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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It will only continue Due west as long as it stays attached to the ITZ. Once it breaks off then a more Northward movement should be expected IMO.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1110. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
829
TCNA21 RJTD 040000 CCA
CCAA 04000 47644 MORAKOT(0908) 10216 11363 14234 220// 90409=
GONI(0907) 09204 11138 13144 220// 92707=

August 4 2009
0:00 AM UTC

TS Morakot (T0908)
21.6N 136.3E
Dvorak Intensity: T2.0

TS Goni (T0907)
20.4N 113.8E
Dvorak Intensity: T2.0
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These cylinders continue to fire

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
No Aussie, Everyone behaved very well for a change
1104. Drakoen
Quoting Weather456:
Yea, a more westward track seems feasible.


Nope.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 31660
Quoting StormW:


You speaking of the one that extends to 40N?


I think he is referring to the strong trough that has dipped into the MidWest currently..its very strong for this time of year.
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Evening StormW!
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1101. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Showers and thunderstorm associated with an area of disturbed weather (99E) located about 1150 miles southwest of the southern tip of southern tip of Baja California has continued to become better organized.. and a tropical depression may be forming. If current trends continue.. advisories may be initiated later this evening as the system moves west to west northwest at 15 MPH.

Tropical Cyclone Formation Potential
===================================
There is a HIGH risk of this disturbance to form into a significant tropical cyclone within the next 48 hours
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1100. Drakoen
Quoting StormW:
Steering Layer 700-850mb


That's just the current steering. Future steering supports poleward movement of the system.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 31660
Yea, a more westward track seems feasible.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
Quoting ALCoastGambler:
Good morning Aussie

I hope there was no fighting while i was away sleeping?
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Quoting WeatherStudent:
Dr. Lyons said our ITCZ perturbation in the CATL could become a TD in a couple of days, surprise, surprise, huh guys? Anyways, good evening, all!!!


already mentioned below, lol

evening WS
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
1094. Drakoen
Quoting StormW:


You speaking of the one that extends to 40N?


It's weakening and separating the Azores/Bermuda high enough to change the steering flow to a more poleward movement of the system. It does not have to extend down to 20N for it to change the steering flow.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 31660
Keeper, mail!
Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15971
Quoting AussieStorm:
Good Morning/Evening all
Good morning Aussie
1087. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)


Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 192 Comments: 59083
Good Morning/Evening all
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Quoting Drakoen:
Trough comes down and creates a weakness for the low to get picked up:


Drak i believe there is already a weakness in place if it detaches it should feel that weakness to the NW
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Sure is fun lurking on this site. It is like playing with a double edged sword. The excitement of tracking a cane and the fear of suffering the wrath.
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Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
1081. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)


TWINS
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 192 Comments: 59083

13N/20W, closed low ?
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1079. Drakoen
Trough comes down and creates a weakness for the low to get picked up:
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 31660
I think it is also assuming that it detaches from the ITZ which it has not yet tho.
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1077. Drakoen
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 31660
Quoting TampaSpin:


Why is that look crazy? There is a weakness between the Bermuda and the Azores high


becuz of the steering flow, its location and movement in relation to the GFS which it has not followed.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
Quoting Drakoen:
Most of the convection is west of where the convergence axes meet (where a surface low would form). The system is being affect by 10-20 knots of windshear and if it does again latitude it will run into 20-30knots of wind shear.


Looks that way.

Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15971
Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


I have no problems with it.


its working again, guess its just being fussy for me lol

thanks again
Quoting BurnedAfterPosting:
lol not working again nrti, seems to me it has more to do with the site


I have no problems with it.
Member Since: September 23, 2005 Posts: 16 Comments: 11707
1069. Drakoen
Quoting BiloxiIsle:
Anyone who wants tropical systems to track, just look at the Pacfic. Plenty there to track!


I'm tracking them! It's a site to see!
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 31660
1068. Drakoen
Most of the convection is west of where the convergence axes meet (where a surface low would form). The system is being affect by 10-20 knots of windshear and if it doesn't gain latitude it will run into 20-30knots of wind shear.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 31660
Quoting Weather456:


yeah...w to wnw


Why is that look crazy? There is a weakness between the Bermuda and the Azores high
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Very impressive burst of convection right now even though the 8:05 stated that it had lessened...Gonna get some sleep (long day) but can't wait to see if it can hold on thougjh tommorow...That is one impressinve moisture field around right now,k in the course of 10 hours, which could help fight off the SAL we were discussing this am when the area of convection was quite a bit smaller.
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Anyone who wants tropical systems to track, just look at the Pacfic. Plenty there to track!
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1064. aquak9
Quoting KerryInNOLA:
We notice that the only discussions recently are about invests in the middle of the Pacific. This pattern will also continue. Good night all.We will have a prediction for South Fla. in a few days as that data is collated.


WE? is in the "royal" we?

Are "we" finally admitting publicly to having multiple personalities?

Is "We" like, the Borg??
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lol not working again nrti, seems to me it has more to do with the site
Quoting Drakoen:


I'm not being sarcastic lol. That convection is intense.


Okay sorry lol...just checking.

Anyways the 'disturbance' is looking pretty nice at the moment. Although, Im not really sure if this will be designated an invest by tomorrow due to a lack of interest with the NHC.


Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15971
Raising my eyebrow with that GFS track. Early days yet, but that seems a little aggressive with the northerly component considering its below 10 degrees and and still has a fairly decent high overhead
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Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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