Understanding Hurricanes – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Understanding Hurricanes

Irma 4To coincide with a particularly active hurricane season, Professor of Geoscience Neil Laird and Associate Professor of Geoscience Nick Metz led a discussion on Hurricane Irma on Friday, Sept. 8 before the storm’s landfall. Preceding the escalation of Hurricane Irma, students, faculty and staff packed into a Coxe Hall classroom, while listeners tuned in online to hear the live-streamed event. Listen to the class discussion.

“Irma really is a storm for the ages, in terms of intensity and longevity,” said Laird. During the talk, both Metz and Laird described how hurricanes are formed, as well as how scientists track their path and severity. They also reflected on the pressing question of whether the formation of three hurricanes in the Atlantic is unusual or unprecedented.

“September is peak hurricane season. In 2010, a similar pattern of hurricane development occurred with Karl, Igor and Julia. Is it unusual for the hurricanes to be this strong? Yes. Is it unprecedented? No,” said Metz.

Information presented by Laird and Metz about Hurricane Irma’s trajectory was based on forecasts by the National Hurricane Center (NHC). During the talk, Metz described how the NHC uses a process called “ensemble forecasting” to predict a hurricane’s path. This type of forecasting involves the use of multiple computer models to determine the path and intensity of a hurricane.

Laird and Metz are atmospheric scientists within the Department of Geoscience and teach a variety of weather and climate courses, including a summer field-study course to forecast and observe severe supercell thunderstorms in the Great Plains. They, along with their students, shared information and answered questions during the discussion after closely following the storm and forecasts.

Hurricanes Maria, Irma and Harvey have impacted alums throughout their respective regions. The Colleges extend their support to alums and HWS families, and have received word from alums sharing news of their safety.

If you have been impacted by the hurricanes, please contact Alumni House at 315-781-3700 or share news on the HWS Facebook class pages.