Future in Hurricane Disasters Prevention

An estimated 10,000 people die every year due to hurricanes and tropical storms. These major storms also cause millions of injuries and massive property destruction. But their effects don’t end there. Not only can hurricane winds, rain, and storm surge have both direct and indirect impacts on the ecosystems and agriculture, but they also take a catastrophic toll on the economy. In fact, economists predict the global toll may reach a staggering $10 trillion. Perhaps most alarmingly of all? Scientists say hurricanes will increase in both strength and frequency as the planet warms and sea levels rise.

The takeaway? With both short- and long-term solutions needed regarding hurricane preparedness and prevention, atmospheric science will take on an increasingly important role. Here’s a closer look at this vital field, why it matters, and one program leading the way in terms of educating the future’s hurricane disasters prevention experts.

What are Atmospheric Sciences?

NASA defines atmospheric science as “the study of the physics and chemistry of clouds, gases, and aerosols (airborne particles) that surround the planetary bodies of the solar system.” It comprises a number of specialties, including climatology; dynamic meteorology; cloud physics, atmospheric chemistry; atmospheric physics; aeronomy; and oceanography.

Graduates with degrees in atmospheric sciences can be found working in a broad range of environments, including for the government, private weather services, the media, commercial airlines, state governments, colleges and universities, public utility companies, consulting firms, and aircraft and instrument manufacturing companies across areas comprising field research, laboratory studies, and computer analysis and modeling.

Why Atmospheric Sciences Matter

Barring the opinions of climate change disbelievers, hard science tells us that climate change is not only very real, but it’s packing a wallop in the form of extreme and unprecedented weather.

Explains Dr. Antti Lauri, Programme Director of the Atmospheric Sciences Master’s Programme at Finland’s University of Helsinki, “Hurricanes get their energy from condensation of water vapor over warm tropical oceans. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases act to warm the atmosphere and the oceans. This leads to larger evaporation from the ocean and stronger condensation of water vapor in the atmosphere. Therefore, in suitable conditions, hurricanes can grow more intense, with stronger winds and more precipitation.”

As a result, there is a critical need for experts with a multidisciplinary education in atmospheric and earth system. And as knowledge continues to expand and as new regulations and directives are implemented, people who understand this complex issue from a scientific point of view will be tasked with navigating the challenges ahead.

What, specifically, can atmospheric studies do to mitigate hurricane disasters? Continues Lauri, “In the short term, the simplest way is to discourage building in areas most prone to hurricane disasters. It is of course also possible to adapt by building stronger structures, introducing new alarm systems based on more accurate scientific results about the forming and evolution of hurricanes, and ultimately by introducing climate engineering methods such as injecting cooling sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere.”

As far as the long-term goal of preventing stronger and more threatening hurricanes from developing, Lauri calls for a strong decrease in greenhouse gas emissions, which can be achieved through strategies including the use of renewable sources in energy production and afforestation.