Climate Experts Explain Hurricane Impacts And Predictions

2015-06-25T19:28:20+00:00 June 25, 2015|
A GOES East image of Hurricane Sandy as she approaches the East Coast on October 29, 2012. (Credit: NOAA)

(Click to enlarge) A GOES East image of Hurricane Sandy as she approaches the East Coast on October 29, 2012. (Credit: NOAA)

“Many tropical cyclones and hurricanes change landscapes forever,” and can impact the future of cities stated Dr. Shuyi Chen, Professor of Meteorology and Physical Oceanography at the University of Miami.

Hurricanes impact the U.S. by causing tens of billions of dollars in damage and taking lives as explained in the briefing “Katrina to Sandy and Beyond: Next Generation Hurricane Prediction” hosted by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR).

Dr. Chen described the impacts of Hurricane Sandy, which cost $60 billion and 286 deaths, and Katrina, which cost $108 billion and resulted in 1,833 deaths (the largest Hurricane death toll in more than 60 years), as well as highlighted the need to protect vulnerable populations through improvements in shorter-term hurricane forecasts and longer-term assessments of hurricane risks.

The risks and impacts that occur due to hurricanes and other severe weather patterns include both direct and indirect effects that can destroy agriculture and result in billions of dollars in damage. Dr. Sytske Kimball, Professor of Meteorology at the University of South Alabama, explained hurricanes cause tornadoes and enhance rainfall, which can lead to flooding and landslides.

Dr. Chris Davis, Director of Mesoscale & Microscale Meteorology Laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), urged decision-makers to start thinking of hurricanes as global hazards and emphasized the need for global modeling capabilities in order to predict hurricanes, like Sandy. Hurricane tracking forecasts have improved over the years increasing the accuracy of forecasts from 2 days to 4 since 1998, which is a huge leap in terms of evacuation and impact preparation explained Dr. Davis.

Although many advances in climate modeling and communication have been made, many more still need to occur in order to prevent the loss of life and minimize damage. UCAR recommended better quantification of risk for current and future storms for use by decision-makers and more effective communication of hurricane warning, preparation, and planning messages, informed by social science and the use of a wide range of media to protect vulnerable populations.