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 higher than normal. The sea level rise only lasts a short time, usually just a few hours, but it can cause lots of damage. Towns along the coast may be totally underwater. Huge ocean waves destroy docks, houses, roads, and erode beaches.
Most storm surge is caused when a stormís winds push ocean water towards the land. The water is pushed onto land as the storm moves towards the land. Some storm surge is caused by low pressure of the storm. When storm surge happens at high tide, there is even more flooding.
Scientists use a computer model to predict how much storm surge will happen during a storm. They look at the stormís winds, the path of the storm, the shape of the coast and the shallow ocean bottom to figure out how much storm surge may happen.
Last modified March 12, 2009 by Lisa Gardiner.
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:
How did life evolve on Earth? The answer to this question can help us understand our past and prepare for our future. Although evolution provides credible and reliable answers, polls show that many people turn away from science, seeking other explanations with which they are more comfortable....more
Have you ever 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? It means that that area has lower pressure then...more
Hurricanes are powerful and can cause lots of damage. They can change natural environments. They can also damage the places where people live, work and play. When a hurricane is over the ocean, wind and...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
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 part of the Air Force. They fly into hurricanes to get information. Scientists use this information to make forecasts. What information do they get and why is it important?...more
A tropical cyclone is a storm that forms in the tropics. A hurricane is one kind of tropical cyclone. In fact, it's the strongest tropical cyclone. Tropical cyclones are given names by how strong their...more
Different places in the world call tropical cyclones by different names. If you click on the image at left you will see which areas use "cyclone", which use "hurricane", and which use "typhoon" when refering...more