What happens to the Bay of Fundy?

CREDIT: Pixabay.com Berma1

You may have heard of Canada’s Bay of Fundy--perhaps even toured there to see the amazing high and low tides. One of the most popular areas to go there is Hopewell Rocks. Here is a shot of Hopewell Rocks at Low tide--notice the people walking along the dry shore.

CREDIT: Graham H on Pixabay.com

And here is the same area at high tide--which disappears pretty quickly! There are two low and two high tides each day! Those are the same rocks (look closely) and I would estimate the high tide that day went up about 25-30 feet!

CREDIT: ArtTower on Pixabay.com

Certainly you know on a map where the Bay of Fundy is without probably knowing it! I have circled in red the Bay of Fundy below (and included a close up). And obviously, the track for Hurricane Lee is headed right there. The Bay is even on the “dirty” side of the storm where the most storm surge will get pushed.

CREDIT: National Hurricane Center
CREDIT: National Hurricane Center

So if Hurricane Lee barrels into the Bay of Fundy what will happen? The wind speeds will certainly weaken as the storm moves over cooler water in the north Atlantic, but that won’t prevent the water already headed that way. We can actually look at a bit of history as a guide. The Saxby Gale of 1869 was a Cat2 105 mph hurricane on a very similar path as Hurricane Lee. Look at the track of THAT storm:

The storm weakened as it moved north but the Bay of Fundy was on the 'dirty' or most active side of the storm--the east side

The Saxby Gale is thought to have created a 6-7′ storm surge along with a perigean spring tide (this is when the sun is on one side of the earth and the moon is on the other creating the highest of tides due to gravitational pull). However, the tide at Burntcoat Head, Nova Scotia averages 55.8 feet but the Saxby Gale sent that tide to 70.9 feet! Burntcoat Head has the highest tides in the world. Here’s a map of the Bay of Fundy and location of Burntcoat Head is where I put the red dot.

CREDIT: Creative commons attribution see more here https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Canada_Nova_Scotia_location_map_2.svg

The bottom line is that whenever you funnel water into bays, inlets, canals and concave coasts it has nowhere to go but UP. I suspect that if LEE stays on this track that the Bay of Fundy will have a 6 to 15′ storm surge. The National Hurricane Center has not warned for that yet, only saying There is an increasing risk of wind, coastal flooding, and rain impacts from Lee in portions of New England and Atlantic Canada beginning on Friday and continuing through the weekend.

Last, and certainly not least, just WHY is that 1869 hurricane known as the Saxby Gale? Because Lieutenant Stephen Saxby, an astronomer and “astrological” forecaster first warned of this happening--higher than normal tides at the height of hurricane season. His methods--primarily where the moon was located at certain times of year--were dismissed by the Royal meteorologists of the time, but it just goes to show, doesn’t it? If any of you kids out there are looking for a book report subject, I highly recommend learning about Stephen Saxby! He was a lone wolf who stood by his convictions.

We’ll continue to watch and track LEE, but don’t be surprised to hear more about the impending threat to the Bay of Fundy. My thanks to the viewers who emailed me asking about this!


Email me with comments and ideas.

About the Author:

KPRC 2's chief meteorologist with four decades of experience forecasting Houston's weather.