FIU Expert and Ph.D. Student Delve Into Upcoming Hurricane Season

Tamica Jean-Charles / Staff Writer

The upcoming hurricane season, which begins June 1, suggests high activity, producing storms capable of catastrophic damage worse than hurricanes of previous years, NOAA predicts.

With 70 percent confidence, a potential range of 13 to 19 named storms, 6 to ten to possibly evolve into hurricanes, and 3 to 6 of those to be major hurricanes. 

On average, a hurricane season can produce an average of 12 named storms, half of which become storms and major hurricanes. 

Dr. Hugh Willoughby, an earth and environment research professor, has worked with hurricanes for over half a century. He believes that despite the increase of surface sea temperatures, such powerful storms are “very much a factor of luck.”

“Storms have become more destructive [because] of global warming, more likely than not it [storms] are becoming more destructive, but we can’t say for sure,” said Willoughby. 

Hurricanes naturally form off the Northwest coast of Africa and or in the Atlantic ocean. Warm air will rise above warm waters, lowering the pressure around the surface, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Present air within the higher pressure areas will push into the lower areas becoming warm and moist. 

J. Aaron Hogan, a Ph.D. candidate for the Department of Biological Services references a one to two-degree deviance from the average sea surface temperatures in the Northwest region of Africa over the past couple of months. The temperatures are bound to get warmer as the season progresses, 

Hogan, held a discussion on earlier this month which included his background in tropical cyclones and hurricanes, specifically the ecological effects of powerful storms.

In his talk, Hogan touches on how most hurricane-prone areas can host what he calls a “perfect amount of circumstances” to generate a perfect storm. He references Typhoon Morakot and Haiyan, two storms that devastated Taiwan and the Philippines in 2009, and how both disasters were welcomed with high air and water temperatures.

“You can develop probabilities of areas that are going to get hit more or less… We really don’t know when, but it definitely will happen,” said Hogan. 

The novel coronavirus pandemic has decreased greenhouse gas emissions, which in turn can help lower air temperatures. Yet, Willoughby does not think it will have a direct impact on the strength of a potential hurricane. 

Willoughby says people should be more worried about the economic recovery of a possible storm. 

“A lot of people who are people are unemployed or underemployed, that’ll also be an impact. There’ll be one more than one bad thing happenings at a time, and it’ll be more than what most people can deal with,” said Willoughby. 

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