impressive ENRIQUE and PRE-FELICIA.
Member Since: July 14, 2009 Posts: 51 Comments: 1731
1923. WxLogic
Quoting Weather456:
It's amazing how dust changes in 24 hrs



Check... the loop and you'll also notice how it has been decreasing in intensity as it lift further N and also less intense bursts are starting to be more apparent.
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1922. Dakster
Chicklit - That was a cool perspective, it really brings StormW's point that the PAC storms are along the ITCZ even more so...

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yes shesr has dropped the SAL is weakening the SST are going up and it is mentaining convection. the stage is being set for ANA
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Quoting weathermanwannabe:
Please correct me if I am wrong; I just "refreshed" my cmiss shear chart (from this morning) and the shear around the wave dropped from 30 knots down to 10......Is this correct?.......Thanks.


lol ur correct....The shear gone from 30 to 0 in 6 hrs. It was probably algorithm being used to calculate shear.

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
1917. stoormfury 1:48 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
the lower this thing stays, the more problems it could cause for the cental lesser antilles


yep big time....
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BOOM-SHACKALAKA!!!!
Member Since: July 14, 2009 Posts: 51 Comments: 1731
the lower this thing stays, the more problems it could cause for the cental lesser antilles
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Please correct me if I am wrong; I just "refreshed" my cmiss shear chart (from this morning) and the shear around the wave dropped from 30 knots down to 10......Is this correct?.......Thanks.
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It's amazing how dust changes in 24 hrs

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
with a closed low ,then here comes an invest 99L
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Persistence has been the key with this feature

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
1912. MahFL
Chicklit, yes but its going to get hotter,then the storms might cool things down a bit if your lucky.....
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Hawaii better watch out for Felicia.



Member Since: June 29, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 5315

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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