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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Quoting presslord:
atmo...thanks..

SJ...I think they declaren the invest so they can access some of those toys....


That's a shame, someone should be able to play with those all the time...Just my novice opinion.

Night all
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Quoting presslord:
atmo...thanks..

SJ...I think they declaren the invest so they can access some of those toys....


press, that would make sense....if they are interested in an area, then they would probably want more data on the AOI
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Quoting StormJunkie:
One last question/point before I go to bed...

Is the NHC already looking at microwave imagery of the system? I know that we don't start seeing some of the better microwave images until it is an invest correct?


You can get microwave data here operationally.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
Quoting pottery:
...spent the last few mins trying to figure out "infaslible".
Thanks press
heheheh


it's my Southern accent...
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1447. Point being that if the NHC is looking at microwave images that show a sloppy entity then they are playing with more info then we have correct?
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1456. SLU
Guys any nominees for the 1st Annual Downcaster's Awards???
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1454. JRRP
Quoting AllStar17:


That is what I was thinking.



Please....let's not start this again

is just a bit
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atmo...thanks..

SJ...I think they declaren the invest so they can access some of those toys....
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1452. pottery
...spent the last few mins trying to figure out "infaslible".
Thanks press
heheheh
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Local Tampa "10 Connects" just said there is a wave they are watching .. and the NHC hasn't had anything to say about it..
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1450. help4u
is weakening rapidly!
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Quoting BurnedAfterPosting:


spinzone disrespects everyone he or she encounters on here, pay no attention

he or she got on someone last night for something they posted and ended up being the one that was wrong, when I said something, I got jumped all over by him or her.



ah...that 'splains it...
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Quoting spinzone:
LMAO Presslord!
Do you even know the significance of an Invest or the XTRP?


He does.
And, honestly, there are times when XTRP is closer to the actual track than some model runs.
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One last question/point before I go to bed...

Is the NHC already looking at microwave imagery of the system? I know that we don't start seeing some of the better microwave images until it is an invest correct?
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Quoting BurnedAfterPosting:


It wouldnt be the first tropical depression, it would be the second


It's hard to make that mistake, TD 1 was like?, 2 months ago, lol.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
Quoting presslord:
Huh?!


spinzone disrespects everyone he or she encounters on here, pay no attention

he or she got on someone last night for something they posted and ended up being the one that was wrong, when I said something, I got jumped all over by him or her.

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either way, it has to move out of the ITCZ before anything happens. Meridional convergence does not a hurricane make.

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Quoting BurnedAfterPosting:


It wouldnt be the first tropical depression, it would be the second


That is what I was thinking.

Quoting JRRP:

i think it is weakening a bit


Please....let's not start this again
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Quoting Drakoen:



It doesn't deserve that title due to it's poor organization.


Drak don't say that.....your going to get it now buddy......LOL....but, i do hear ya!
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Quoting java162:
John Desjardins, Lead Meteorologist, The Weather Channel
Aug. 3, 2009 8:31 pm ET
In the far eastern Atlantic, an area of low pressure southwest of the Cape Verde Islands has developed more convection over the past day.

This low is in an area that is generally favorable for development. It is possible this could become the first tropical depression of the Atlantic season over the next day or two.



It wouldnt be the first tropical depression, it would be the second
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pottery...yup...it's infallible... ; )
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Quoting pottery:
I do think that people in the caribbean Islands should be made aware of this system in the morning.
It certainly would do no harm for the Authorities to start putting people on notice. If this system does not develop, there are more where this one came from..........

no kidding potts.
although there is thirty sheer currently between them and whatever it is, there's no harm telling them 40 shear is gone.
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1437. JRRP

i think it is weakening a bit
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Huh?!
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1435. java162
John Desjardins, Lead Meteorologist, The Weather Channel
Aug. 3, 2009 8:31 pm ET
In the far eastern Atlantic, an area of low pressure southwest of the Cape Verde Islands has developed more convection over the past day.

This low is in an area that is generally favorable for development. It is possible this could become the first tropical depression of the Atlantic season over the next day or two.

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Great shot of the storm EUMETSAT
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1433. Drakoen
Quoting StormW:
I don't know why they don't call it a Tropical Disturbance instead of a surface trof.



It doesn't deserve that title due to it's poor organization.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 31586
1432. pottery
Press, you have something against the EXTRAP ?
But look at it this way--it is 100% right, for a systems previous track.
LOL
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Quoting StormW:
I don't know why they don't call it a Tropical Disturbance instead of a surface trof.


Storm i don't recall NHC every call something a Disturbance that is within the ITCZ...i think the proper name would be a Surface trof...i think....but what do i know...i was just pulling from my memory when dealing with the ITCZ..
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a surface trough has now been added to the surface maps along our feature

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
I'm out for tonight as well. Catch you all tomorrow
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there it is
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Ok, off to bed...Shall see what it looks like in the am.

And for the record, I am not down casting or up casting it. Certainly not bashing the NHC for waiting a little longer either. Rather interesting for us weather weenies, but waiting another 12 hours to mention it to the masses is not a mistake imho.
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Quoting SSideBrac:

Paloma was no dove - that is for sure!!


Most definitely not for you Brac!
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Quoting Weather456:


An Invest has nothing to do with model support, surface low, enviroment or chances of development. An invest is a subjective decision - as the feel interested. Invest 93L and 97L never had a surface circulation.


Wasn't that basically what i said "they think" they are not going to issue an invest simply at a puff of clouds.....of course it is subjective as is every forecast..
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Quoting SSideBrac:

Paloma was no dove - that is for sure!!
I live in East End and we had a decent wind blowing up here but nothing like what you had over there.
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Lyons: a bit of a combination of the past 3 hour analyses. Far south, we will watch it, in a moist environment; may move into this dry area over the next few days and it might fizzle; we will watch it, it is far from land

everything else focused on the Pacific
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1420. SLU
Quoting Weather456:


remember 93L, lol


No comment sir .. we have our own reservations about the NHC. Good thing we are knowledgeable enough to monitor our own weather. :)
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1419. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Give it time, Taz it will be filed
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1418. IKE
He said the blob..."has a chance to move into dry air and fizzle out."
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
Quoting Weather456:


An Invest has nothing to do with model support, surface low, enviroment or chances of development. An invest is a subjective decision - as the feel interested. Invest 93L and 97L never had a surface circulation.


Peoples' ignorance about this and "...the Extrap model..." make me absolutely crazy...
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Quoting IKE:
Dr. Lyons update momentarily.


He is more interested in the surf forecast for California, tropical update? lol lol lol
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
Quoting AllStar17:


StormJunkie -- The EPAC systems are really in the middle of nowhere, also.


But they have surface lows correct?

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Quoting DDR:

Cool..welcome to the club,we been getting alot of caribbean people up in here recently.
I can see you haven't been getting much rain,that sucks.Its been average here,(Trinidad)not so much in june though.


Thanks. I've been on here for a few seasons though. Usually don't comment...just like to sit back..watch and learn from the not so novice guys and gals. Good resource for tracking as well.

Seems that a lot of the Caribbean is in rainfall deficit. Hopefully that will change because things are crazy dry. I need to get to Trini for carnival!!! Maybe nexy year..haha.
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hmmm where the Forecast Discussion for Tropical Storm ENRIQUE
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1411. pottery
I do think that people in the caribbean Islands should be made aware of this system in the morning.
It certainly would do no harm for the Authorities to start putting people on notice. If this system does not develop, there are more where this one came from..........
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

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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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