Modeling extreme rainfall, winds, and surge from Hurricane Isabel (2003)

Ning Lin, James A. Smith, Gabriele Villarini, Timothy P. Marchok, Mary Lynn Baeck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


Landfalling tropical cyclones present major hazards for the eastern United States. Hurricane Isabel (September 2003) produced more than $3.3 billion in damages from wind, inland riverine flooding, and storm surge flooding, and resulted in 17 fatalities. Case study analyses of Hurricane Isabel are carried out to investigate multiple hazards from landfalling tropical cyclones. The analyses focus on storm evolution following landfall and center on simulations using the Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF). WRF simulations are coupled with the 2D, depth-averaged hydrodynamic Advanced Circulation Model (ADCIRC), to examine storm surge in the Chesapeake Bay. Analyses of heavy rainfall and flooding include an examination of the structure and evolution of extreme rainfall over land. Intercomparisons of simulated rainfall from WRF with Hydro-NEXRAD rainfall fields and observations from rain gauge networks are presented. A particular focus of these analyses is the evolving distribution of rainfall, relative to the center of circulation, as the storm moves over land. Similar analyses are carried out for the wind field of Hurricane Isabel as it moves over the mid-Atlantic region. Outer rainbands, which are not well captured in WRF simulations, played a major role in urban flooding and wind damage, especially for the Baltimore metropolitan region. Wind maxima in outer rainbands may also have played a role in storm surge flooding in the upper Chesapeake Bay.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1342-1361
Number of pages20
JournalWeather and Forecasting
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


  • Extreme events
  • Hurricanes
  • North America
  • Rainfall
  • Wind


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