Professor Emanuel is one of the most knowledgeable and well-informed climatologists of our time. We were lucky enough to have him spend two days on Colby’s campus speaking about weather, hurricanes, and the impact weather has on society. While his lectures were certainly interesting and informative, I found that the way in which he interacted with the audience, and the conversations that were spurred from those conversations were much more intriguing. One question, for instance, was on the topic of climate and hurricane engineering. The question essentially asked what some of the most interesting climate engineering proposals were. His response was sort of funny in that he suggested that somebody proposed using nuclear weapons to control the formation of hurricanes. To conclude the question, however, he simply said that nobody has come up with any concrete solution.
His talk was furthered by the use of stories and personal experience. One of my favorite stories from this talk was his retirement plan. His plan is to open a hurricane tour group. Simply the put, the idea is to take groups of people on an old plane and fly to the eye of a hurricane and observe the structure and rotation. I thought this was particularly funny because I envisioned a double decker style tour with a guide at the front of the plane saying something along the lines of, “to your left you will see the famous cumulo nimbus cloud, and to your right you can see evaporation taking place due to particulate.” I thought this prospect as very amusing.
He told another story about flying through a hurricane, which was quite interesting. He flew up to a hurricane with the intention of observing and studying, but once he and his team arrived at the eye of the hurricane, they discovered that their radio wasn’t working. They had to fix it, so he and his team flew around the eye, around and around, until the radio was fixed. Little did they know, however, that they had just broken the record for longest time spent flying through the eye of a hurricane.
During his lecture to the weather and climate class, he spoke about hurricane prediction, which was very interesting. His visit was very timely due to hurricane Matthew’s presence. Hurricane Matthew was a remarkably hard hurricane to follow through the media because the hurricane was so poorly forecast. One day, Matthew could have been on course to hit Florida, and the next it could have been on track to go straight out into the ocean. When asked why this forecasting was the case, he said that due to variance in weather models in different forecasting zones, sometimes hurricane path predictions are incredible sporadic. He also said that due to hurricane Nicole, which followed Matthew by less that one day, modeling was further skewed.