Along the coast of the northeastern United States, strong winds blowing from the northeast are often associated with storms called northeasters, coastal storms that strongly influence weather. In addition to effects caused by wind stress, the sea floor is affected by bottom stress associated with these storms. Bottom stress caused by orbital velocities associated with surface waves integrated over the duration of a storm is a metric of storm strength at the sea floor. Near-bottom wave-orbital velocities calculated by using measurements of significant wave height and dominant wave period and the parametric spectral method described in Wiberg and Sherwood [Wiberg, P.L., Sherwood, C.R. Calculating wave-generated bottom orbital velocities from surface wave parameters. Computers in Geosciences, in press] compared well with observations in Massachusetts Bay. Integrated bottom-wave stress (called IWAVES), calculated at 30 m water depth, and a companion storm-strength metric, integrated surface wind stress at 10 m (called IWINDS), are used to provide an overview of the strength, frequency, and timing of large storms in Massachusetts Bay over a 17-year period from January 1990 through December 2006. These new metrics reflect both storm duration and intensity. Northeast storms were the major cause of large waves in Massachusetts Bay because of the long fetch to the east: of the strongest 10% of storms (n=38) ranked by IWAVES, 22 had vector-averaged wind stress from the northeast quadrant. The Blizzard of December 1992, the Perfect Storm of October 1991, and a December 2003 storm were the strongest three storms ranked by IWAVES and IWINDS, and all were northeasters. IWAVES integrated over the winter season (defined as October-May) ranged by about a factor of 11; the winters with the highest integrated IWAVES were 1992-1993 and 2004-2005 and the winter with the lowest integrated IWAVES was 2001-2002. May 2005 was the only month in the 17-year record that two of the nine strongest northeast storms ranked by IWINDS occurred in the same month or year; these were also the only storms of the nine strongest northeast storms to occur in the spring. ?? 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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Northeast storms ranked by wind stress and wave-generated bottom stress observed in Massachusetts Bay, 1990-2006