4. What is a storm surge? How does it get formed? Discuss.
तूफानी लहर क्या है? यह कैसे बनता है? चर्चा करें।
A storm surge is a rise in sea level that occurs during tropical cyclones, intense storms also known as typhoons or hurricanes. The storms produce strong winds that push the water into shore, which can lead to flooding.
Formation of storm surge:
When a hurricane is in deep ocean waters, the circulating wind pushes the ocean surface to create a vertically circulating column of water, where the surge is barely visible. However, as the storm moves closer to the shore, the water which is being pushed downwards by the wind cannot move any lower, so the water forces itself from the sides towards land, causing a storm surge wave. Although low pressure also contributes to the surge, its influence is very small, i.e., around 5%.
Whenever a hurricane moves near coastal areas, storm surges are the biggest and most common threat to life and property. This phenomenon is commonly found in low-pressure systems, and the severity of the storm surge wave depends on the tides, shallowness of the water in the area, and the angle at which the water is to the hurricane.
The various causes and factors contributing formation and propagation which are
- Strength and Size of the Storm: During a hurricane, the water level rises to form storm surges, where the strength and speed of the winds are the highest. Usually, the largest surges occur in the direction of where the wind is blowing. Due to the rotation of the earth, the surge occurs towards the right side of the hurricane in the northern hemisphere, and towards the left side in the southern hemisphere. A larger storm will also cause a larger surge.
- Atmospheric Pressure: The force exerted by the atmospheric pressure is a smaller factor in the formation of a storm surge. The atmospheric pressure is the highest at the edges of the storm, and gradually reduces as it nears the center. Due to the low pressure, the water bulges outwards, starting off a high surge.
- Bottom Conditions Near Shore: Another minor factor determining the strength of a surge is whether the coastal slope is steep or shallow, and rough or smooth. A shallow and smooth ocean floor near the coast can dramatically enhance the speed and power of the storm surge, while a steep climb with rough obstructions can slow and sometimes even stop a storm surge. A wider shore will have a higher surge than a narrower shore.
- Distance from Storm Center to Shore: For a storm surge to achieve maximum potency, the distance between the eye of the storm and the shore should neither be too close nor too far. If the distance is less, the surge cannot gather enough velocity to gain power. However, if the storm is too far, the surge will lose its gathered energy by the time it reaches the shore.
- Tides: The gravitational force of the sun and moon cause low and high tides. If the storm surge occurs during a low tide, the intensity will be significantly reduced. However, a storm surge during high tide will cause a storm tide capable of heavy destruction.
- Sea Waves: When waves break onto the beach, they may collect into pools, eventually making it easier for the surge to overcome the friction of the beach, and move even further inland.
- Freshwater: Usually, before a storm reaches land, most coastal areas receive heavy rainfall, causing water levels to rise. This is especially true in areas that have a river delta, causing bigger and stronger storm surges.
- Shape and Angle of Coast to the Storm: A shore with a convex shape will have a lower surge as compared to a concave shore. Also, if the storm is moving parallel to the shore, it will cause lower and weaker storm surges as compared to a storm moving perpendicular to the coast.
The loss of life is minimal with sufficient precautions. There is usually some loss of life, when a Category 2 or stronger surge hits. Combined with the force of the hurricane itself, big storms can claim thousands of lives.
Additional information: Tsunami vs Storm surge vs Storm tide
A storm surge is not to be confused with a tsunami, because although both events can lead to the formation of huge, destructive waves of water, a tsunami can only be formed by an earthquake or other seismic activity. On the other hand, a storm surge is formed primarily due to the high velocity winds of a hurricane, and to a lesser extent, low-pressure conditions. It should also not be confused with a storm tide. When a storm surge and high tide combine their forces, it forms an even stronger surge, known as a storm tide.