Storm Surge Database




The Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines at Western Carolina University (WCU) is using relational tools (Microsoft Access) and a geographic information system (ArcGIS) to build a national storm surge database. The database is comprehensive, queriable and will provide one central location for coastal scientists and engineers to access storm surge and high water mark data. The national database currently contains over 5,800 storm surge data points from 42 hurricanes. Detailed geo-referenced storm characteristics from NOAA’s International Best Track Archive for Climate Stewardship are also part of the database, and include storm track, wind speed, central pressure and storm diameter. This allows the database to be queried to match storm characteristics with the surge generated. An important aspect of this project is distributing this storm surge information to the public. Both a user-friendly website and mobile application are being developed from the database for simple lay person access to storm surge data for all localities. The database and public access tools will assist in educating coastal residents, emergency planners, and developers about past storm surge flood levels. The database can also be used by scientists and engineers to verify storm surge models and examine the controls on storm surge variability.


Presentations on the Storm Surge Database


November 2010
National Geological Society of America Meeting
Denver, CO


March 2011
Southeastern Geological Society of America Meeting
Wilmington, NC

 Abstract  Poster

July 2011
Coastal Zone 2011
Chicago, IL

 Abstract  Poster

October 2011
National Geological Society of America Meeting
Minneapolis, MN

 Abstract  Poster



During a hurricane, storm surge is often the greatest factor contributing to loss of life and property along the coast. Therefore, predicting the height of storm surge for an approaching storm is vital for coastal communities.  Predicting a value for storm surge has proven to be extremely difficult, due to the numerous factors that can contribute to the overall rise in water level. One setback for these predictions is the lack of one central location to access past storm surge measurements.

Prior to this project, most water level data has been stored within storm specific reports and documents.Numerous different types of measurements are part of the database, including hurricane tracks, characteristics, and water level data.


Much of the hurricane track and characteristic data was imported directly from NOAA’s  IBTrACS  (International Best Track Archive for Climate Stewardship) Database. Several of the characteristics were calculated internally using existing data in combination with ArcGIS data. Some of the characteristics include:

Water Level Measurement Characteristics:
*Water Level Measurement Elevation           
*Type of Measurement (HWM, storm surge, etc)
*Vertical Datum
*Reported Quality

Storm Landfall Characteristics
*Time/Date                  -Imported directly from IBTrACS                                           
*City/State                   -Imported directly from IBTrACS      
*Winds                        -Imported directly from IBTrACS                                                 
*Pressure                     -Imported directly from IBTrACS      
*Track Straightness      -Calculated at PSDS
*Track Speed              -Calculated at PSDS
*Angle of Impact          -Calculated at PSDS

Example of Track Straightness Calculation:



Below: All 5800+ water mark and storm surge measurements currently in the database.




Below: The storm surge viewer web site. In this case, there was a simple search for Cape Hatteras, NC, and a radius of 50 miles. This brings up Google Maps, centered on that location and all of the data within that radius is represented by the filters below. The results map is showing all high water marks for Hurricane Bonnie (1998) within the radius, and the hurricane path (track points) for Bonnie.





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