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World storm surge records

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


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

Hurricane

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

Quoting Weather456:
Our CATL waves remain pretty unchange, it really wants to become somthing.




Yep. If you look at visible you can clearly see some spinning. Convection is a bit weaker, but that is expected.
Quoting CybrTeddy:
10 named storms in a few weeks IS active in my opinion. The whole 2006 season in a few weeks. Im still saying 11 named.


In 2006 we had 7 named storms between now and September 30.

2009 is calling for 10 during that same period.
Quoting Cotillion:


For a start, more chance for a negative NAO for a start which means that there is less of a chance for recurvature on storm tracks.



Ugh Ouch.... That means a higher threat to the Carribean, GOM, Florida and the Carolinas
2004. IKE
Quoting Weather456:


In 2006 we had 7 named storms between now and September 30.

2009 is calling for 10 during that same period.


The season doesn't end Sept. 30th.
Quoting IKE:


The season doesn't end Sept. 30th.


2006 ended in early october. :)
2007. cg2916
Quoting Weather456:
I expected lower numbers, 10 is still pretty high for that time frame. Thats a storm every week, lol

More like a storm every 12 days.
Before


After
(TSR) now predicts

13 named storms
7 hurricanes
3 major hurricane

I had a question that got buried.

Could the ITCZ be masking the current organization of the C-Atl AOI? Mainly when looking at the Vort maps from CIMMS, making it look more linear than it really is.
2011. IKE
Quoting CybrTeddy:


2006 ended in early october. :)


This is 2009.

2004 had 14 storms in between August 1st and October 11th. (Around 10 weeks).

So, the pace would be a bit less than that - if the forecast holds up which... well, we've already gone through the inaccuracies of long-term estimations - at least.

Quoting StormW:
Quoting StormW:


Yes. Sep 1022mb, Oct 1018mb, the rest of the winter through Apr...1020mb. I know it's a long range thing, but if it holds true...well, you know the rest of the story.

Thanks! Ya...my throat got dry and made me sound just a little higher in pitch.




September/October would indicate a negative NAO...more risk for landfalling storms. And, overall, if the high weakens like that, there will be a likelyhood of less dust come the next season, less upwelling off the coast of Africa, energy build up in the Atlantic,
etc.


Thank you Storm
Here is a nice view of the African wave train , our AOI is moving out of the picture, but you can see a good shot of the next wave that will emerge. Maybe it is just me, but I do see circulation within the next wave as well.
2015. IKE
Quoting BenBIogger:
(TSR) now predicts

13 named storms
7 hurricanes
3 major hurricane



Who is TSR?
Quoting IKE:


The season doesn't end Sept. 30th.


I'm aware of that but I could recall alot saying here that season should close pretty early due to El Nino. I myself, I'm expecting about 1 between October 1 and the end.
The Blog is Having Issues... Whenever i refresh ... it says "No Entree's Posted
Quoting IKE:


Who is TSR?


Isn't it like Tropical Storm Risk, inc. But I do not know if I would believe BenBlogger
Quoting IKE:


Who is TSR?


Link
IKE..

TSR = Tropical Storm Risk ...

Its a british run site..
Quoting IKE:


Who is TSR?


Tropical Storm Risk.

link

The Doc tends to evaluate TSR along with Klotzbach/Gray's forecast, especially with the April ones.
Funny how TSR got roughly what I predicted way back in May on Ossqss' competition...
He is right.

TSR. They RAISED their numbers to 13.
2024. 10Speed
I think we'll be seeing significant changes in things starting to surface later on this week. The overall pattern we've experienced for quite a while now is starting to alter, the US jet is beginning to take up somewhat of a new look, etc. We're in a shift.
TSR was the most accurate forecast issued in 2004. When they issued their outlook on August 4 2004 they stated "The Atlantic has more to come" and predicted a 150% chance of landfalling US hurricane. Everyone else revised their numbers downwards.
Wow.. Look at the Epac... Maybe we will see more storms pop up from that line of thunderstorms
Quoting TheCaneWhisperer:
He is right.

TSR. They RAISED their numbers to 13.


Looks like they were pretty accurate in 2008 and 2007.
{{Gulp}}
tsi raisin their damage estimate it got to increase our fear factor it might be a bad one
2031. WxLogic
This is going to be an interesting 2009 year for late starters.
Quoting TheCaneWhisperer:
He is right.

TSR. They RAISED their numbers to 13.


They are also looking at the slightly warmer SST's now as opposed to their earlier forecast..
Quoting IKE:


Who is TSR?

Tropical Storm Risk, Inc.

Basically they help corporations judge risk based on TC impacts.
They stated that SSTs were the reason for raising thier numbers
Link

The Doc's blog on TSR/CSU/NOAA for the previous forecasts back in June.
Morning everyone, just stopped in to see the latest and wow epac is blazing atl looking calm except for that spin in e-atl mmmmm ithink we have a winner here for the first name, jmo.
Expect a Doctor Masters update in 25 Minutes
Quoting kmanhurricaneman:
Morning everyone, just stopped in to see the latest and wow epac is blazing atl looking calm except for that spin in e-atl mmmmm ithink we have a winner here for the first name, jmo.


You seriously need to look back a few posts.. :)
i have my laptop hooked to my 50" plasma and zoomed in on "awesome".
2041. Patrap
Quoting Chicklit:

Loop



The floater used for Air France
Quoting Chicklit:

Loop


if that's the latest sat picture then its not doing so hot..

the whole thing is very elongated, needs to tighten up. shear is dying down though too so this may be its chance to tighten up
Quoting CybrTeddy:


You seriously need to look back a few posts.. :)
ok so elighten me !!!
Quikscat Winds
Link
How cool is that? Looks like Quikscat caught it dead on.
2046. IKE
Quoting HurricaneSwirl:


if that's the latest sat picture then its not doing so hot..


It was doing better yesterday. Convection is decreasing.
Quoting kmanhurricaneman:
ok so elighten me !!!


TSR raised their numbers to 13..
they've been pretty accurate too with 2008 and 2007.
holy smackaroo!!!!
TSR's statistical forecast ONLY uses 2 variables - SSTs and Trade Winds in the Atlantic - as predictors

Therefore it excludes any influence from an El Nino in the Pacfic (outside of possible feedback into the SSTs and Trades)

This seems flawed as the only three seasons that were below normal since 1995 (1998, 2002, and 2006) all had El Nino's present.
It's not meridional, or zonal, and not flat on some level. Dude, it's tubular.
and... Truckin'
Quoting IKE:


It was doing better yesterday. Convection is decreasing.


yep. was. in my opinion, at least for right now, upper level winds just aren't that favorable. EDIT: okay, they're more favorable than i thought, but i cant think of a reason for its elongated appearance

over night it looks like it started to take on a circular shape but it went back to an elongated shape now.
...Go through life like a hurricane lamp...

(Another great British 70s' rock band.)
2055. IKE
Quoting OSUWXGUY:
TSR's statistical forecast ONLY uses 2 variables - SSTs and Trade Winds in the Atlantic - as predictors

Therefore it excludes any influence from an El Nino in the Pacfic (outside of possible feedback into the SSTs and Trades)

This seems flawed as the only three seasons that were below normal 1998, 2002, and 2006 all had El Nino's present.


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.
Quoting HurricaneSwirl:


yep. was. in my opinion, at least for right now, upper level winds just aren't that favorable.

over night it looks like it started to take on a circular shape but it went back to an elongated shape now.


???

Quoting Cotillion:
...Go through life like a hurricane lamp...

(Another great British 70s' rock band.)


I prefer "Rock You Like a Hurricane" by the Scorpions.....Lol
Coming up on our area, wonder if we'll see it swing out of the circle, which would help form storms..

If you want to explain the cause of the reduced convection, dont blame wind shear becuz it's more than favorable.
Quoting HurricaneSwirl:


yep. was. in my opinion, at least for right now, upper level winds just aren't that favorable. EDIT: okay, they're more favorable than i thought, but i cant think of a reason for its elongated appearance

over night it looks like it started to take on a circular shape but it went back to an elongated shape now.


Kind of like my old Chevy. It turned over a few times and tried to fire, then went pfffft.
It's a good look at it though we'll see if it comes back around.
Link
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.
Good Evening/Morning all.
2064. Buhdog
better than "winds of change" but hat may be what we are seeing
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.
2066. IKE
1415UTC visible...looking less impressive.

Losing it on IR.
The wave looked more organized earlier than now.
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.
2069. IKE
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.
Amazing how circular it is with almost no rotation.
What is causing it to get disorganized?
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

2073. Patrap
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
Quoting IKE:
1415UTC visible...looking less impressive.

Losing it on IR.


Isnt it Dmin out there... its Expected..
2075. IKE
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.
Pat,

Shear has dropped...
2078. IKE
Quoting sammywammybamy:


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


It's the opposite.
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?
Could a small rotation be hidden under the deepest convection on the wave in the CATL
It will likely go in and out of these phases, so no need to jump to conclusions

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).
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
2086. IKE
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.
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.

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.
2089. Patrap
We get psycology too here,fascinating..

LOL
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...
Quoting IKE:


It's the opposite.



not really its 3:15 pm where the wave is, so its just entering DMIN
2094. IKE
1445UTC...system is losing convection by the frame...

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
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.
Quoting IKE:


Props for hanging to your numbers.


Same to you. It's all a crapshoot anyways :-)
2098. IKE
NEW BLOG!
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!
2101. Patrap
QuikSCAT Storm Page

Current Storms (Aug 4 2009 )
Atlantic Ocean
No active storms at this time.
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?
Quoting Patrap:
We get psycology too here,fascinating..

LOL



The dreaded circles, lol.
Still think the Atl blob looks better than the newly declared 99W or 90W. Here's the better looking of the two, 99W..

Quoting TheCaneWhisperer:


What exactly does that chart depict?

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.


18Z GFS 12h

gfs 42 hours 1009 mb strongest (so far)
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
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..........
Has anyone noticed the GFS showing a tropical system hitting Hawaii next week?