Movie:Wave heights in Gulf of Mexico due to Rita

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Information Page: Wave heights in Gulf of Mexico due to Rita

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Wave height in the Gulf of Mexico due to Hurricane Rita

Key Attributes

Domain: coastal, marine
Keywords: significant wave height
Model name: SWAN
Name: Fei, Xing
Where: Gulf of Mexico, USA
When: 18th-29th of September 2005

Short Description

Grade level: Under graduate (13-16), Graduate / Professional

Statement: Significant Wave height in Gulf of Mexico during hurricane Rita

Abstract: Hurricane Rita was an tropical cyclone, which occurred in September 2005. It was a really intense event, with high sustained winds (upto 38 m/s) and waves in the Gulf of Mexico were observed to be over 12 m high. The hurricane made landfall in Texas on September 24th. This animation shows results of a Delft3D-SWAN simulation to study the effects of Hurricane Rita. The simulations were intended to model effect on the Wax Lake delta, as small delta in Atchafalaya Bay. Louisiana, USA. To simulate details in this small region a larger grid for the entire Gulf of Mexico had to be simulate to make sure the boundary conditions for the smaller-scale experiment were accurate. This method of nesting a detailed model experiment into a large scale modeling omain is commonly needed in coastal and estuarine modeling (and in weather modeling as well).

The Gulf of Mexico hydrodynamics model is driven by yet another set of large-scale modeling and observational data on tides and driven by winds. Tides are ingested at the at the ocean boundaries based on results from the TPXO 7.2 Global Inverse Tide Model ( The input for the wind field with a spatial resolution of 0.05° and a temporal resolution of 15 minutes, comes from the combination of NOAA Hurricane Research Division Wind Analysis System (H*WIND, Powell et al., 1998), and the Interactive Objective Kinematic Analysis (IOKA) kinematic wind analysis Cox et al., 1995). Lastly, bathymetry is derived from the Louisiana Virtual Coast Data Archive (, in which NOAA’s bathymetry sounding database, the Digital Nautical Charts database, and the 5-minute gridded elevations/bathymetry for the world (ETOPO5) database are combined. Here we show the SWAN model results for the large-scale modeling domain; it is roughly 800 by 700 km. You can see how Hurricane Rita approaches as an "eye" traveling through the Gulf of Mexico. The wave heights generated due to the storm are tremendously high! On September 24th 2005 hurricane Rita approaches the coast and wave heights break in the shallower water.




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