Articles by Paul Douglas

Destroyed building from hurricane
August 5

What To Do After a Hurricane

Hurricanes are America’s deadliest natural disasters. They’re expensive, too. According to USA FACTS, adjusting for inflation, 7 of the 10 most expensive natural disasters have been hurricanes. Of those 7, 6 have happened since 2000. Technological breakthroughs like weather satellites and computer models have lowered the death toll over time, but there are harrowing exceptions. In spite of timely warnings, Hurricane Katrina (2005) left 1,833 dead and Hurricane Maria (2017) killed 2,981 people. It may be counterintuitive, but most of the deaths occurred days or even weeks after the hurricane struck. “Statistics now show that more people are being killed...

Backed up traffic on highway
August 4

Searching for Best Practices: Hurricane Evacuations During a Pandemic

Focused evacuations and new sheltering options may help to lower risk. Hurricane evacuations are chaotic under the best of circumstances. But the specter of evacuees trying to outrun a hurricane and a deadly bug sounds like something out of a dark Stephen King novel. “Why would I leave the safety of my home to mingle with unknown, potentially un-masked strangers in hotels and auditoriums who might be infected with Covid-19? Why expose my family to additional risk? I’ll just stay where I am and take my chances with the storm.” Which may be precisely what not to do with a...

Large weather disaster
February 27

Weather and Climate Disasters Are Increasing Across the U.S.

Many days the news headlines sound like a movie trailer for The Apocalypse. For many years I’ve wondered if media and social media are merely doing a better/faster job of reporting weather extremes that have been fairly constant over time, or is a warmer, wetter, more volatile atmosphere loading the dice in favor of more meteorological mayhem? Billion-dollar weather disasters have roughly tripled since 1980. Don’t believe me? Compare a recent insurance bill from something you paid 20 or 30 years ago. All of us are paying a price for an uptick in extreme weather. Is this a cosmic coincidence?...

tropical storm Sebastian
October 3

Is It Time to Scrap the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Rating Scale?

MIT Tropical Expert: “The Saffir-Simpson scale is deeply deficient and should be discarded.” Science evolves over time. Our understanding of the natural world improves as new technology comes online, leveraging more granular, reliable, repeatable data sets. The science of meteorology, like every other science, is a moving target. The Fujita tornado rating scale was upgraded and enhanced in 2006 to better reflect observed wind damage. NOAA is launching WSSI, the Winter Storm Severity Index, a new, experimental winter storm rating scale with five categories. Sound familiar? Is it time to rethink the Saffir-Simpson rating scale for hurricanes, which only predicts...

Tornado Damage
June 7

6 Takeaways From The Biggest Swarm of U.S. Tornadoes Since 2011

America’s tornado drought is officially over. The last few years have been relatively quiet, with few large, violent tornadoes. In 2018 there were no tornado-related deaths in traditional Tornado Alley, stretching from Texas to Iowa. But so far in 2019, 31 Americans have lost their lives to tornadoes, nature’s most extreme, unpredictable and capricious wind storms. In the last 2 weeks at least 366 tornadoes have been observed east of the Rockies. Once again, the United States is living up to its reputation as the tornado capital of the planet. Over the last couple weeks I’ve watched in morbid fascination...

satellite image of earth with hurricane
March 8

Rapid Ocean Warming Poses New Challenges for Tropical Cyclone Prediction

Better Hurricane Forecasts Will Require Near-Real-Time, Deep Ocean Monitoring “How many more eyewall replacement cycles before landfall? Let me check the latest real-time, deep ocean temperature anomalies first”. This scenario may not be as far-fetched as it sounds. Recent studies confirm warming of the world’s oceans is taking place faster than previously estimated; as much as 40% faster than the United Nations estimated in 2015. The implications of warming seas include stronger and more rapidly-intensifying hurricanes and more extreme rainfall amounts. Research confirms roughly 93% of the additional warming from man-made greenhouse gases is going into the world’s oceans. Climate...

Hurricane Blog
August 30

Minimizing Tropical Storm Risk With Real-Time Weather Data

by Paul Douglas Meteorologists track storms of all shapes and sizes, but there is nothing quite as awe-inspiring and destructive as a major landfalling hurricane. These Texas-size whirlwinds of trouble produce a weather-trifecta of risk: storm surge, high winds, and inland flooding. Called typhoons in the western Pacific and cyclones in the Indian Ocean, they are identical in structure and formation; drawing warmth from the oceans and converting it into raging spiral bands of shrieking winds and blinding rain. The lighter the winds aloft and warmer the seas, the greater the potential for a cluster of thunderstorms to strengthen into a...

July 24

Flooding Frequency and Intensity are Increasing – Are You Factoring the Latest Trends?

by Paul Douglas A tropical storm named “Agnes” flooded my home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1972; a traumatic event that ultimately led me to pursue a degree in meteorology at nearby Penn State. Many of us have a flood-related story or close encounter, and rising water is impacting more Americans with every passing year. There is precedent for concern: according to NOAA only extreme heat has claimed more American lives over the last 30 years. In fact, flooding is the costliest natural disaster in the United States. It accounted for more than $268 billion in damage in 2017, a number...

July 10

Flood Frequency and Intensity is Increasing – Are You Factoring the Latest Trends?

A tropical storm named “Agnes” flooded my home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1972; a traumatic event that ultimately led me to pursue a degree in meteorology at nearby Penn State. Many of us have a flood-related story or close encounter, and rising water is impacting more Americans with every passing year. There is precedent for concern: according to NOAA only extreme heat has claimed more American lives over the last 30 years. Inland Flooding On The Rise. In fact, flooding is the costliest natural disaster in the United States. It accounted for more than $268 billion in damage in 2017,...

Lightning Strike Blog
June 6

Harnessing the Power of Lightning Strikes

by Paul Douglas “Thunder is good, thunder is impressive; but it is lightning that does the work” said, Mark Twain. Most of us have had a close call with lightning and no wonder. Cloud to ground lightning strikes the Earth approximately 50 times a second – roughly 1.4 billion flashes every year. According to NOAA, an average of 47 Americans are struck and killed by lightning annually – deadlier than tornadoes and hurricanes many years. Lightning is terrifying and vaguely mysterious – scientists don’t begin to have all the answers. But it serves a purpose in nature. These crackling electrostatic...