We were lucky to have Professor Emanuel from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology come up to Colby to discuss his knowledge on Hurricanes and the Climate in general. I am a part of Professor Fleming’s Weather, Climate & Society class and I found his question and answer session with us much more engaging than his talk on Tuesday night. During this session I asked him a question that is very important to me. I had read an article the day before on New York Times’s website about we, as a country, could be in for an unprecedented ecological disaster if another major storm hit the coast of Texas due to the large number of petrochemical companies that have set up there since the last major hurricane passed through the area directly. Hurricane Ike narrowly missed the key area near Houston in 2008, but was originally predicted to go through and cause this aforementioned damage, so we got lucky. I asked Professor Emanuel if he had heard of this potential disaster of a situation and he had said that he did. Unfortunately storms like hurricanes cannot have their courses altered with our current technology without setting off a major explosion of some sort. Professor Emanuel said that there is definitely a possibility that it could occur since hurricanes occur around Texas usually around once every six years.

He also discussed how Hurricane Matthew was one of the worst predicted hurricanes that he has ever seen. Matthews was projected to go on so many different paths. At one point it was supposed to go through North and South Carolina and then another point up the St. Lawrence River and directly through New York City. It ended up barely hitting the Carolinas and not doing nearly as much damage as was thought. However, another hurricane that generated around the same time, Nicole, was much further off the coast and meteorologists predicted its path almost perfectly. When asked about this prospect, Professor Emanuel responded that When asked why this forecasting was the case, he said that it was due to variance in weather models in different forecasting zones, adding that sometimes hurricane path predictions are incredibly sporadic. Hurricane predictions can vary for a wide variety of reasons including pressure zones, water temperature, wind flows, etc.

Other topics in our question and answer session included how one theoretical way to stop a hurricane or other major storm is to set off a nuclear bomb/explosion in order to disrupt the flow. The most interesting thing Professor Emanuel said was that he actually set the world record for most time spent flying in the eye of a hurricane. The best part was that he did it by accident. Professor Emanuel is an amazing scholar and I appreciated his presence through this course.