Thursday, January 04, 2007
Comparing hurricane return levels using historical and geological records
Hurricane return levels estimated using historical and geological information are quantitatively compared for Lake Shelby, Alabama. The minimum return level of overwash events recorded in sediment cores is estimated using a modern analogue (Hurricane Ivan of 2004) to be 54 m/s (105 kt) for a return period of 318 years based on 11 events over 3500 years. The expected return level of rare hurricanes in the observed records (1851-2005) at this location and for this return period is estimated using a parametric statistical model and a maximum likelihood procedure to be 73 m/s (141 kt) with a lower bound on the 95% confidence interval of 64 m/s (124 kt). Results are not significantly different if data are taken from the shorter 1880-2005 period. Thus the estimated sensitivity of Lake Shelby to overwash events is consistent with the historical record given the model. In fact, assuming the past is similar to the present the sensitivity of the site to overwash events as estimated from the model is likely more accurately set at 64 m/s. Read more.