Download Full Text (1.0 MB)

Document Type

Book Chapter


Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



K.G. Sellner

Book Title

Hurricane Isabel in Perspective : Proceedings of a conference


Chesapeake Research Consortium, Inc.


Edgewater, Maryland


An unstructured grid hydrodynamic model was used to study storm surge in the Chesapeake Bay during Hurricane Isabel. The model-simulated, storm-induced water level compared reasonably well with the measured data collected around the Bay. Calibrated water level was extracted from the model to further analyze the dynamics of the surge as it formed and propagated along the mainstem Chesapeake. Based on time-series analysis, formation of the surge due to the pumping of coastal waters (hereafter called the primary surge) into the Chesapeake was first identified at the Bay mouth with a peak height of 1.5 m above mean sea level (MSL). Once formed, it propagated northward with gradually diminishing amplitude at a speed of about 5 m⋅sec-1 until reaching Windmill Point, near the mouth of the Rappahannock River in Virginia. Beyond Windmill Point, the surge height increased monotonically toward the northern part of the Chesapeake Bay. Spatial analysis of surge height revealed that a second-stage surge was induced directly by the southerly wind following Hurricane Isabel’s passage inland. The persistent southerly wind induced a setup and a set-down in the upper and lower Chesapeake respectively, with the dividing line near Windmill Point where the water level stayed at approximately 0.5 m above MSL during the event. Space-time analysis provided further evidence that the abnormally high water in the upper Chesapeake Bay was the result of the primary surge wave as well as the second-stage surge caused by the southerly wind-induced setup.


Modeling, Storms, Climate

What has Been Learned About Storm Surge Dynamics from Hurricane Isabel Model Simulation?