Hurricane Experts Available to Explain Storm Behavior, Impacts, and Possible Links to Global Warming - Tip Sheet

Sep 9, 2008 - by Staff

BOULDER—This year is proving unusually active for Atlantic storms. The hurricane season is only at its midpoint, but already there have been 10 named storms—which is the average number for an entire year. Five consecutive storms have made landfall in the United States, and Hurricane Ike may break the record as the sixth in a row.

Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and its managing organization, the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), closely study tropical storms, hurricanes, typhoons, and other cyclones (the term varies depending on strength and geography, but refers to the same type of storm). The scientists use advanced computer models and draw on a wide range of observations to study the early development of cyclones, track the intense storms, and even predict major impacts before landfall.

Hurricane experts are available to explain

  • whether global climate change is augmenting hurricane strength and what the future may hold;
  • what may cause a hurricane to spin up initially, gain or lose intensity, or veer on a new course;
  • how hurricanes can affect weather over large areas as they move poleward and decay;
  • how even weak tropical storms and hurricanes can lead to devastating floods;
  • how the public interprets and uses hurricane warnings.

Hurricane Experts at NCAR & UCAR

Hurricane formation, intensity, and motion

Christopher Davis, NCAR Scientist
Davis studies the weather systems that lead to hurricanes, thunderstorms, and other heavy rainfall events. He uses observations and sophisticated computer models to analyze the evolution of these systems. Recently Davis has focused on the role of weak nontropical disturbances in fostering the development of some tropical storms and hurricanes, as well as the ways in which tropical cyclones evolve into midlatitude storms.

Wen-Chau Lee, NCAR Scientist
Lee is a specialist in hurricane winds and intensity. This year the National Hurricane Center has adopted a technique called VORTRAC, developed by Lee and colleagues, that uses Doppler radar to detect rapid changes in the intensity of landfalling hurricanes. Lee is also the chief scientist for NCAR's ELDORA, an airborne Doppler radar, which captures detailed images of precipitation and winds from hurricanes and severe thunderstorms.

Climate change, global warming

Greg Holland, Director, NCAR Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology Division
Holland, a specialist in tropical meteorology and severe weather, is one of the world's leading experts on the possible link between global warming and greater tropical cyclone activity. He was lead author of a 2007 paper showing that Atlantic hurricane activity has increased significantly since 1900, as have sea-surface temperatures. Holland also studies the locally severe winds, torrential rains, and other effects produced as tropical cyclones move inland.

Kevin Trenberth, NCAR Scientist
An expert on El Niño and the water cycle, Trenberth has been in the forefront of scientists examining the question of whether climate change, including global warming, is affecting the intensity of hurricanes and other tropical cyclones. He wrote a noteworthy paper in 2006 linking global warming with higher sea-surface temperatures that can fuel hurricanes, and has since published several papers on the energy and water cycles in hurricanes.


Matthew Kelsch, UCAR Hydrometeorologist
Kelsch specializes in weather events involving water, such as floods, droughts, rain, hail, and snow. He has studied some of the biggest U.S. flood events connected to hurricanes and tropical storms, and he trains scientists from around the world on hydrology topics.

Societal Impacts

Rebecca Morss, NCAR Scientist
Morss studies the ways in which people interpret and use weather- and climate-related information, including the role of uncertainty and how it is characterized in forecasts. Working with colleagues at Texas A&M University, Morss oversaw a survey on how Gulf Coast residents perceived and responded to warnings of Hurricane Rita in 2005.

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