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EarthWord – Storm Tide

March 14, 2016

Storm tides is the combination of storm surge, which is water that has been pushed by a storm, with the regularly occurring tides.

EarthWords is an on-going series in which we shed some light on the complicated, often difficult-to-pronounce language of science. Think of us as your terminology tour-guides, and meet us back here every week for a new word!

Hurricane Ike storm surge: Sept. 2008
Hurricane Ike storm surge: Sept. 2008 (Photo: NOAA)


  • Storm tides is the combination of storm surge, which is water that has been pushed by a storm, with the regularly occurring tides.
  • For example, if a hurricane makes landfall while the tide is coming in, the total water that washes ashore is called the storm tide.

Use/Significance in the Earth Science Community:

  • Storm tides can often cause significant damage to coastal communities and ecosystems. The storm tides caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005 caused record-breaking billions of dollars of damage and significantly affected ecosystems like Long Island’s barrier islands and Louisiana’s coastal marshes.


  • USGS studies and monitors storm tide through its Surge, Wave, and Tide Hydrodynamics Network, also known as the USGS SWaTH Network. The network is made up of hundreds of sensors, including:
    • Permanently installed streamgages and tide gages
    • Rapidly deployable gages that can be set up either to replace damaged gages or expand coverage
    • Barometric pressure sensors, which record wave-height and can be installed along most permanent structures likely to survive the storm
  • USGS SWaTH Network data is collected during a storm and uploaded as quickly as possible to online databases and maps so emergency agencies and local emergency responders can make the best use of it.

Next EarthWord: Bet you can’t guess our next word on your first try. Not even your second try. After that, though, you’ll probably get it.

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