Master of Science (MS)


Geography and Anthropology

Document Type



Hurricanes cause massive destruction of property and land through high wind speeds, high precipitation, and flooding from storm surge inundation. Hurricane Katrina produced nearly an 8.5 meter-high storm surge at Pass Christian, Mississippi. The envelope of high water from Hurricane Katrina covered a large area of the Gulf Coast including, but not limited to, the area from the Atchafalaya Bay in Louisiana to Mobile Bay in Alabama. This study assesses the relationship between hurricane characteristics (i.e., storm surge and maximum wind) and tree growth using coastal pine tree cores taken in Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (GBNERR). GBNERR, an area of coastal Mississippi, was inundated by hurricane storm surge 17 times in the past 50 years. Trees are cored along a transect running inland, perpendicular away from the shoreline. Correlation analyses, linear regression models, and superposed epoch analyses are performed to study the relationship. The largest storm surges on record are associated with smallest tree-ring widths used in this study. Large storm surges, as well as smaller storm surges, were correlated with decreases in tree growth. It is found that for every 1.0 m rise in storm surge, tree growth decreases by 0.044 mm two years later (p = 0.025). No tree growth relationships with hurricane wind were found to be significant. This information could prove useful for future ecological response studies, coastal geomorphological changes, and past storm surge reconstructions along the entire Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Seaboard.



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Committee Chair

Trepanier, Jill