Origin of the Hurricane Ike Forerunner Surge

GRL2011A large, unpredicted, water level increase appeared along a substantial section of the western Louisiana and northern Texas (LATEX) coasts 12-24 hrs in advance of the landfall of Hurricane Ike (2008), with water levels in some areas reaching 3m above mean sea level. During this time the cyclonic wind field was largely shore parallel throughout the region. A similar early water level rise was reported for both the 1900 and the 1915 Galveston Hurricanes. The Ike forerunner anomaly occurred over a much larger area and prior to the primary coastal surge which was driven by onshore directed winds to the right of the storm track. We diagnose the forerunner surge as being generated by Ekman setup on the wide and shallow LATEX shelf. The longer forerunner time scale additionally served to increase water levels significantly in narrow-entranced coastal bays. The forerunner surge generated a freely propagating continental shelf wave with greater than 1.4m peak elevation that travelled coherently along the coast to Southern Texas, and was 300km in advance of the storm track at the time of landfall. This was, at some locations, the largest water level increase seen throughout the storm, and appears to be the largest freely-propagating shelf wave ever reported. Ekman setup-driven forerunners will be most significant on wide, shallow shelves subject to large wind fields, and need to be considered for planning and forecasting in these cases.

AB Kennedy, U Gravois, BC Zachry, JJ Westerink, ME Hope, JC Dietrich, MD Powell, AT Cox, RA Luettich Jr, RG Dean (2011). “Origin of the Hurricane Ike Forerunner Surge.Geophysical Research Letters, 38, L08608, doi:10.1029/2011GL047090.