PAOC Spotlights

When The Wind Blows: Predicting How Hurricanes Change With Climate

Wed June 27th, 2018

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Three MIT graduate students studying atmospheric science recently participated in a NOVA outreach event to engage the public on hurricanes and climate change.

The 2017 hurricane season was the most expensive on record for the United States, inflicting a staggering $268 billion in damage. Areas of Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico are still rebuilding after hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria made landfall last summer. The occurrence of three devastating hurricanes in a single season highlights the importance of research on the relationship between climate change and the strength of hurricanes. Now that the 2018 hurricane season has begun, scientists are working to predict what's in store for this year and years to come as sea surface temperatures continue to rise.

In their recent CaféSci Boston talk filmed at the WGBH studios, Sydney Sroka, Tom Beucler, and Jonathan Lin -- graduate students studying various aspects of hurricane predictability and atmospheric dynamics, affiliated with the Program in Atmospheres, Oceans and Climate (PAOC) within the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS) -- described how hurricanes intensify, state-of-the-art technology of hurricane prediction and the way climate change is expected to influence hurricanes.

"NOVA’s Café Science program provides an opportunity for the community to meet with local scientists to discuss contemporary research in a casual cafe environment," explains Sroka, who Beucler credits as the mastermind behind their outreach activity. "Each event aims to encourage dialogue between specialists and a broad audience with a short presentation followed by a Q&A session". 

"When the Wind Blows" prompted discussions on several interesting topics including the differences between extra-tropical cyclones and tropical cyclones, the types of data that remote sensing missions collect and how landfall influences a hurricane’s dynamics.

"The outreach event was wonderfully successful," Sroka says. "We are most grateful to NOVA Outreach Coordinator Gina Varamo for coordinating and facilitating the event."