Title page for ETD etd-04302010-144347

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Needham, Hal
Author's Email Address hneedh1@lsu.edu
URN etd-04302010-144347
Title Identifying Historic Storm Surges and Calculating Storm Surge Return Periods for the Gulf of Mexico Coast
Degree Master of Science (M.S.)
Department Geography & Anthropology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Keim, Barry Committee Chair
Brown, David Committee Member
Elsner, James Committee Member
  • storm surge
  • cyclones
  • tropical cyclones
  • surge
  • flooding
  • coastal
  • climatology
  • hurricanes
Date of Defense 2010-04-12
Availability restricted
Tropical cyclone-generated storm surges inflict natural disasters that are among the most catastrophic globally. The surges observed along the U.S. Gulf of Mexico are among the highest in the world, second only to the Bay of Bengal. Storm surge activity along the U.S. Gulf Coast remains poorly understood, however, in part, due to the absence of credible research that accurately depicts the maximum height and location of historic surge events. This research addresses this gap in the scientific literature by creating a database of storm surge observations along the Gulf Coast between the years 1880 to 2009. A total of 53 sources were utilized to construct this database, including 21 government documents, 16 books and online publications, and more than 3,000 pages of newspaper from 16 daily periodicals. The database identifies 193 surge events 1.22 meters, nine of which exceed five meters. Hurricane Katrina is the largest magnitude event in the dataset, at 8.47 meters. Spatial analysis reveals enhanced surge activity along the central and western Gulf Coast, as well as the Florida Keys. Time series analyses reveal surge frequencies and magnitudes generally coincide with Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation phases. This research also tested the correlation between surge activity and four climate teleconnections- the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), and solar activity. The SOI correlated the highest, followed by the NAO. Return periods associated with extreme surge levels were calculated using four quantile estimation methods- the Gumbel and Beta-P distribution methods, and the Huff-Angel and Southern Regional Climate Center (SRCC) linear regression methods. The SRCC method produced the line of best fit, estimating a 100-year basin-wide surge level of 8.1 meters, and a 2-year basin-wide return period of 2.75 meters.

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