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Free Content Hindcasting of hurricane characteristics and observed storm damage on a fringing reef, Jamaica, West Indies

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Hurricane Allen is one of the most severe hurricanes on record and caused extensive damage throughout the Caribbean in early August 1980. Coral reefs along the north coast of Jamaica were devastated by the hurricane-induced waves. As in the case of most hurricanes, no wave measurements were made. We have computed the wind field and hindcast the deep water wave characteristics as the storm impacted the fringing reef at Discovery Bay on the north central coast of Jamaica. The deep water waves propagated into shallow water on the forereef and transformed as a result of shoaling and refraction. We found that significant wave height at a given time varied by a factor of 2.6 and that incident wave power for the duration of the storm varied by a factor of 7 along a 3 km section of the Discovery Bay forereef due to variations in local bathymetry. Maximum hindcast breakers reached a height of 11.5 m with a significant wave period of 10.5 s. Observations of the most intense reef damage coincided with areas on the eastern forereef experiencing the highest breakers. We speculate that the degree of reef damage is a function of how much time has elapsed since the previous storm rather than frequency of hurricanes at a locality.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: February 1, 1986

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  • The Journal of Marine Research publishes peer-reviewed research articles covering a broad array of topics in physical, biological and chemical oceanography. Articles that deal with processes, as well as those that report significant observations, are welcome. In the area of biology, studies involving coupling between ecological and physical processes are preferred over those that report systematics. Authors benefit from thorough reviews of their manuscripts, where an attempt is made to maximize clarity. The time between submission and publication is kept to a minimum; there is no page charge.
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