Hurricanes are rare but violent storms that are the leading source of insured losses worldwide, and a major cause of human suffering even in developed nations such as the U.S. where recent Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy had devastating consequences. The average interval between major hurricanes in affected areas is more than a human generation, ample time for communities to forget the last big one, and infrequent enough that historical statistics are woefully inadequate for assessing hurricane risk. After reviewing the nature and character of hurricanes, I will describe how the application of both paleoclimate techniques and physical principles has allowed us to make far more robust estimates of hurricane risk, and at the same time estimate how changing sea level and tropical climate might affect hurricane risk over the next century.
Dr. Kerry Emanuel is the Cecil and Ida Green professor of atmospheric science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he has been on the faculty since 1981, after spending three years on the faculty of UCLA. Professor Emanuel’s research interests focus on tropical meteorology and climate, with a specialty in hurricane physics. His interests also include cumulus convection, and advanced methods of sampling the atmosphere in aid of numerical weather prediction.
He is the author or co-author of over 200 peer-reviewed scientific papers, and three books, including Divine Wind: The History and Science of Hurricanes, published by Oxford University Press and aimed at a general audience, and What We Know about Climate Change, published by the MIT Press. He is a co-director of MIT’s Lorenz Center, a climate think tank devoted to basic, curiosity- driven climate research.
Dr. Roger Orth with Gastroenterology Assoc.