Peek, K.M. and Young, R.S., 2013. Understanding the controls on storm surge through the building of a national storm surge database.
The Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines at Western Carolina University (WCU) is using relational tools (Microsoft Access) and a geographic information system (ArcGIS) to build a national storm surge database. The database is comprehensive, queriable, and will provide one central location for coastal scientists, engineers, and the general public to access storm surge and high water-mark data. The national database currently contains over 5800 storm surge data points from 42 hurricanes. Detailed geo-referenced storm characteristics from the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration's International Best Track Archive for Climate Stewardship are also part of the database and include storm track, wind speed, central pressure, and storm diameter. This allows the database to be queried to match storm characteristics with the surge generated. Analysis of the database was performed to examine the relationship between storm surge and a variety of storm characteristics. Results show no significant relationship between surge height and the widely used Saffir-Simpson scale, which is based solely on wind speed. In fact, of all the storm track characteristic data analyzed, only pressure at landfall had a significant relationship with surge height, indicating that multiple factors likely control surge heights during a storm. An important aspect of this project is distributing this storm surge information to the public. A user-friendly website and mobile application are being developed from the database for simple lay-person access to storm surge data for all localities. The database and public access tools will assist in educating coastal residents, emergency planners, and developers about past storm surge flood levels. The database can also be used by scientists and engineers to verify storm surge models and to examine the controls on storm surge variability.