HURRICANE WATCH 2018

Hurricane season begins tomorrow and forecasters already predict we’re in for a very bad year. With fresh memories of the devastation wrought by Irma, Harvey and Maria, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issues a new forecast that includes 10 to 16 named tropical storms.

Aired May 31, 2018. 

TRANSCRIPT

> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO METROFOCUS.

I'M RAFAEL PI RAMAN.

LAST YEAR'S HURRICANE SEASON WAS ONE OF THE MOST CATASTROPHIC ON RECORD.

THOUSANDS OF LIVES WERE CLAIMED AS HURRICANES IRMA HARVEY AND MARIA SWEPT OVER THE UNITED STATES AND THE CARIBBEAN.

IN PUERTO RICO MANY OF THE ISLANDS'S RESIDENTS ARE STILL WITHOUT POWER AND THE DEATH TOLL ESTIMATES THERE CONTINUE TO RISE NINE MONTHS AFTER MARIA MADE LANDFALL.

WHAT'S IN STORE FOR 2018 IN ACCORDING TO SCIENTISTS . NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION OR NOAA MORE DESTRUCTION IS INEVITABLE.

THE FORECAST MODELS PREDICT THE UPCOMING SEASON WILL BE QUOTE NEAR TO ABOVE NORMAL IN NUMBER AND INTENSITY OF THE STORMS WE CAN EXPECT.

AND JOINING US NOW TO DISCUSS WHAT WHAT'S LIKELY TO COME TOURING THE HURRICANE SEASON AMONG OTHER THINGS IS RADLEY HORTON, AN ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY AT LAMENT DOURTY EARTH OBSERVATORY WHO SPECIALIZES IN CLIMATE RESEARCH WELCOME BACK TO THE PROGRAM.

GREAT TO BE BACK.

PROFESSOR LET'S START WITH THE NOAA REPORT.

HOW DOES NOAA GO ABOUT MAKING THE MODEL AND IF YOU CAN EE A LITTLE BIT ON WHAT ITS PREDICTING FOR THIS SEASON.

SURE.

THERE ARE A LOT OF FACTORS THAT GO INTO THESE PROJECTIONS FOR INTENSITY OF HURRICANES.

SOME OF THE THINGS THAT NOAA IS LOOKING AT ARE THE TEMPERATURES OF THE UPPER OCEAN.

WE WE HAVE WARMER THAN AVERAGE TEMPERATURES THAT GIVES YOU MORE FUEL, MORE POTENTIAL FOR STRONGER THAN NORMAL STORMS.

THEY'RE ALSO LOOKING AT EL NINO, A PHENOMENON EVERY TWO TO SUBPOENA SEVEN YEARS A OCEAN ATMOSPHERE INTERACTION CENTERED OVER THE PACIFIC BUT HAS IMPACTS OVER THE ATLANTIC.

IT IMPACTS WIND SHEER WHICH CAN CUT APART HURRICANES AND HOW STRONG THE SURFACE WINDS ARE THAT MOVE A HURRICANE.

THE BOTTOM LINE IS WHEN YOU HAVE A STRONG EL NINO EVENT YOU HAVE FEWER HYSTERICS IN THE TLANIC BASIN.

PUTTING IT TOGETHER THESE AND OTHER FACTORS NOAA ISSUED A FORECAST FOR SLIGHTLY ABOVE NORMAL HURRICANE SEASON.

THAT MEANS THE TOTAL NUMBER OF STORMS, THE NUMBER OF INTENSE STORMS PROJECTED TO BE A LITTLE BIT ABOVE NORMAL.

BUT I THINK REALLY THE TAKE-HOME MESSAGE IS THAT WE ALL NEED TO BE PREPARED NO MATTER THE FORECAST IS FOR A PARTICULAR YEAR.

YEAH.

BUT A LITTLE BIT ABOVE NORMAL DOESN'T MEAN IT'S ANYWHERE LIKE LAST YEAR?

IS THAT MORE OR LESS RIGHT?

THAT'S ABSOLUTELY RIGHT.

THIS IS WHAT IT COMES DOWN TO.

AS WE SAW LAST YEAR A FEW INCREDIBLY POWERFUL STORMS THAT HAPPENED TO MAKE LANDFALL IN REALLY VULNERABLE PLACES LEAD TO CATASTROPHIC IMPACTS, RIGHT, AS YOU MENTIONED, $300 BILLION IN DAMAGES.

THOUSANDS OF LIVES LOST FROM THREE STORMS.

BASICALLY IT COMES DOWN TO WILL THERE BE IN ANY ONE LOCATION A DIRECT HIT OR NEAR DIRECT HIT BY A VERY POWERFUL HURRICANE?

CAPTURING 3, 4, 5, THAT REMAINS EXTREMELY DIFFICULT TO PREDICT EVEN AS BASINWIDE WE CAN SAY THERE IS LIKELY TO BE ABOVE OR BELOW NORMAL NUMBERS.

NOAA OR ANYONE CAN PREDICT JUST SO FAR.

YEAH.

THE QUESTION MARKS WILL ALWAYS BE THERE.

AND THE CRITICAL DISTINCTION IS WE'RE TALKING MONTHS IN ADVANCE HERE.

AS WE HAVE AN ACTUAL STORM FORM AND LOOKING AT THE SORT OF WEEKLY ON TEN-DAY FORECAST OR FOR WHERE THE STORM MAY GO THE UNCERTAINTITIES ARE BIG BUT THEY HAVE IMPROVED OVER TIME SFL FROM THIS MODEL FROM WHAT YOU KNOW FROM OTHER MODELS AND YOUR OWN WORK, WHAT EEJ REGIONS ARE LIKELY TO GET HIT?

IS THIS REGION, THE TRISTATE AREA CC TO GET HIT THIS HURRICANE SEASON?

IN ANY PARTICULAR YEAR WE'RE RELATIVELY UNLIKELY TO GET HIT BY A HURRICANE IN THE NORTHEAST.

BUT OF COURSE AS WE SAW WITH SANDY, AS WE SAW WITH IRENE' CAN'T PLAN FOR THE PROBABILITIES.

WE HAVE TO PREPARE FOR THE POSSIBILITY.

CERTAINLY FIRST AND FOREMOST ATTENTION SHOULD BE ON THE AREAS THAT ARE STILL RECOVERING THAT STILL HAVEN'T RECOVERED FROM THE EVENTS LAST YEAR.

MANY OF THOSE PARTS OF THE CARIBBEAN ARE IN THAT SORT OF HURRICANE ALLEY TO BEGIN WITH, MORE LIKELY TO GET HIT IN A BASELINE CIRCUMSTANCE AND CERTAINLY MORE VULNERABLE IF THEY HAVEN'T RECOVERED.

ELSEWHERE SOME OF THE AREAS IN THE ATLANTIC THAT GET MORE IMPACT, FLORIDA, GULF OF MEXICO BUT WE'VE SEEN THEM EXTEND UP TO CANADA.

PROFESSOR, CAN WE SAY WITH A CERTAIN DEGREE OF CERTAINTY THAT THERE IS A CONNECTION BETWEEN CLAIMANT CHANGE AND THE HURRICANES THAT HAVE BEEN HITTING US SINCE THE LAST FEW YEARS?

THERE ARE SOME CLEAR AIR-TIGHT CONNECTIONS BETWEEN HURRICANES AND CLIMATE CHANGE.

THERE ARE ALSO SOME AREAS THAT MORE SPECULATIVE WE DON'T KNOW A LOT STARTING FROM WHAT WE HAVE A LOT OF CONFIDENCE IN, SEA LEVEL HAS RISEN DUE TO GREENHOUSE GAS INCREASES IN THE LAST CENTURY.

IN THE NEW YORK REGION WE'VE HAD A FOOT OF SEA LEVEL RISE OVER THE PAST 100 YEARS.

AS A RESULT WHEN ANY STORM OR HURRICANE ARRIVES IT'S ARRIVING AND MEETING A HIGHER BASELINE OF WATER.

THAT MUCH EASIER TO GET FLOODING.

WHEN AN EVENT HAPPENS YOU SEE MORE FLOODING.

IN TERMS OF THE ACTUAL STORMS, WE FEEL VERY CONFIDENT THAT THE AMOUNT OF RAINFALL IS GOING TO INCREASE AS THE ATMOSPHERE WARMS.

WARMER ATMOSPHERE CAN HOLD MORE MOISTURE.

THE ACTUAL WINDS OF THE STORMS THEMSELVES AND THE NUMBER OF STORMS, BALANCE OF EVIDENCE SUGGESTS THAT THE CATEGORY 3, 4, 5, MAJOR HURRICANES PROBABLY WILL BECOME MORE FREQUENT IN THE FUTURE.

WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN TO THE TOTAL NUMBER OF STORMS, SOMEWHAT UNCERTAIN.

IN THE MINUTE WE HAVE LEFT, HAVE WE LEARNED, ESPECIALLY SINCE SANDY, HOW TO COPE WITH THESE EVENTS HERE IN THE CITY?

WE HAVE LEARNED A LOT IN NEW YORK CITY.

I THINK UNDENIABLY.

BUT ALREADY AFTER FIVE YEARS YOU HAVE A RISK -- IT'S HUMAN NATURE -- GOVERNMENT CYCLES -- IT'S HARD TO CONTINUE TO REMEMBER ALL WE LEARNED ABOUT VULNERABILITY DURING SANDY.

THERE IS A DANGER I THINK INEVITABLY WITH THE PASSAGE OF TIME WE FORGET JUST WHAT IT DID AND WE FORGET HOW WITH HIGHER SEA LEVELS VULNERABILITIES GO UP EVEN THOUGH WE MADE IMPORTANT STEPS TO REMOVE SOME PEOPLE FROM HARM'S WAY AND TO BUILD SOME ADDITIONAL PROTECTIVE AREAS.

IF WE SEE THE WORST SEA LEVEL RISE PROJECTIONS WE FACE RICKS A LOT GREAT ARE THAN ANYTHING WE'RE PREPARED FOR.

A MEDIUM LEVEL SEA LEVEL RISE PROJECTION OF SAY TWO AND A HALF FEET BY LATER THIS CENTURY COULD TURN THE HIGH WATER LEVEL THAT CURRENT HAPPENS ONE EVERY 100 YEARS ROUGHLY THE SANDY LEVEL WATER LEVEL INTO SOMETHING EVERY 20 YEARS EVEN IF THE STORMS DON'T RAISE JUST RAISING THE BASELINE.

PROFESSOR, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

THANK YOU.

A IMPORTANT IMPORTANT ISSUE.

THANK YOU.

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