What is hurricane storm surge, and why is it so dangerous?

Of all the dangers that hurricanes deliver, storm surge is the biggest threat to everyday living and house alongside the coastline. It can sweep properties off their foundations, flood riverside communities miles inland, and crack up dunes and levees that generally safeguard coastal spots in opposition to storms.

But what precisely is storm surge?

What storm surge seems to be like from shore

As a hurricane reaches the coast, it pushes a substantial quantity of ocean h2o ashore. This is what we contact storm surge.

This surge appears as a gradual increase in the water degree as the storm strategies. Relying on the dimensions and monitor of the hurricane, storm surge flooding can previous for many hrs. It then recedes soon after the storm passes.

Water stage heights for the duration of a hurricane can reach 20 toes or extra over typical sea amount. With powerful waves on top rated of it, a hurricane’s storm surge can result in catastrophic hurt.

What establishes how substantial a storm surge gets?

Storm surge begins above the open ocean. The solid winds of a hurricane thrust the ocean waters all over and bring about water to pile up less than the storm. The reduced air stress of the storm also plays a little purpose in lifting the h2o stage. The peak and extent of this pile of water rely on the strength and dimensions of the hurricane.

As this pile of drinking water moves toward the coastline, other components can alter its top and extent.


The depth of the sea flooring is one issue.

If a coastal region has a sea ground that gently slopes absent from the coastline, it’s more most likely to see a better storm surge than an place with a steeper fall-off. Mild slopes together the Louisiana and Texas coasts have contributed to some devastating storm surges. Hurricane Katrina’s surge in 2005 broke levees and flooded New Orleans. Hurricane Ike’s 15- to 17-foot storm surge and waves swept hundreds of homes off Texas’ Bolivar Peninsula in 2008. Both of those had been huge, highly effective storms that strike in vulnerable spots.

The shape of the coastline can also shape the surge. When a storm surge enters a bay or river, the geography of the land can act as a funnel, sending the drinking water even bigger.

Other variables that condition storm surge

Ocean tides – triggered by the gravity of the moon and sun – can also reinforce or weaken the effect of a storm surge. So, it’s important to know the timing of the local tides compared to the hurricane landfall.

At superior tide, the drinking water is now at an elevated height. If landfall happens at high tide, the storm surge will bring about even larger h2o concentrations and provide more drinking water additional inland. The Carolinas noticed these outcomes when Hurricane Isaias hit at near to higher tide on Aug. 3. Isaias brought a storm surge of about 4 feet at Myrtle Beach front, South Carolina, but the h2o degree was much more than 10 toes previously mentioned ordinary.

How a storm surge and substantial tide add up to coastal flooding.
The COMET Method/UCAR and National Climate Service

Sea amount rise is a further expanding concern that influences storm surge.

As drinking water warms, it expands, and that has little by little raised sea amount as world-wide temperatures have risen considering the fact that the start out of the industrial period. Freshwater from melting of ice sheets and glaciers also provides to sea degree rise. Alongside one another, they elevate the history ocean height. When a hurricane comes, the larger ocean implies storm surge can deliver drinking water additional inland, to a a lot more unsafe and prevalent result.

[Get our best science, health and technology stories. Sign up for Renewic’s science newsletter.]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *