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

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.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Peak flood elevation at the levee breach was estimated based on a reported 3.3 m, NAVD88 high water mark elevation at the 17th Street canal entrance (IPET 2008) less an estimated amount of 0.9 m to account for water level drop in the canal due to debris build up at the bridge at the canal entrance (IPET 2008). We neglected the difference between MSL2000s and NAVD88; this difference is 0.011 m, based on National Geodetic Survey (2013) CO-OPS/NGS Elevation Data. PID BJ1342. Note that the ADCIRC simulations herein do not include the impact of debris build up at the bridge, thus the relatively higher simulated value in Table 1 for the 17th Street canal.

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

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Acknowledgments

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.

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Correspondence to Jennifer L. Irish.

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Irish, J.L., Sleath, A., Cialone, M.A. et al. Simulations of Hurricane Katrina (2005) under sea level and climate conditions for 1900. Climatic Change 122, 635–649 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-013-1011-1

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Keywords

  • Tropical Cyclone
  • Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory
  • Coastal Flooding
  • Inundation Extent
  • Flood Elevation