A Fiscally Based Scale for Tropical Cyclone Storm Surge

Categorization of storm surge with the Saffir–Simpson hurricane scale has been a useful means of communicating potential impacts for decades. However, storm surge was removed from this scale following Hurricane Katrina (2005), leaving no scale-based method for storm surge risk communication despite its significant impacts on life and property. This study seeks to create a new, theoretical storm surge scale based on fiscal damage for effective risk analysis.

Advanced Circulation model simulation output data of maximum water height and velocity were obtained for four storms: Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Gustav, Hurricane Ike, and Superstorm Sandy. Four countywide fiscal loss methods were then considered. The first three use National Centers for Environmental Information Storm Events Database (SED) property damages and Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) population, per capita personal income, or total income. The fourth uses National Flood Insurance Program total insured coverage and paid claims. Initial correlations indicated the statistical mode of storm surge data above the 90th percentile was most skillful; this metric was therefore chosen to represent countywide storm surge. Multiple linear regression assessed the most skillful combination of storm surge variables (height and velocity) and fiscal loss method (SED property damages and BEA population, i.e., loss per capita), and defined the proposed scale, named the Kuykendall scale. Comparison with the four storms’ actual losses shows skillful performance, notably a 20% skill increase over surge height-only approaches. The Kuykendall scale demonstrates promise for skillful future storm surge risk assessment in the analytical, academic, and operational domains.

Read full article . . .