NOAA's National Hurricane Preparedness Week: May 27 - June 2, 2012
Hurricane Education - News
Sea Grant Programs nationwide are a NOAA partner helping prepare for 2012's Hurricane Season

NOAA Research previews the season, releases update on hurricane research, scientists, and other activities


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Update - August 9, 2012:
Changes from the pre-season outlook issued on May 24th: This updated outlook differs from the May outlook in that it calls for a higher likelihood of an above-normal season and a reduced chance for a below-normal season. Also, the predicted range of named storms has been shifted upward, and the range of hurricanes and major hurricanes has been narrowed.  More information at the NOAA's National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center Web Site.

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Washington, D.C., May 23, 2012 - The first hurricane of the 2012 season has been named. And although Alberto is ahead of schedule, he thankfully remained offshore and only raised concerns about possible rip current issues along the coasts of Georgia, South Carolina, and northeastern Florida.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Alberto was the earliest forming tropical storm in the Atlantic Basin since Ana in 2003 and the first time a tropical storm has formed before the official start of the hurricane season in both the Atlantic and East Pacific Basins. But, while NOAA forecasters predict additional strengthening for the second system, Bud, which is currently a Tropical Storm, they say it's most likely we'll see a near-normal 2012 Atlantic hurricane season.

In preparation for next week's National Preparedness Week, NOAA Research offers a peak at "What's New in Hurricane Research 2012." Sea Grant is a major partner in this effort, with its National Sea Grant Office providing resources outlined in a revised fact sheet, "Hazard Resilient Coastal Communities - Hurricane Research, Outreach and Technical Support" (pdf). This fact sheet includes information on related New York Sea Grant-funded research (see page 8 of this 12 page document).

For years now, the National Sea Grant College program has also educated beach goers with its "Break the Grip of the Rip" campaign. New York Sea Grant has helped to localize the helpful tips with its own resource site, "NOAA and Sea Grant Remind Beachgoers About Rip Currents."

But hurricane season brings about many more concerns other than rip currents at beaches. Late last summer, Hurricane Irene headed up the U.S. East Coast with the potential for considerable coastal flooding and damage, including the New York metro area.

“2-3 million people in the outer boroughs of southern Brooklyn and Queens are at risk for flooding due to storm surge, with little chance for escape,” says Stony Brook University (SBU) Oceanography professor and storm surge expert Malcolm Bowman.

Bowman, located at SBU’s School of Marine & Atmospheric Sciences, is also a member of The Stony Brook Storm Surge Research, which has been funded principally by New York Sea Grant (NYSG) since 2002 to work on storm surge science, coastal defense systems and policy issues related to regional protection of New York City and Long Island

According to the Group, the New York Metropolitan region is vulnerable to coastal flooding and large-scale damage to city infrastructure from hurricanes, like Irene, and nor'easters. Much of this region - an area of about 100 square miles - lies less than three meters above mean sea level. Within this area lies critical infrastructure such as hospitals, airports, railroad and subway station entrances, highways, water treatment outfalls and combined sewer outfalls at or near sea level.

The Group's work accurately showed the intensity and timing of Irene-related surges in the region. "The first surge came around dawn [on Sunday, August 28], driven by an unusually high tide and the storm. The biggest [New York] City surge, driven by high tide and the storm, hit around 1 p.m." But, SBU researcher Dr. Brian A. Colle clarifies, "All predictions that I saw in the time series had the maximum surge around 5 a.m. - 9 a.m., and the storm arrived around 10 a.m. Our Group did a good job with the forecasts, and the fact that we run an ensemble of forecasts really helped compared to other models out there."

Bowman, Colle and their associate investigators have also studied the possibility of protecting the metropolitan New York City area from powerful storms through the use of storm surge barriers. NYSG has a related news item from late Summer 2011 for more on storm surge barriers and the effects the New York metro area faced in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

New York Sea Grant (NYSG), a cooperative program of Cornell University and the State University of New York, is one of 32 university-based programs under the National Sea Grant College Program (NSGCP) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The NSGCP engages this network of the nation’s top universities in conducting scientific research, education, training and extension projects designed to foster science-based decisions about the use and conservation of our aquatic resources. Through its statewide network of integrated services, NYSG has been promoting coastal vitality, environmental sustainability, and citizen awareness about the State’s marine and Great Lakes resources since 1971.

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