University of Maryland Project Aims to Improve Storm Predictions

By JOSH BOLLINGER, The Star Democrat | December 2, 2013

Scientists at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Horn Point Laboratory have a new project in the works that aims to better predict the intensity of storm surges on the Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Coast.

Scientist Ming Li said the idea for the project came about following the fury Superstorm Sandy released last fall on the coast, with an overall cost of storm damage being about $65 billion.

“I think a lot of models under-predicted how intense it would be. The flooding was a surprise,” Li said.

He said there were question left over as to why a storm can generate so much flooding and damage.

“Our hypothesis is that the Atlantic Coast near here, coastal waters are usually warm, which provides additional fuel to sustain, even increasing the speed of the hurricane,” Li said.

Also, according to Horn Point, winds in Hurricane Irene, which hit a year before Sandy, were over-predicted by 50 percent.

So Li, along with Horn Point scientist Bill Boicourt, has developed this new project to improve predictions of storm intensity and their effects on Mid-Atlantic coastal communities, including those surrounding the Chesapeake Bay.

Along with a research team from various universities, Boicourt will release underwater robot gliders as storms approach the Atlantic Coast. The gliders will relay water temperatures back to hurricane forecasters to improve storm predictions.

Li said he then will work with that information and computer models to make more accurate predictions.

“One of our objectives is trying to be able to predict when the storm comes in, which area will be flooded, which street will be flooded on a very fine scale.”

Li said this also will help emergency responder managers and people in the area of the predicted flooding make better choices as the storm nears.

“This is another great example of how our work at Horn Point helps the citizens of Maryland,” said Mike Roman, director of Horn Point.

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