Climatic Change

, Volume 122, Issue 4, pp 635–649 | Cite as

Simulations of Hurricane Katrina (2005) under sea level and climate conditions for 1900

  • Jennifer L. Irish
  • Alison Sleath
  • Mary A. Cialone
  • Thomas R. Knutson
  • Robert E. Jensen
Article

Abstract

Global warming may result in substantial sea level rise and more intense hurricanes over the next century, leading to more severe coastal flooding. Here, observed climate and sea level trends over the last century (c. 1900s to 2000s) are used to provide insight regarding future coastal inundation trends. The actual impacts of Hurricane Katrina (2005) in New Orleans are compared with the impacts of a similar hypothetical hurricane occurring c. 1900. Estimated regional sea level rise since 1900 of 0.75 m, which contains a dominant land subsidence contribution (0.57 m), serves as a ‘prototype’ for future climate-change induced sea level rise in other regions. Landform conditions c. 1900 were estimated by changing frictional resistance based on expected additional wetlands at lower sea levels. Surge simulations suggest that flood elevations would have been 15 to 60 % lower c. 1900 than the conditions observed in 2005. This drastic change suggests that significantly more flood damage occurred in 2005 than would have occurred if sea level and climate conditions had been like those c. 1900. We further show that, in New Orleans, sea level rise dominates surge-induced flooding changes, not only by increasing mean sea level, but also by leading to decreased wetland area. Together, these effects enable larger surges. Projecting forward, future global sea level changes of the magnitude examined here are expected to lead to increased flooding in coastal regions, even if the storm climate is unchanged. Such flooding increases in densely populated areas would presumably lead to more widespread destruction.

Abbreviations

GFDL

Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory

IPCC

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

IPET

Interagency Performance Evaluation Taskforce

MSL

Mean sea level

SLR

Sea level rise

SST

Sea-surface temperature

USA

United States of America

Supplementary material

10584_2013_1011_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (5 mb)
ESM 1(PDF 5090 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht (outside the USA) 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jennifer L. Irish
    • 1
  • Alison Sleath
    • 2
  • Mary A. Cialone
    • 2
  • Thomas R. Knutson
    • 3
  • Robert E. Jensen
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA
  2. 2.U.S. Army Engineer Coastal and Hydraulics LaboratoryVicksburgUSA
  3. 3.Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric AdministrationPrincetonUSA

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