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Circular 1306

Science and the Storms: the USGS Response to the Hurricanes of 2005

Edited by G.S. Farris, G.J. Smith, M.P. Crane, C.R. Demas, L.L. Robbins, and D.L. Lavoie

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This report is designed to give a view of the immediate response of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to four major hurricanes of 2005: Dennis, Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. Some of this response took place days after the hurricanes; other responses included fieldwork and analysis through the spring. While hurricane science continues within the USGS, this overview of work following these hurricanes reveals how a Department of the Interior bureau quickly brought together a diverse array of its scientists and technologies to assess and analyze many hurricane effects. Topics vary from flooding and water quality to landscape and ecosystem impacts, from geotechnical reconnaissance to analyzing the collapse of bridges and estimating the volume of debris. Thus, the purpose of this report is to inform the American people of the USGS science that is available and ongoing in regard to hurricanes. It is the hope that such science will help inform the decisions of those citizens and officials tasked with coastal restoration and planning for future hurricanes.

Chapter 1 is an essay establishing the need for science in building a resilient coast. The second chapter includes some hurricane facts that provide hurricane terminology, history, and maps of the four hurricanes’ paths. Chapters that follow give the scientific response of USGS to the storms. Both English and metric measurements are used in the articles in anticipation of both general and scientific audiences in the United States and elsewhere. Chapter 8 is a compilation of relevant ongoing and future hurricane work. The epilogue marks the 2-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. An index of authors follows the report to aid in finding articles that are cross-referenced within the report.

In addition to performing the science needed to understand the effects of hurricanes, USGS employees helped in the rescue of citizens by boat and through technology by “geoaddressing” 911 calls after Katrina and Rita so that other rescuers could find persons trapped in attics and porches. They also delivered food and water to residents stranded along the lower Mississippi River for several days. That work is reported in chapter 3 of this volume.

A great number of scientists contributed to this peer-reviewed report designed for a general audience. Because they work for USGS—an unbiased, multidisciplinary science organization that focuses on biology, geography, geology, geospatial information, and water—they are dedicated to the timely, relevant, and impartial study of the landscape and natural resources of the Nation, as well as natural hazards, like hurricanes, that threaten the Nation. To learn more about their work, visit the USGS Web site (

Version 1.0

Posted October 2007

Suggested citation:

Farris, G.S., Smith, G.J., Crane, M.P., Demas, C.R., Robbins, L.L., and Lavoie, D.L., eds., 2007, Science and the storms—the USGS response to the hurricanes of 2005: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1306, 283 p.


Front Matter PDF (1.15 MB)




Chapter 1. The Need for Science in Restoring Resilience to the Northern Gulf of Mexico

Restoring Resilience to the Gulf of Mexico Coast PDF (991 kB)

Chapter 2. The Storms of 2005

Cycles of Hurricane Landfalls on the Eastern United States Linked to Changes in Atlantic Sea-surface Temperatures PDF (767 kB)

The Major Hurricanes of 2005: a Few Facts PDF (2.1 MB)

Chapter 3. Rescue and Response

USGS Humanitarian and Geospatial Response for Search and Rescue After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita PDF (1 MB)

Using Geospatial Technology To Process 911 Calls After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita PDF (1 MB)

Geotechnical Reconnaissance of the Mississippi River Delta Flood-protection System After Hurricane Katrina PDF (2.9 MB)

Analysis of the Interstate 10 Twin Bridge’s Collapse During Hurricane Katrina PDF (3 MB)

Estimation of Post-Katrina Debris Volume: an Example from Coastal Mississippi PDF (930 kB)

Hurricane Katrina Flooding and Oil Slicks Mapped with Satellite Imagery PDF (1.1 MB)

Topography-based Analysis of Hurricane Katrina Inundation of New Orleans PDF (879 kB)

Temporal Analysis of Floodwater Volumes in New Orleans After Hurricane Katrina PDF (1.5 MB)

Chapter 4. How Technology Helps

USGS Rocky Mountain Geographic Science Center’s 2005 Hurricane Response and Recovery Activities PDF (4.4 MB)

Data Access and Dissemination for Emergency Response and Long-term Recovery Efforts Related to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita PDF (920 kB)

GIS for the Gulf: a Reference Database for Hurricane-affected Areas PDF (614 kB)

ASTER and USGS EROS Emergency Imaging for Hurricane Disasters PDF (1.2 MB)

Chapter 5. Landscape Changes

Aerial Rapid Assessment of Hurricane Damages to Northern Gulf Coastal Habitats PDF (2 MB)

Land Area Changes in Coastal Louisiana After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita PDF (5.1 MB)

Extreme Changes to Barrier Islands Along the Central Gulf of Mexico Coast During Hurricane Katrina PDF (1.1 MB)

Impacts of Hurricane Rita on the Beaches of Western Louisiana PDF (1 MB)

Chapter 6. Ecological Impacts

Impacts of Hurricane Katrina on Floodplain Forests of the Pearl River PDF 1.4 MB)

Broad-scale Response of Landbird Migration to the Immediate Effects of Hurricane Katrina PDF (943 kB)

Potential Consequences of Saltwater Intrusion Associated with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita PDF (2.2 MB)

Cheniere Forest as Stopover Habitat for Migrant Landbirds: Immediate Effects of Hurricane Rita PDF (1.7 MB)

Sediment Deposition from Hurricane Rita on Hackberry Beach Chenier in Southwestern Louisiana PDF (1.1 MB)

Wind Damage and Salinity Effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on Coastal Baldcypress Forests of Louisiana PDF (858 kB)

A Tale of Two Storms: Surges and Sediment Deposition from Hurricanes Andrew and Wilma in Florida’s Southwest Coast Mangrove Forests PDF (1.1 MB)

Predicting Mangrove Forest Recovery on the Southwest Coast of Florida Following the Impact of Hurricane Wilma, October 2005 PDF (871 kB)

Estuarine Response in Northeastern Florida Bay to Major Hurricanes in 2005 PDF (2 MB)

Research on the Impacts of Past and Future Hurricanes on the Endangered Florida Manatee PDF (851 kB)

Chapter 7. Aquatic Environments

Examining Offshore Sediment-hosted Contaminant Transport from Hurricane Katrina PDF (3.6 MB)

Selected Chemical Composition of Deposited Sediments in the Flooded Areas of New Orleans Following Hurricane Katrina PDF (884 kB)

Soil and Sediment Chemistry in the Mississippi River Delta Following Hurricane Katrina PDF (869 kB)

Effects of Hurricane Katrina’s Storm Surge on the Quality of Shallow Aquifers near the Northern Shoreline of Lake Pontchartrain, Southeastern Louisiana PDF (867 kB)

Water Quality of Lake Pontchartrain and Outlets to the Gulf of Mexico Following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita PDF (928 kB)

Effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on the Chemistry of Bottom Sediments in Lake Pontchartrain, La. PDF (940 kB)

Environmental Impact of Hurricane Katrina on Lake Pontchartrain PDF (1.2 MB)

Bacteriological Water Quality in and Around Lake Pontchartrain Following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita PDF (926 kB)

Characterization of Flood Sediments from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and Potential Implications for Human Health and the Environment PDF (3.8 MB)

Monitoring Hurricane Rita Inland Storm Surge PDF (1.5 MB)

Chapter 8. Science and the Storms: the Science Continues

Current and Future Science Plans for Restoring a Resilient Coast PDF (602 kB)

Back Matter PDF (466 kB)


Author Index


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