Hurricane Florence nears East Coast: U-M experts available
Hurricane Florence is predicted to make landfall near the Carolinas on Thursday. University of Michigan experts are available to discuss the storm and its potential impacts.
Perry Samson, professor of climate and space sciences and engineering, can discuss why flooding is the biggest concern for Hurricane Florence. The storm is expected to stagnate as it reaches shore, staying in place, dumping a lot of rain on the coastline.
“Soil moisture maps show that the ground doesn’t have a lot of capacity,” Samson said. “And stream flow is at 90 percent of capacity in inland North Carolina and Virginia. We have great potential for flooding.
“Much like Matthew a few years ago, the storm surge and the high winds are an issue, but it’s more the precipitation and the flooding that are going to be the greatest concern in this case. Tides will be high at noon and midnight, and that will be the worst time for storm surge.”
Samson describes the mechanisms at play in a video update to the MOOC he taught earlier this year.
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Seth Guikema, associate professor of industrial and operations engineering, and civil and environmental engineering,can discuss Hurricane Florence’s potential impacts on the power grid and infrastructure.
Guikema and colleagues have generated a power outage forecast that they will update regularly. As of 1 PM ET Sept. 11, they estimated that 2.4 million people would be without power. The forecast takes into account several different measures of wind speed and how the wind could affect trees, as well as the storm path and the population density by census tract.
“We expect to see a large number of outages in North Carolina with the most intense outages along the coast as expected,” he said. “However, we expect to see more scattered outages extending a considerable distance inland as well as into South Carolina and Virginia. Residents of the area should prepare for a prolonged period without power.”
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Sue Anne Bell, assistant professor of nursing, is particularly interested in the long-term health effects of disasters, in developing policy that protects and promotes health throughout the disaster management cycle, and in the relationship between community resilience, health disparities and disasters.
“Many often question if mandatory evacuations are really necessary, given the challenges of such a mass migration. Here is a simple answer: It is,” she said. “We need look no further than Hurricane Harvey in Texas, with hundreds requiring dangerous rescues, which in some cases had fatal results.
“While meteorological forecasts have greatly improved, accurate prediction models are still just that: predictions. No one can say where Hurricane Florence will actually land, what strength it will be upon landfall and what type of havoc it will actually wreak.”
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Jonathan Overpeck is dean of the School for Environment and Sustainability. He is a climate scientist who is an expert on paleoclimate, climate-vegetation interactions, climate and weather extremes, sea-level rise, climate change, impacts of climate change and options for dealing with climate change.
“Hurricane Florence has developed into yet another poster child for how human-driven climate change is supercharging tropical storms and their impacts,” he said. “Warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures serve to drive faster development of more intense storms.
“Our warming atmosphere allows the air and storms to hold more water, increasing the risk of more intense rainfall. These factors, plus the clear rise in sea level that is already significant and ongoing, means more likely wind damage and flooding than in the past.
“Continued burning of fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions will mean more risk from devastating tropical storms and hurricanes in the future.”
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Joe Árvai is director of U-M’s Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise and the Max McGraw Professor of Global Sustainable Enterprise at the School for Environment and Sustainability and the Ross School of Business.
Árvai is a member of the National Academy of Sciences Board on Environmental Change and Society, and chaired the NAS panel charged with informing the Fourth National Climate Assessment process. He also served six years on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board, which is tasked with providing scientific advice to the EPA administrator.
“We can say with confidence that climate change will exacerbate natural hazards brought on by extreme weather,” he said. “These hazards—likes floods, fires, typhoons and hurricanes—will both increase in frequency and severity.
“We also know from our research that people who believe in, and who are concerned about climate change, perceive greater risk from these hazards. However, we have also found that climate concern has not motivated urgent action to address the root causes of climate change or to harden society against climate hazards. The clear and present danger to Americans posed by climate change is being ignored.”
Richard Rood, professor of climate and space sciences and engineering, can discuss the storm path and how it’s likely to behave, as well as the intersections of weather and climate, and climate and society. He is a blogger at Weather Underground and teaches a class on climate change problem solving.
“Storms of this magnitude are rare this far north,” he said. “As compared to the past, more precipitation is likely, sea level is higher, and storm surge could be significantly higher. There is evidence that storms are more likely to stall and move slowly. The potential for peril is extraordinary at both the coast and inland.
“The models all suggest that as the storm approaches landfall it will slow down and the path become more uncertain. It’s like a basketball free throw that hits the rim—initially, the trajectory was direct and well defined, but after it hits the rim it rattles around,” he said. That makes the storm more dangerous as it stalls and rain drenches the region.”
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Chris Ruf, professor of climate and space sciences and engineering, and colleagues are monitoring Florence’s intensification in the CYGNSS Science Operations Center on U-M’s campus. NASA’s CYGNSS, or Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System, is a constellation of eight microsatellite observatories that track storm intensification in unprecedented detail.
Today, this process is not well understood and storms are expected to increase in intensity due to climate change. CYGNSS tracks wind speed data at tropical hurricane latitudes across the globe, taking 32 measurements per second.