URI Researchers Developing New Hurricane Forecast Model

By: Tim Studebaker

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NARRAGANSETT, R.I. – Damaging winds, coastal and inland flooding, and other hazards from hurricanes and other big storms can wreak havoc on our homes, businesses, infrastructure, and communications.

URI Professor of Oceanography Dr. Isaac Ginis says, “So what we are hoping to accomplish in this project is to provide people, and in particular decision makers with better tools that they can use in case of emergencies.”

Researchers at the URI Graduate School of Oceanography are working on a new computer hurricane forecast model designed specifically for our area.

Ginis says, “This is what the computer technology allows you to do is to use the laws of physics to envision what we might expect in New England.”

The model will show multiple storm hazards, like wind, and impacts, like wind damage, in one place at the same time.  It’s a combination not found in other models.

Ginis says, “This will be actually the first system built in the country that will combine two critical components that are important for the decision makers.”

It’s sort of a one stop shop for emergency managers.  They’ll be able to use the weather data to see how the storm should specifically affect their area, even down to when a particular road may flood or a communications tower might fail.

Ginis says, “So we’ll be putting these flags identifying where the critical thresholds are reached in real time.”

They’re testing the model’s performance using past storms like Carol and Bob, as well as a fictional storm they’re calling Hurricane Rhody.  They hope to make the model available for real world use in the next few years.

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