Spatial Variation in Storm Surge in the Strait of Georgia

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Nancy K Soontiens, Susan Elizabeth Allen, Doug Latornell, Kate Le Souef and Idalia Machuca, University of British Columbia, Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, Vancouver, BC, Canada
The Strait of Georgia is a strongly stratified, deep body of water located between Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia and is connected to the Pacific Ocean via the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the south and Johnstone Strait to the north. It is on average 220 km in length and 30 km wide and its maximum depth is 420 m. During the winter months, coastal communities in the Strait of Georgia are at risk to flooding caused by storm surges, a natural hazard that occurs when a strong wind storm with low atmospheric pressure coincides with an unusually high tide. This study presents storm surge hindcasts of significant events between 2006 and 2009 using a numerical model of the Straits of Georgia, Juan de Fuca, Johnstone and Puget Sound (together the Salish Sea). The model is based on the Nucleus for European Modelling of the Ocean (NEMO) in a regional configuration. Realistic stratification is produced by including input from the surrounding rivers. A discussion on the sensitivity of modelled surge amplitude to open boundary conditions and atmospheric forcing will be presented. As barotropic models have previously shown, the surge entering the domain from the Pacific Ocean contributes most significantly. Surge amplitudes are found to be greater within the Strait of Georgia than those in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Local wind patterns cause spatial variations in the strength of the surge in the Strait of Georgia, generally leading to stronger surges on the Mainland side of the Strait.