Skip directly to content

Minimize RSR Award Detail

Research Spending & Results

Award Detail

Doing Business As Name:Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
  • Jeffrey Donnelly
  • (508) 289-2994
Award Date:02/28/2013
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 25,168
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 25,168
  • FY 2013=$25,168
Start Date:03/01/2013
End Date:02/28/2014
Transaction Type:Grant
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.050
Primary Program Source:040100 NSF RESEARCH & RELATED ACTIVIT
Award Title or Description:Collaborative Research: Examining the Climatology of Extreme Storms in the Northeast US and Putting Hurricane Sandy in Context
Federal Award ID Number:1313859
DUNS ID:001766682
Parent DUNS ID:001766682
Program:Marine Geology and Geophysics
Program Officer:
  • Candace Major
  • (703) 292-7597

Awardee Location

County:Woods Hole
Awardee Cong. District:09

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Street:266 Woods Hole Rd
City:Woods Hole
County:Woods Hole
Cong. District:09

Abstract at Time of Award

Hurricane Sandy was an extreme storm with a historic impact on the northeastern U.S. The proposed work will lead to a better understanding of this event by placing it in the context of the regional paleohurricane record. To compare Hurricane Sandy with past storm events, the project will conduct numerical surge and wave modeling, as well as textural analyses of Sandy-related and paleo-overwash deposits. This work will leverage previous surge modeling and paleo-overwash studies by the PIs in order to develop a more comprehensive paleohurricane record for the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut area. In addition, the project will compare Hurricane Sandy with modeled synthetic storm scenarios to evaluate the likelihood of Sandy-like events under current and future climate conditions. This research will help to determine the frequency and probability of severe storms in a heavily populated coastal region of the U.S. Two undergraduate students and two post-doctoral researchers will be involved. The PIs will continue ongoing engagement with managers and policy makers.

Project Outcomes Report


This Project Outcomes Report for the General Public is displayed verbatim as submitted by the Principal Investigator (PI) for this award. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this Report are those of the PI and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation; NSF has not approved or endorsed its content.

Damage from hurricanes has increased markedly over the last century, largely the result of increased coastal population and wealth. The recent impacts of Hurricane Sandy, a minimal category 1 storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale (sustained winds of ~80 mph), in New York and New Jersey highlight the vulnerability of the northeastern United States to tropical cyclone strikes. Despite the relatively low sustained wind speeds associated with Sandy, the large size, shore-perpendicular track, and slow movement of the storm resulted in a significant surge along the New Jersey and New York coastline (e.g., 2.75 m In New York City). Making matters worse, the peak in surge in New York City (NYC) and surrounds coincided with a high tide, resulting in total storm tide heights of more than 3 meters above mean sea level in NYC. Current estimates of the damage resulting from Hurricane Sandy exceed 71 billion USD and 285 lives were lost.

While direct hurricane strikes to NYC and New Jersey coast were rare in the 20th century (a cat 1 hurricane made landfall in southern NJ in 1903), hurricanes tracked slightly east and impacted Long Island and southern New England in 1938, 1944, 1954, 1960, 1976, 1985, and 1991. Looking back to the 19th and 18th centuries reveals that NYC and the New Jersey coast were struck by hurricanes in 1788, 1821 and 1893. The combination of documentary evidence and SLOSH modeling of these historic events indicates that the intensity of these storms were much greater than that of Hurricane Sandy, with the 1788 and 1821 storms likely making landfall at category 3 intensity. Given the increase in coastal population and development over the last two centuries, if storms like these were to occur today they would likely result in significantly more damage and loss of life than Hurricane Sandy.

Overwash-deposit based reconstructions of hurricane landfalls suggest that the northeastern US may have at times experienced intense hurricane strikes much more frequently than historically observed. In addition, the scale and character of some of these prehistoric overwash deposits suggests that some of these events may have been much more powerful than any the region has experienced historically. Thus, looking to assess the risk of hurricane landfalls in the region by relying on recent observed landfalls could potentially significantly underestimate the threat to the region, particularly given recent ocean warming that results in more energy available to hurricanes. Consequently in order to characterize future hurricane-related risks it is essential that we better understand past patterns of hurricane landfalls in the region and the underlying climatic forcing mechanisms that drive such changes.

Last Modified: 05/23/2014
Modified by: Jeffrey Donnelly

For specific questions or comments about this information including the NSF Project Outcomes Report, contact us.