Tropical Cyclone Studies at ISU

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The Atlantic hurricane season traditionally starts on June 1st, but for the 6th consecutive year, the season started early. Fast forward to September, the Atlantic hurricane season has now set many records. 

A new professor at Iowa State University recently won an award through the department of energy for her studies on tropical cyclones. Meteorologist amber alexander takes us to Ames to meet Christina Patricola. 

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season has been one for the record books. this is only the second year on record the season has run through the 21 English alphabet names. Wilfred was the final name and formed almost 20 days earlier than the previous record set in 2005. 

Christina Patricola is a tropical cyclone researcher at ISU.

She’s researching how future climate change will influence the intensity and precipitation of tropical cyclones and how the changing storm surge will impact coastal regions.  

Patricola says, “Tropical cyclones are the leading cause of natural economic losses in the US.”

That’s why many researchers want to better understand tropical cyclones and their season. One way Christina can do that is by using climate models. 

“One is the global climate model that is supported through the department of energy and the other is a very high-resolution model that is often used to for weather forecasting purposes,” said Patricola.

The climate models allow Christina to simulate a tropical cyclone based on a series of different scenarios. 

Those scenarios help explain what we could see in the future. 

“We can look at the impacts from the three main variables that are important, so that would be wind speed, precipitation, and storm surge,” says Patricola.

Christina says sea-level rise from climate change is also a major factor that will directly affect the coastlines and is another thing she will be looking into during her 4-year project. 

Tropical Storm Beta made landfall in Texas Monday night. it was a record 10th storm to form within the month of September and was the 9th storm to make landfall in the U.S. this year. 

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