Rip Currents: Human Impact and Forecastibility

by James B. Lushine, Miami Natl Weather Service Forecast, Office, Coral Gables, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Coastal Zone '91


Annually, a large number of people in the United States drown in the surf zone. This study determines the number of surf drownings each year, mainly in Dade and Broward counties of southeast Florida, that are attributable to rip currents. Certain meteorological and oceanographic factors are examined to determine if and how they are related to rip currents. The study indicates that the number of rip current related drownings in Dade and Broward counties averaged nearly ten per year for the period 1979 through 1988. It is estimated that statewide 30 to 40 rip current drownings a year occur in Florida. Preliminary data from North Carolina and Alabama indicate a combined total of more than a dozen drownings per year. A good correlation is established between rip currents and the gradient wind and between tidal heights and rip currents. An objectively derived but experimental scale is formulated which categorizes the degree of danger from rip currents. An independent data set is used to test this scale.

Subject Headings: Undertow | Human and behavioral factors | Forecasting | Ocean currents | Tides | Meteorology | Oceanography | Surf zones | United States | Florida | North Carolina | Alabama

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