Storm Surge Modeling, ADCIRC, Finite Element Method, Inundation, Katrina


The city of Pascagoula and its coastal areas along the United States Gulf Coast have experienced many catastrophic hurricanes and were devastated by high storm surges caused by Hurricane Katrina (August 23 to 30, 2005). The National Hurricane Center reported high water marks exceeding 6 meters near the port of Pascagoula with a near 10-meter high water mark recorded near the Hurricane Katrina landfall location in Waveland, MS. Although the Pascagoula River is located 105 km east of the landfall location of Hurricane Katrina, the area was devastated by storm surge-induced inundation because of its low elevation. Building on a preliminary finite element mesh for the Pascagoula River, the work presented herein is aimed at incorporating the marsh areas lying adjacent to the Lower Pascagoula and Escatawpa Rivers for the purpose of simulating the inland inundation which occurred during Hurricane Katrina. ADCIRC-2DDI (ADvanced CIRCulation Model for Shelves, Coasts and Estuaries, Two-Dimensional Depth Integrated) is employed as the hydrodynamic circulation code. The simulations performed in this study apply high-resolution winds and pressures over the 7-day period associated with Hurricane Katrina. The high resolution of the meteorological inputs to the problem coupled with the highly detailed description of the adjacent inundation areas will provide an appropriate modeling tool for studying storm surge dynamics within the Pascagoula River. All simulation results discussed herein are directed towards providing for a full accounting of the hydrodynamics within the Pascagoula River in support of ongoing flood/river forecasting efforts. In order to better understand the hydrodynamics within the Pascagoula River when driven by an extreme storm surge event, the following tasks were completed as a part of this study: 1) Develop an inlet-based floodplain DEM (Digital Elevation Model) for the Pascagoula River. The model employs topography up to the 1.5-meter contour extracted from the Southern Louisiana Gulf Coast Mesh (SL15 Mesh) developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). 2) Incorporate the inlet-based floodplain model into the Western North Atlantic Tidal (WNAT) model domain, which consists of the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, and the entire portion of the North Atlantic Ocean found west of the 60 degree West meridian, in order to more fully account for the storm surge dynamics occurring within the Pascagoula River. This large-scale modeling approach will utilize high-resolution wind and pressure fields associated with Hurricane Katrina, so that storm surge hydrographs (elevation variance) at the open-ocean boundary locations associated with the localized domain can be adequately obtained. 3) Understand the importance of the various meteorological forcings that are attributable to the storm surge dynamics that are setup within the Pascagoula River. Different implementations of the two model domains (large-scale, including the WNAT model domain; localized, with its focus concentrated solely on the Pascagoula River) will involve the application of tides, storm surge hydrographs and meteorological forcing (winds and pressures) in isolation (i.e., as the single forcing mechanism) and collectively (i.e., together in combination). The following conclusions are drawn from the research presented in this thesis: 1) Incorporating the marsh areas into the preliminary in-bank mesh provides for significant improvement in the astronomic tide simulation; 2) the large-scale modeling approach (i.e., the localized floodplain mesh incorporated into the WNAT model domain) is shown to be most adequate towards simulating storm surge dynamics within the Pascagoula River. Further, we demonstrate the utility of the large-scale model domain towards providing storm surge hydrographs for the open-ocean boundary of the localized domain. Only when the localized domain is forced with the storm surge hydrograph (generated by the large-scale model domain) does it most adequately capture the full behavior of the storm surge. Finally, we discover that while the floodplain description up to the 1.5-m contour greatly improves the model response by allowing for the overtopping of the river banks, a true recreation of the water levels caused by Hurricane Katrina will require a floodplain description up to the 5-m contour.


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Graduation Date



Hagen, Scott


Master of Science (M.S.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science


Civil and Environmental Engineering

Degree Program

Civil Engineering








Release Date

December 2008

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)