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Eight hurricane experts and the cool things they study

There’s more to the study of hurricanes than figuring out the strength of the winds and where they are going to hit. Here are eight experts on different aspects of hurricanes and the interesting things they study:

University of Miami — Brian Soden, professor of meteorology and physical oceanography at the Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science, uses observations and computer models to study the effects of natural and human-caused climate change on hurricane activity. He has collaborated  on ground-breaking climatological models and information on the links between ocean temperature, wind shear and hurricane intensity.

Florida State University — Wayne A. Hochwarter, the Jim Moran Professor of Management, has studied the long-term effects of stress on employees as they return to the workplace following a hurricane. Such effects include increased rates of depression and anxiety, higher incidences of interpersonal conflict at work, higher levels of organizational cynicism and increased rates of employee burnout. The ramifications for employers include higher rates of employee turnover, more absenteeism and reduced productivity.

University of Houston — James Lawrence, associate professor of geosciences, developed an innovative device to measure the salt content of rain while flying through tropical storms and hurricanes.  Lawrence’s research is aimed at understanding how extra heat derived from sea spray enhances the development of the dangerous Category 3 to 5 hurricanes.  The instrument was developed for use on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration P3 research aircraft.

University of Florida — Kurt Gurley, associate professor of civil and coastal engineering, studies ground-level hurricane wind speeds and the impact that wind forces have on residential structures.

University of Miami — Annette M. La Greca, professor of psychology and director of clinical training, focuses her research in part on children’s reactions to trauma, especially natural disasters. Her research team documented the effects of post-traumatic stress in children following Hurricane Andrew, and assessed children’s reactions to Hurricanes Charley, Katrina, and Ike to evaluate methods for mediating these reactions over time. She wrote several publications designed to understand children’s reactions to natural disasters.  Her “After the Storm” guide to help children cope with the psychological effects of a hurricane has been widely used after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike and is available for free download at:

Louisiana State University — Kam-bui Liu, Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, School of the Coast & Environment, is a pioneer and leader in paleotempestology, an emerging field that studies past hurricane activity by means of geological proxy techniques and historical documentary evidence. Liu takes sediment cores from coastal lakes and marshes and uses the overwash sand layers contained in these cores to reconstruct the chronological and spatial patterns of catastrophic hurricane strikes along the U.S. Gulf Coast and Atlantic Coast during the last 5,000 years.

Florida State University — Randy E. Dumm, associate professor of risk and insurance, is an expert on the impact of hurricane losses on insurance prices and availability in Florida and how modeling is used to determine the pricing of the hurricane component of residential property insurance.

Texas A & M — William Merrell, a professor and the George P. Mitchell ’40 chair in marine sciences,. is an expert on beach and shoreline erosion, effects of hurricanes on the entire shoreline of Gulf of Mexico and proponent of the “Ike Dike,” a coastal surge suppression barrier for the Houston/Galveston area, based on a similar project in the Netherlands. He serves on the City of Galveston Hurricane Task Force.

Meanwhile, the Hurricane Research Division of the Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratories of the U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (that’s a mouthful) is funding a number of research projects. The 2102 Hurricane Field Program includes several experiments that are part of the Intensity Forecasting Experiment. You can see what they are here.