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Wind shear stress measurements in a coastal marsh during Hurricane Andrew

June 30, 1995

Hurricane Andrew produced changes to the Louisiana wetlands not normally observed after lesser, more common storms. For example, the <25 m/s wind speeds generated by cold fronts and winter storms, and any accompanying storm surge, do not cause substantial, wide-spread alteration of marsh vegetation. During Hurricane Andrew, however, the wind, the wind-driven storm surge, or both produced severe, wide-spread wetland alteration, especially in areas that primarily consisted of densely vegetated floating mats. In a few hours, vegetated brackish marsh was severely torn and large areas were converted to open water, a process that takes decades when driven by geologic subsidence, human intervention, and lesser storms. During the passage of Hurricane Andrew, wind measurements were taken inside an impoundment within a brackish part of Louisiana's coastal wetlands system. At its closest point, the site lay 50 km to the right of the north-trending storm track, placing it in or near the zone of maximum wind (the eye wall). As the hurricane approached, the wind blew from the north; after it passed, the wind direction swung around to the southeast. Several hours after the eye passed, the southeasterly wind drove a 1.5-m storm surge through the area, causing the collapse of the meteorology tower. Wind shear stress calculations, based on data from two vertically stacked sensors, showed a direct correlation between wind shear stress and wind speed. The greatest increase in wind shear stress occurred when wind speed exceeded 20 m/s. Overall, wind shear stress increased more than three orders of magnitude — from approximately 0.01 N/m² at a wind speed of 6 m/s through 1 N/m² at 20 m/s to 18 N/m² at the maximum sustained speed of 43 m/s. Drag-coefficient calculations show that the open-ocean CD formulations, such as the popular WAMDI model, cannot be employed for wetland use because it overestimates CD for velocities less than approximately 20 m/s and underestimates it for higher velocities.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1995
Title Wind shear stress measurements in a coastal marsh during Hurricane Andrew
Authors J. R. Dingler, S.A. Hsu, A. Lee Foote
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Coastal Research
Index ID 70205368
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Wetlands Research Center