Reconstruction of Hurricane Katrina's wind fields for storm surge and wave hindcasting

Mark D. Powell, Shirley Murillo, Peter Dodge, Eric Uhlhorn, John Gamache, Vince Cardone, Andrew Cox, Sonia Otero, Nick Carrasco, Bachir Annane, Russell St Fleur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


As the most costly US natural disaster in history, Hurricane Katrina fostered the IPET forensic study to better understand the event. All available observations from several hundred space-, land-, sea-, and aircraft-based measurement platforms were gathered and processed to a common framework for height, exposure, and averaging time, to produce a series of wind field snapshots at 3 h intervals to depict the wind structure of Katrina when in the Gulf of Mexico. The stepped-frequency microwave radiometer was calibrated against GPS sondes to establish the upper range of the instrument and then used to determine the wind field in the storm's core region in concert with airborne Doppler radar winds adjusted to the surface from near the top of the PBL (500 m). The SFMR data were used to develop a method to estimate surface winds from 3 km level reconnaissance aircraft observations, taking into consideration the observed azimuthal variation of the reduction factor. The "SFMR method" was used to adjust reconnaissance flight-level measurements to the surface in the core region when SFMR and Doppler winds were not available. A variety of coastal and inland mesonet data were employed, including portable towers deployed by Texas Tech University, University of Louisiana at Monroe, and the Florida Coastal Monitoring Program, as well as fixed mesonet stations from Louisiana State Universities Marine Consortium, University of Southern Mississippi, and Agricultural Networks from Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, and the Coastal Estuarine Network of Alabama and Mississippi. Also included were land- (WSR-88D VAD and GBVTD, ASOS, Metar, LLWAS, HANDAR), space- (QuikScat, GOES cloud drift winds, WindSat), and marine- (GPS sondes, Buoys, C-MAN, ships) platforms. The wind fields serve as an analysis of record and were used to provide forcing for wave and storm surge models to produce hindcasts of water levels in the vicinity of flood control structures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)26-36
Number of pages11
JournalOcean Engineering
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010


  • Hurricane
  • Hurricane surface winds
  • Hurricane waves
  • Integrated kinetic energy
  • Katrina
  • Storm surge

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Ocean Engineering


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