The Peak of Hurricane Season Has Arrived

Today, September 10th, marks the climatological peak of hurricane season. The waters are nice and warm with lots of tropical waves traveling off the coast of Africa. It is this time of year that people tend to think of when they hear the word “hurricane,” with the African Easterly Waves developing into classic Cape Verde-type hurricanes. It is not surprising that during the peak of hurricane season we have 2 named storms (Tropical Storm Leslie and Hurricane Michael) with a third system likely to form soon. In case you were wondering, it would be called Nadine if it reaches tropical storm strength.

With that in mind, let’s look at the season so far. We have had 13 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and 1 major hurricane. We had an early start to the season with 2 named storms before the official June 1st start. Tropical Storm Beryl, who made landfall in Jacksonville Beach, Florida made history as the strongest May storm on record with maximum sustained wind speeds of 70 mph (just below the 74 mph hurricane cut off) before landfall. A few weeks later there was Tropical Storm Debby who dumped large amounts of rain across Florida, especially on the west coast. Miami hasn’t been directly effected yet, but did get rainbands and weak tropical storm force winds as then Tropical Storm Isaac passed just below the Keys. Hurricane Isaac later went on to strengthen in the Gulf of Mexico and sat on top of Louisana, unleashing rain and winds for what seemed like forever. The major impact with Isaac was the flooding, as natural levees were topped and the Mississippi River overflowed into the surrounding areas. Ironically, this occurred around the 7th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and although New Orleans was fine this time, others were not so lucky. The first major hurricane was Hurricane Michael in the Atlantic which was a Category 3 for 6 hours.

Rain and flooding have been the main story so far this season, but there is still the second half to go. Let’s see what the rest of the season has to bring, and keep our fingers crossed. Hurricane season officially ends on November 30th.

Angela Colbert
Meteorology & Physical Oceanography
Graduate Student
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How Do Hurricanes Get Their Names?

Isaac, Kirk, and Lesile, oh my! As hurricane season is ramping up to its peak, all those storms swirling around in the Atlantic can get confusing. To help stop this confusion, we name tropical storms and hurricanes to more easily and clearly communicate information about them (we use numbers for tropical depressions). However, this was not always the case.

Back in the day, hurricanes were referred to by their position (latitude-longitude) or in some cultures, named after saints. This was not only hard to communicate, but confusing to the public about warnings. Thus after World War II, the navy began flying into the storms and referred to them by the international phonetic alphabet (Able, Baker, Charlie, Dog…and my personal favorite, Love) from 1950-1952. In 1953, it was decided that the storms would be named by women’s names. This was a common military practice when speaking about ships and planes, so it was carried on. The storm naming responsibility landed in the hands of the National Hurricane Center until 1977, when they relinquished naming rights to a regional naming committee with the World Meteorological Organization.

It wasn’t until 1979 that the current naming procedure was put into place. The committee decided to have 6 revolving lists of names that would repeat. These names include both male and female names that alternate and that are common in English, Spanish, or French speaking cultures. This means that the current list of storm names for the 2012 season will be repeated in 2018. The names are in alphabetic order with the “A” name used for the first storm of that year, even if it forms before the official start of hurricane season on June 1st or if the previous season did not use all the names on the list. The storm alphabet excludes the letters Q, U, X, Y, Z (how many names can you think of with those letters?). In the uniquely hyperactive seasons (let’s say 2005) when all the names in the storm alphabet are used, names are given following the Greek alphabet (Alpha, Beta, Gamma…).

The only exception for these names is when a storm has a significant enough impact that it would be inappropriate to continue using the name. That name is then retired. Some notable retired names are Andrew (1992) and Katrina (2005). When this happens, the committee meets to discuss and replace the name on the list.

My guess is that there will be no Isaac in 2018, so we will have a new “I” name to enter the list rotation. Any guesses on what the new name will be? Leave your guess in the comments.

Angela Colbert
Meteorology & Physical Oceanography
Graduate Student
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South Florida Remembers: 20 Years After Hurricane Andrew

For many of you who are new to Miami, you may not know much about a hurricane named Andrew that hit South Florida 20 years ago this Friday, August 24th. For those that were here, this was the storm that changed everything for the entire community. And for weather geeks around the world, Hurricane Andrew would become a turning point for scientific need and innovation, which in many ways has been answered.

On August 24, 1992, South Florida was shaken to its core when Category 5 Hurricane Andrew made landfall at around 5:00am. Andrew was only the third Category 5 to ever make landfall in the US in the past 100 years behind the 1935 Hurricane in the Florida Keys and 1969 Hurricane Camille in Louisiana. Andrew just 5 days earlier was nothing more than a weak tropical storm. However, by Sunday August 23rd, evacuations and hasty preparations were being made for “The Big One” to hit South Florida. Andrew was a small hurricane with its strongest winds in the eyewall only extending a few miles. Due to this, downtown Miami was mostly spared. Had Andrew made landfall just 15 miles north, the damage costs would have been more than doubled!

However, the city of Homestead was not so fortunate. The storm and its aftermath left the city completely devastated. Residents were not prepared for what they saw when daylight exposed Mother Nature’s power. The National Guard, Red Cross, and Salvation Army were on the scene immediately, to hand out emergency supplies and provisions. The US Army would arrive 10 days later to help keep the peace as survival instincts took over societal norms. With such complete destruction it is a remarkable testament to local news, county emergency management, and the National Hurricane Center that only 65 total deaths occurred during Andrew and its aftermath. The total damage was estimated to be $26.5 billion (1992USD) including damage in the Bahamas and Louisiana.

Twenty years later the memories for the survivors are still clear as day. For the South Florida community, Hurricane Andrew is one storm that will never be forgotten.

Do you have any stories of Hurricane Andrew you would like to share? Leave them in the comments below.

*To commemorate the 20th Anniversary of Hurricane Andrew, the Miami Science Museum is hosting a day of remembrance on August 25, 2012 from 11am until 5pm. Come explore the museum and be treated to the day’s special activities. For more information, please visit http://www.miamisci.org

Angela Colbert
Meteorology & Physical Oceanography
Graduate Student
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DC 101: Where Science and Policy Meet

AMS Summer Policy Colloquium 2012 participants on a visit to Capital Hill in Washington, DC. Photo courtesy of the AMS Policy Program.


I had the opportunity to attend the American Meteorological Society (AMS) Summer Policy Colloquium from June 3-12, 2012 in Washington, DC. This event, cosponsored by the American Geophysical Union, provides participants with a 10-day crash course in policy, the US government, and how science fits into both. We were treated to a variety of outstanding speakers throughout the week who provided us with wonderful insight into the role of science in policy and government, and why we, as scientists and citizens, should be actively involved in the process.

It was clear after the second day that I knew pretty much nothing about how the government works, regardless of living in the US my whole life. I never realized all the staff and expertise that reside on the hill on a wide variety of issues that affect society (from clean energy to the economy). After attending this colloquium, I have gained a new appreciation and understanding for the policy process (and why some things may take awhile to get done). One of the most important lessons that I learned is that policy is a process. It begins with an idea of how something can be improved and ends with the implementation of that idea. And unlike how many scientists tend to view problems, point A to B is not necessarily a straight line or a cause and effect solution. Thus, it is important to be involved with the policy (in big and small ways) and help people understand why they should care about all the wonderful science being done throughout the world. If you can do that, you can make a difference.

Another lesson that I learned was that you should love what you do and be passionate about it. I loved hearing all the enthusiasm that the speakers and participants had towards their work. I enjoyed the energy that surrounded people who loved what they do and cared about society. One of my favorite thoughts was that DC is an area full of people who were told when they were children that they can make a difference.

I was fortunate during my 10-days to meet not only the speakers, but also an amazing group of fellow participants. In many of them I see the same passion for making a difference that many of the speakers held, which gives me hope about the future of science and policy. Scientists have an important role in policy, and wonderful events, like this colloquium, help that role be reestablished and flourish into the future. Overall, I had a wonderful experience and highly recommend others to attend the AMS Summer Policy Colloquium in the future!

Angela Colbert
Meteorology & Physical Oceanography
Graduate Student
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Note: This blog is a reflection on my personal opinions and do not represent the views of the speakers, participants, AMS Policy Program, or the AGU.

RSMAS Storms into AMS Conference

This past week (April 16-20th) was the American Meteorological Society (AMS) 30th Conference on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology where experts in the field gathered to discuss their research. The conference is more specialized than the AMS Annual Meeting, providing a forum for better discussions and debate on a variety of hot research topics (such as the Madden-Julian Oscillation and tropical cyclogenesis). In addition, it is known for being one of the best for graduate students as all students are given the opportunity to give a talk (rather than a poster) if they wish. This week was no exception with excellent talks from many of our RSMAS Meteorology and Physical Oceanography graduate students.

I was fortunate enough to give a talk on my recent work with the impacts of climate change on tropical cyclone tracks, which focused primarily on the North Atlantic region. As with all conferences, you never know who will be in your audience. Dr. Jeff Masters (co-founder of Weather Underground) happened to be in the audience during my talk and discussed my work on his blog. I was very excited about all the positive feedback I received about my work and cannot wait for the next conference.

RSMAS Attendees included (but not limited to):
Dr. Chidong Zhang, Dr. Shuyi Chen, Dr. Nick Shay, Dr. Sharan Majumdar, Dr. Dave Nolan, Dr. Jodi Brewster, Dr. Eui-Seok Chung, Dr. Brandon Kerns, Dr. Benjamin Jaimes, Marcela Ulate, Will Komaromi, Ting-chi Wu, Gino Chen, Emily Riley, David Yeomans, Kieran Bhatia, Yumin Moon, Falko Judt, Atul Kapur, Chiaying Lee, Claire McCaskill, Mike McGauley, Matt Onderlinde, David Zermeno

Recent Alums included (but not limited to): Dr. Eric Rappin and Dr. Daniel Stern

Angela Colbert
Meteorology and Physical Oceanography
Graduate Student
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Rosenstiel Community Gathers at AMS 2012

About 30 Rosenstiel School faculty, graduate and undergraduate students attended the American Meteorological Society (AMS) Annual Meeting in New Orleans, LA between 21-26 January 2012. Among the activities were the AMS Student Conference and Career Fair, and a variety of conferences covering satellite meteorology, data assimilation, cloud physics, climate variability, tropical meteorology, and education. A dinner was held in the French Quarter for RSMAS faculty, students and alumni, and Professor Nick Shay was officially elected as an AMS Fellow.

MPO student Angela Colbert with Dr. Sharan Majumdar at AMS 2012 Conference

Dr. Sharan Majumdar
Associate Professor
Meteorology & Physical Oceanography
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