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. IrishEmail author
  • Alison Sleath
  • Mary A. Cialone
  • Thomas R. Knutson
  • Robert E. Jensen


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.


Tropical Cyclone Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory Coastal Flooding Inundation Extent Flood Elevation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory


Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change


Interagency Performance Evaluation Taskforce


Mean sea level


Sea level rise


Sea-surface temperature


United States of America



This work was funded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Virginia Tech, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The authors wish to thank C. Dietrich and colleagues for making FigureGen freely available for graphical display of ADCIRC results.

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
    Email author
  • 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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