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Sci Rep. 2012;2:1010. doi: 10.1038/srep01010. Epub 2012 Dec 20.

Observing storm surges from space: Hurricane Igor off Newfoundland.

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  • 1Biological and Physical Oceanography Section, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Centre, St. John's, NL, Canada. Guoqi.Han@dfo-mpo.gc.ca


Coastal communities are becoming increasingly more vulnerable to storm surges under a changing climate. Tide gauges can be used to monitor alongshore variations of a storm surge, but not cross-shelf features. In this study we combine Jason-2 satellite measurements with tide-gauge data to study the storm surge caused by Hurricane Igor off Newfoundland. Satellite observations reveal a storm surge of 1 m in the early morning of September 22, 2010 (UTC) after the passage of the storm, consistent with the tide-gauge measurements. The post-storm sea level variations at St. John's and Argentia are associated with free equatorward-propagating continental shelf waves (with a phase speed of ~10 m/s and a cross-shelf decaying scale of ~100 km). The study clearly shows the utility of satellite altimetry in observing and understanding storm surges, complementing tide-gauge observations for the analysis of storm surge characteristics and for the validation and improvement of storm surge models.

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