RSMAS Student’s Tropical Cyclone Poster Recognized By AMS

Tropical cyclones are one of nature’s most destructive manifestations. Known as hurricanes in the Atlantic and typhoons in the Pacific, they operate as a heat engine, gaining energy from the warm ocean and converting it to extreme wind speeds.  Tropical cyclones can grow to have radius upwards of 500 km and travel thousands of km gaining strength. When these storms make landfall their devastation is counted in both the loss of

life and the devastation to property and infrastructure. Hurricane Sandy’s landfall alone killed over 70 people, while the financial burden is estimated will be as much as $50 billion, $20 billion coming from damages and $10 billion to $30 billion due to loss of business.

Understanding the dynamics of tropical cyclones is one of scientists’ most pressing challenges. Assembling intricate information about the mechanisms which drive them is a critical component of accurately predict their movement and intensity. By improving our forecasts we can be primed to deal with future landfalling storms.

Understanding the processes that govern the transfer of energy between the ocean and atmosphere during tropical storms is the essence of my research at RSMAS. My working group is a component of the ITOP (Impact of Typhoons on the Ocean in the Pacific) campaign, which is devoted to understanding the ocean’s response to typhoons in the Western Pacific. The research is a multinational collaboration employing both field observations and models from many research institutions.

My contribution to the campaign started during the 2010 Pacific typhoon season when a team of A.M.P. students and research staff, working with Drs. Hans Graber and Will Drennan, helped deploy two mooring pairs in the Philippine Sea. The moorings were anchored ~740 miles east of Southern Taiwan. Each pair consisted of an Air-Sea Interaction Spar (ASIS) tethered to a moored Extreme Air-Sea Interaction (EASI) buoy. The platforms were equipped to make multiple atmospheric and oceanographic measurements.

Environmental conditions were monitored and recorded for over three months, a period which included the passage of three typhoons and one tropical storm. Sustained wind speeds over 26m/s and significant wave heights exceeding 10m were experienced.

Looking at the data we can see how dynamic the environment becomes with the passage of these storms. Along with increased wind speeds and wave height, we witnessed ocean and air temperatures changing, transformation of the ocean mixed layer structure, increased sea spray, pressure dropping, relative humidity increasing, and changes in the wind and wave direction, amongst other phenomena. With further investigation we’ll also learn how these storms affect aerosol composition, momentum and heat fluxes, and the evolution of the wave field.

Making in situ measurements at sea in such harsh conditions is extremely challenging, very few groups are equipped to do so, making this a very unique and valuable dataset.  The potential to use this data to learn about how typhoon conditions affect the marine environment is effectively limitless. I am just one of a group of students and research staff who continue to investigate this data to uncover information about high wind speed boundary layer dynamics.

I was pleased to be recognized for my poster at the AMS conference on air-sea interaction, but I am one of many people who participated in the research. I was just lucky enough to be there to present some of our findings.

Henry Potter is a Ph.D. candidate in Applied Marine Physics at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science.

Former Director of National Hurricane Center, Bill Read, to Speak at RSMAS

Former Director of the National Hurricane Center, Bill Read, will be at the Rosenstiel School (RSMAS) this Thursday, June 14th, 2012 to reflect on his 5-year term in the position. Join others in the RSMAS auditorium at 6:00pm for some great stories and hurricane conversation. More details can be found here.

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RSMAS Science Highlights of 2011

RSMAS was a busy place for cutting-edge science this year. Here’s a look back at the top research studies that made headlines in 2011 and the latest science and education from Virginia Key and beyond.

Dr. Neil Hammerschlag’s study of one hammerhead shark’s lone journey to New Jersey made headlines in early 2011 as did Dr. Lisa Beal’s ongoing research on the Agulhas Current and its link to global change change.

Coral reefs made news this year, including from a newly published study by Dr. Diego Lirman that showed Florida’s reefs cannot endure a ‘cold snap’ and from a study of Papua New Guinea reefs by Dr. Chris Langdon that suggests ocean acidification may reduce reef diversity.


Before the year closed, Dr. Shimon Wdowinski presented a new study at the AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco that showed tropical cyclones could trigger earthquakes.

RSMAS scientists and student were part of many new and ongoing research expeditions. Researchers and students from RSMAS joined an international team on a six-month field campaign in the Indian Ocean, known as DYNAMO. They are studying how tropical weather brews over the region and moves eastward along the equator, with reverberating effects around the entire globe. Follow the ongoing work from the scientists.

Meanwhile, it was a busy end of the year for Lisa Beal and her research team who embarked on a month-long expedition to the waters off of South Africa to understand how one of the world’s strongest ocean currents – the Agulhas Current – is both affected by climate change and also has an effect on climate change.

On the academic side of RSMAS life, the Masters of Professional Science program was in full swing this year and the newly acquired Broad Key Research Station welcomed its first cohort of students to study the coral reef ecosystems of the Florida Keys. Finally, joint degrees in law and marine affairs was launched at UM to provide students with a unique educational opportunity to tackle environmental issues.

As 2011 comes to a close, RSMAS faculty, researchers and students are looking forward to another busy and exciting year in 2012 filled with new scientific discoveries and educational opportunities.

Tell us about your research plans for 2012.