Storm surge pushing ocean water ashore during a hurricane
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of US Navy and National Weather Service
One of the most dangerous parts of a hurricane isnít the rain or the wind. Itís the flooding caused by storm surge.
As a hurricane or other tropical storm moves towards a coast, it can cause sea level to rise as much as 20 or 30 feet higher than normal. The sea level rise only lasts a short time, usually just a few hours, but it can cause a huge amount of damage. The rising water may totally submerge low-lying areas and towns along the coast. Huge ocean waves cause damage too, demolishing docks, houses, roads, and eroding beaches.
Most storm surge is caused when a stormís winds push ocean water towards the land. When the water is pushed into the shallow parts of the ocean, it piles up, flooding the coast. Some storm surge is caused by the low pressure of the storm too. When storm surge happens at high tide, there is even more flooding.
How much storm surge will a hurricane produce? Scientists use a computer model called SLOSH (Sea, Lake, and Overland Surges from Hurricanes) to try to predict how storm surge will affect a coast. Important factors that determine storm surge include the speed of winds in the storm, the distance that those winds travel over the ocean water, how the hurricane approaches the coast (whether it is a direct impact or at an angle) the shape of the coast and the shallow ocean bottom.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
The Fall 2009 issue of The Earth Scientist
, which includes articles on student research into building design for earthquakes and a classroom lab on the composition of the Earthís ancient atmosphere, is available in our online store
You might also be interested in:
What types of instructional experiences help K-8 students learn science with understanding? What do science educators teachers, teacher leaders, science specialists, professional development staff, curriculum designers, school administrators need to know to create and support such experiences?...more
Rain, wind, tornadoes, and storm surge related to hurricanes cause change to natural environments, damage to the human-built environment, and even loss of life. When a hurricane is over the ocean and far...more
You may have seen a weather map with a red L on it. This red L means there is a low pressure system over that area of the map. Just what does that mean? There are no exact measurements that would make...more
The hurricane season in the North Atlantic is particularly strong this year. And scientists predict that the storms will be getting stronger because of global warming. Follow the links below to find out...more
The Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea are often in the path of hurricanes. These violent storms are hazards for people living near the coast in this region because of the wind, the waves, and especially...more
Why do the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron and the Hurricane Research Division use different airplanes? Actually, they only use two main types. The top two airplanes in the graphic, the WC-130H Hercules...more
The official "Hurricane Hunters" are the Air Force Reserve's 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron. They fly through the eyes of hurricanes and record information. The information helps the National Hurricane...more
A cyclone is an area of low pressure with winds blowing counter-clockwise around it in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise around it in the Southern Hemisphere. A tropical cyclone is a cyclone which...more