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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2111. PensacolaNative
5:44 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
Has anyone noticed the GFS showing a tropical system hitting Hawaii next week?
Member Since: June 7, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 27
2110. gwadaman
4:45 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
Good afternoon every one, great update and Info StormW...and 456. I have to say that the system is holding its own. It could prove interesting for the Islands if it continues to use the ITCZ as a security blanket..........
Member Since: July 8, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 147
2109. HIEXPRESS
3:43 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
I never minded the "casters", up, down, or sideways (predictions based on a "gut feeling"/otherwise unsupported or unstated) as they got the idea from somewhere. It is their mind's interpretation of the current situation based on their past experience (different for everyone), tempered by how the information here and elsewhere is coming across.
The human brain is still in many respects superior to all the computing power behind the models (how long that remains true is hard to tell).
now moving to the
NEW BLOG
Member Since: October 13, 2005 Posts: 4 Comments: 2156
2108. wunderkidcayman
3:43 PM GMT on August 04, 2009

gfs 42 hours 1009 mb strongest (so far)
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12329
2107. Claudette1234
3:38 PM GMT on August 04, 2009


18Z GFS 12h
Member Since: July 21, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 552
2106. MrNatural
3:28 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
Looks like the tropical season is poised to get started. The wave over the Atlantic still has some obstacles to fight if it is to get a name. Currently, it is encountering an area of mild shear and there will be another distinct area of more moderate shear closer to the Caribbean. Furthermore, the SAL just to the N and NW may pose problems in the short term. Upper air wind patterns are changing, finally, for a more positive environment. Ultimately, time will be the ally for this tropical feature. If it makes through the next 24 - 36 hours, then we will have a named storm by the end of the week.
Member Since: July 28, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 267
2105. StormChaser81
3:22 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
Quoting TheCaneWhisperer:


What exactly does that chart depict?

Member Since: August 11, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2315
2104. Skyepony (Mod)
3:22 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
Still think the Atl blob looks better than the newly declared 99W or 90W. Here's the better looking of the two, 99W..

Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 191 Comments: 38624
2103. TheCaneWhisperer
3:21 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
Quoting Patrap:
We get psycology too here,fascinating..

LOL



The dreaded circles, lol.
2102. BobinTampa
3:20 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
Quoting Weather456:
And it begs the question, what are these "downcasters" going to do when we reach late August and September. When cant find any dust, wind shear and MJO to complain about.



maybe they won't be 'downcasters' then. It would seem that dust, wind shear, and MJO have been pretty solid reasons to downcast thus far haven't they?
Member Since: August 14, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 544
2101. Patrap
3:19 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
QuikSCAT Storm Page

Current Storms (Aug 4 2009 )
Atlantic Ocean
No active storms at this time.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129089
2100. AllStar17
3:18 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
Quoting StormW:
Greetings again all!

Hot off the press!!

Thanks.

TROPICAL WEATHER SYNOPSIS AUG 04, 2009 ISSUED 11:15 A.M. EDT


Thank you Storm, nice job!
Member Since: June 29, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 5315
2099. VAbeachhurricanes
3:18 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6667
2098. IKE
3:18 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
NEW BLOG!
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
2097. OSUWXGUY
3:17 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
Quoting IKE:


Props for hanging to your numbers.


Same to you. It's all a crapshoot anyways :-)
2096. Cavin Rawlins
3:17 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
And it begs the question, what are these "downcasters" going to do when we reach late August and September. When they cant find any dust, wind shear and MJO to complain about.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
2095. Chicklit
3:16 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
The SAL doesn't look real thick, the SSTs are warm, and the shear (whatever it is), is not real high. This thing has at least a 50% chance of persistence IMO.
Link
Member Since: July 11, 2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11387
2094. IKE
3:16 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
1445UTC...system is losing convection by the frame...

Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
2092. Cavin Rawlins
3:16 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
2091. VAbeachhurricanes
3:15 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
Quoting IKE:


It's the opposite.



not really its 3:15 pm where the wave is, so its just entering DMIN
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6667
2090. OSUWXGUY
3:15 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
Did anyone else notice that Colorado State will be doing 2 WEEK forecasts for the remainder of the hurricane season....with the first one released tomorrow?

See how theirs compares to the Docs...
2089. Patrap
3:14 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
We get psycology too here,fascinating..

LOL
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129089
2088. CybrTeddy
3:13 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
Quoting Weather456:
It will likely go in and out of these phases, so no need to jump to conclusions



Durinal Effects are expected with these weak systems, we see them every time. Willing to bet it will blow up tonight.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24458
2087. Cavin Rawlins
3:13 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
Quoting HurricaneSwirl:


i edited it before you posted that.

and anyway, most complain that the shear levels aren't accurate when the CIMSS site says its high. but when they're low, no one ever even questions it. kinda strange

anyway, the system is just too long, it needs to take advantage of the low wind shear to tighten up



It works both ways, people find too much excuses becuz they don't want it develop and when it does show signs of development they quiet down (not you of course)

For example, disregarding the models when they forecast development but jump on them when they dont forecast anything.

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
2086. IKE
3:13 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
Quoting OSUWXGUY:


One things for sure...it'll be interesting to see how it plays out!

I made a forecast way back in May for 8 named, 3 hurricanes, 1 major and an ACE of 50 and right now I'm sticking to it. I had the El Nino, cooler SSTs in the Atlantic, and a weak/too far south ITCZ being factors.

Since May we've seen the SSTs warm up, but the tropical waves have been weak so far and El Nino is right on schedule.

Up to this point, El Nino hasn't seemed to increase shear that much - though I think this will change as overall convection increases in the Central and Eastern Pacific (as we've seen very recently with 2 storms out there plus a large area of scattered convection to its east).


Props for hanging to your numbers.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
2085. AllStar17
3:12 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
Quoting Weather456:
It will likely go in and out of these phases, so no need to jump to conclusions



Yeah...it was the same with 93L and 97L
Member Since: June 29, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 5315
2084. TheCaneWhisperer
3:11 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
2083. OSUWXGUY
3:10 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
Quoting IKE:


I disagree with their numbers. I've picked 10-4-2 since late June and would lower the 10 down to 9-4-2 now, but I'll keep what I predicted....10-4-2.


One things for sure...it'll be interesting to see how it plays out!

I made a forecast way back in May for 8 named, 3 hurricanes, 1 major and an ACE of 50 and right now I'm sticking to it. I had the El Nino, cooler SSTs in the Atlantic, and a weak/too far south ITCZ being factors.

Since May we've seen the SSTs warm up, but the tropical waves have been weak so far and El Nino is right on schedule.

Up to this point, El Nino hasn't seemed to increase shear that much - though I think this will change as overall convection increases in the Central and Eastern Pacific (as we've seen very recently with 2 storms out there plus a large area of scattered convection to its east).
2082. Cavin Rawlins
3:10 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
It will likely go in and out of these phases, so no need to jump to conclusions

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
2081. SQUAWK
3:10 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
Quoting Patrap:
-- EMC Cyclogenesis Tracking Page --

Model Cycle: 2009080412

North America: Model Tracks for Mid-Latitude Cyclones
Model Guidance






.."Nuthing"..


Attaboy Pat. LOL
Member Since: December 9, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2498
2080. mobilegirl81
3:10 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
Could a small rotation be hidden under the deepest convection on the wave in the CATL
Member Since: August 31, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 833
2079. sammywammybamy
3:09 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
Quoting IKE:


It's the opposite.


O....

So do you think the wave coming off africa... a little more north .. would have a slighter chance of developing into an invest?
Member Since: June 17, 2006 Posts: 44 Comments: 5010
2078. IKE
3:08 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
Quoting sammywammybamy:


Isnt it Dmin out there... its Expected..


It's the opposite.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
2077. Patrap
3:08 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
Split Window - Met-8/GOES-West - Latest Available
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129089
2076. sammywammybamy
3:08 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
Pat,

Shear has dropped...
Member Since: June 17, 2006 Posts: 44 Comments: 5010
2075. IKE
3:08 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
Quoting Patrap:


from the entry above by Dr. Masters...

The two tropical waves in the ITCZ closest to the coast of Africa bear some scrutiny this week as they cross the Atlantic. However, none of the models are currently forecasting development of these waves, and there is plenty of wind shear and dry air that will interfere with potential development


Good point.....back to reality.

Quoting HurricaneSwirl:


i edited it before you posted that.

and anyway, most complain that the shear levels aren't accurate when the CIMSS site says its high. but when they're low, no one ever even questions it. kinda strange

anyway, the system is just too long, it needs to take advantage of the low wind shear to tighten up



I agree with your statements.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
2074. sammywammybamy
3:07 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
Quoting IKE:
1415UTC visible...looking less impressive.

Losing it on IR.


Isnt it Dmin out there... its Expected..
Member Since: June 17, 2006 Posts: 44 Comments: 5010
2073. Patrap
3:07 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
Quoting tropicfreak:
What is causing it to get disorganized?


from the entry above by Dr. Masters...

The two tropical waves in the ITCZ closest to the coast of Africa bear some scrutiny this week as they cross the Atlantic. However, none of the models are currently forecasting development of these waves, and there is plenty of wind shear and dry air that will interfere with potential development
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129089
2072. HurricaneSwirl
3:06 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
Quoting BenBIogger:


???



i edited it before you posted that.

and anyway, most complain that the shear levels aren't accurate when the CIMSS site says its high. but when they're low, no one ever even questions it. kinda strange

anyway, the system is just too long, it needs to take advantage of the low wind shear to tighten up

Member Since: July 7, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 3237
2071. tropicfreak
3:05 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
What is causing it to get disorganized?
Member Since: September 2, 2006 Posts: 110 Comments: 6878
2070. largeeyes
3:05 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
Amazing how circular it is with almost no rotation.
Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1459
2069. IKE
3:04 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
Quoting extreme236:


10-4-2 is the latest CSU forecast, could be correct.


Minus me a point for belatedly picking 3 1/2 weeks into the season.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
2068. Chicklit
3:04 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
Quoting Weather456:
If you want to explain the cause of the reduced convection, dont blame wind shear becuz it's more than favorable.

Looks like the NW Quad is bugging out of the zone.
Member Since: July 11, 2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11387
2067. tropicfreak
3:04 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
The wave looked more organized earlier than now.
Member Since: September 2, 2006 Posts: 110 Comments: 6878
2066. IKE
3:05 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
1415UTC visible...looking less impressive.

Losing it on IR.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
2065. extreme236
3:03 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
Quoting IKE:


I disagree with their numbers. I've picked 10-4-2 since late June and would lower the 10 down to 9-4-2 now, but I'll keep what I predicted....10-4-2.


10-4-2 is the latest CSU forecast, could be correct.
Member Since: August 2, 2007 Posts: 19 Comments: 19234
2064. Buhdog
3:02 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
better than "winds of change" but hat may be what we are seeing
Member Since: July 30, 2005 Posts: 1 Comments: 960
2063. AussieStorm
3:01 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
Good Evening/Morning all.
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15961
2062. Patrap
3:01 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
2061. Cotillion
3:01 PM GMT on August 04, 2009
Quoting weathermanwannabe:


I prefer "Rock You Like a Hurricane" by the Scorpions.....Lol


Overplayed. :) Budgie are much better, and had a much greater impact on many bands of the time, which is still felt today.

Though they come from Hanover, Germany. So, they're forgiven. It's a beautiful city. I can't wait to return.
Member Since: August 23, 2008 Posts: 7 Comments: 5300

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About

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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