Southeastern Section - 60th Annual Meeting (23–25 March 2011)

Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM


YOUNG, Robert S. and MCDOWELL, Katie L., Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC 28723,

The Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines (PSDS) at Western Carolina University (WCU) is using relational tools and geographic information systems (GIS) to build a national storm surge database beginning with the state of North Carolina as a prototype. This project will provide one central location for coastal scientists and engineers to access storm surge and high water mark data (HWM). These data can then be used for model calibration and verification, as well as for examining the geomorphic and meteorologic controls on storm surge levels. This queriable database is being built in Microsoft Access and ArcGIS at WCU, but will ultimately be maintained and archived at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). Storm surge data are being obtained from multiple sources including federal agencies, state agencies, academic studies, and the private sector. We continue to seek additional data sources in an attempt to catalog all storm surge measurements for each state.

For the North Carolina prototype, over 1,000 storm surge and HWM data points have been processed using data from 15 hurricanes that have hit the eastern US within the past 56 years. Each storm surge or HWM data point contains attributes including elevation, latitude/longitude, county, type (e.g., debris, mud), quality and collector. Detailed, georeferenced storm characteristics from NOAA NCDC IBTrACS (International Best Track Archive for Climate Stewardship) are also part of the database, and include storm track, wind speed, central pressure, storm diameter, track straightness and storm impact angle. The most significant advantage to this single, digital storm surge repository is the ability to search and query thousands of data points from numerous sources and instantly view the results spatially in ArcGIS. One can search for only high quality data, or, for example a researcher could examine data from all storms with similar meteorology to examine the variability in storm surge values for that category of storm. We hope that this database will become the one-stop-shop for storm surge data in North Carolina, and eventually the entire US.