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Kerry Emanuel

Environmental Sciences Seminar

DATE/TIME:  Friday, February 4, 2022, 2:30 pm

Kerry Emanuel
Atmospheric Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Hurricanes: Past, Present and Future

The tropics are rightly thought of as having the most benign climate on our planet, the stuff that vacation dreams are made on. Mild temperatures, light breezes, plenty of sun, and the odd rain shower to keep everything green. It seems paradoxical, therefore, that these hospitable latitudes give rise to the most violent storms on earth. It is hardly surprising that the ancients consider these tempests as gods; indeed, the word “hurricane” is derived from Huracán, the Carib god of evil, who, with twisted spiral arms (just like the real thing) devastated their settlements on a whim. While today we know much more about the causes and nature of hurricanes, they continue to devastate our communities, and the damage they case has been increasing rapidly as we, all around the world, continue to migrate from inland areas toward the coasts. The confluence of our lemming-like march to the sea with rising sea levels and climate-change-induced strengthening of storms paints a concerning picture of rapidly increasing risk.