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Reconstructing Georgia’s Hurricane Record: A 260-year GIS Database of Coastal Impact
  • Brian Bossak, Georgia Southern University
  • Mark R. Welford, Georgia Southern University
  • E. J. Gibney
There is a clearly defined need for better characterization of the risk of hurricane landfalls along the Georgia coast. Complacency regarding hurricanes in coastal Georgia is rampant, particularly among the general public. Part of this complacency is due to the fact that during the most recent decades, direct landfalls on the Georgia coast have been rare. However, a cursory examination of historical hurricane records suggests that this pattern has not held throughout time; the 18th and early 19th centuries are rife with examples of hurricanes wreaking havoc in areas such as Savannah, Brunswick, and St. Marys. These storms are largely excluded from return period calculations for Georgia hurricanes, suggesting that such calculations may be artificially low due to a temporally-limited data set of Georgia hurricanes, which extends from 1851 forward. Moreover, there is a need to better resolve weaker storms in the historical record which, although less of a wind hazard than stronger storms, may still pose significant flooding/storm surge hazards to residents living along the coast. Therefore, the objectives of the proposed work are to: 1) expand the dataset of tropical cyclone impacts along the Georgia coastline back to 1750, 2) generate updated return period calculations for tropical cyclones along the coast that will improve and enhance the existing knowledge of severe coastal storms and aid in risk characterization of storm impacts along the state‟s coastal counties, and 3) prepare GIS-generated maps of these return period projections along the Georgia coast. Within these objectives, our specific goals are to: 1) Identify, from selected data sources, tropical cyclone impacts to Georgia‟s coastline between 1750 and 1850; 2) Develop a long-term dataset of Georgia tropical cyclones that extends from 1750-2010 by appending to NOAA‟s Atlantic Basin Hurricane Database -HURDAT; 3) Calculate return intervals for each category of tropical cyclone intensity based on the expanded dataset; 4) Generate maps in a GIS depicting the return period, by intensity, for every one of Georgia‟s coastal counties; and 5) Publish the results of this study in peer-reviewed journals. We have assembled a team of experienced climatologists, spatial scientists, and geographers with extensive experience in working with large datasets, including specific expertise on the geospatial analysis of hurricanes and tropical cyclones. In our project proposal, each of the primary goals are detailed, along with the specific personnel involved and the deliverables that we intend to produce at the end of this two-year proposal period. We include outreach ideas and stakeholders that we intend to target with our results. Moreover, we also include rationale as to why we believe that our proposed research is a better methodological approach to achieving the aforementioned goals than other competing methods.
Publication Date
Citation Information
Georgia Sea Grant, $129,664. Reconstructing Georgia’s Hurricane Record: A 260-year GIS Database of Coastal Impact. Bossak, Welford, and Gibney, E. 2012-2013.