36-foot storm surge; Tampa’s Perfect Storm


According to scientists, the class of rare cyclones known as “gray swans” are now going to more frequently appear in new areas across the globe over the next hundred years. This includes Florida, Australia, and the Persian Gulf.
Gray swans are tropical storms that, unfortunately, are impossible to predict based on historical records.

Princeton University professor engineering Ning Lin and Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor of atmospheric science, Kerry Emanuel head up the team who have analyzed the historical records to determine this. They have also used physics systems to look at the storms and the environmental conditions necessary and then attempted to create a computerized model to predict them.

Cyclones, of course, typically occur when strong winds combine with a drop in atmospheric pressure and rough sea activity that can surge the sea level.

Lin has expressed the hope that the study is able to predict more extreme storm patterns that they have not recorded throughout history and then to also conduct new methods for predicting the systematic weather changes that might encourage the development of these storms.

Indeed, the study overrides current predictive models which used to say that these extreme hurricanes with surges of 4.6 meters were likely to hit Tampa only once every 1,000 years. The new model says that these will now occur between 60 and 450 years by the end of the 21st century.

Lin says, “Storm-surge risk is likely to increase in the coming century. Planners and decision makers may think more about extremes beyond the historical records and experiences.”

Of course, hurricanes have never been recorded in the shallow and warm waters of the Persian Gulf, so this is a major find that really puts things into perspective.

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