A storm’s a-brewin’, but there’s one man in its way.
So, here’s the thing about hurricanes…
They’re hard to predict, and they keep getting stronger.
While we can’t stop hurricanes from forming, how we prepare for them may be in for a big change thanks to exciting new technology.
Last year, Florida’s University of Miami opened the world’s largest hurricane simulator with the power to create a controlled Category 5 storm over water. With a single 1,700 horsepower fan, the nearly 40,000-gallon seawater tank can face winds reaching 157 miles per hour.
The focus of the simulator is to study storm surge, the deadliest aspect of a hurricane.
Believe it or not, most hurricane-related deaths aren’t a result of the storm’s winds, but actually the water that gets pushed on shore as a result. That water is what’s called “storm surge,” and how it forms (and what we can do to protect our coasts from it) has remained somewhat of a mystery.
When combined with high storm tides, storm surge can add 20 feet of water to the shoreline, putting buildings and people in great danger.
During 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, more than 15,000 people lost their lives. It’s believed that the vast majority of these deaths were either directly or indirectly the result of storm surge.
Brian Haus, an ocean sciences professor in the school’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science heads up the simulator program — and he’s got big plans.
Haus hopes that in being able to answer questions about storm surge and landfall predictions, he can create a safer world.
“Over the last 20 years our track forecasts have been getting better and better. But the thing that hasn’t gotten any better over the past 20 years is hurricane intensity forecasts,” he said last year. “That is the thing that really scares forecasters because it makes it hard for them to do their job.”
His research is aimed at solving the question of intensity. If successful, his work will save untold lives.
June 1 marks the start of hurricane season. Here’s hoping the research being done by Haus helps us understand a bit more about these storms and save some lives.
To see the simulator in action, check out this video from CBS News.
Thumbnail photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.