Where Categorizing Hurricanes Falls Short

Hurricane Katrina was one of the most devastating hurricanes in history, leading to over 1800 fatalities and tying Hurricane Harvey as the costliest hurricane on record. But at the time Katrina made landfall, it was “only” ranked as Category 3 by the Saffir-Simpson scale, which goes up to Category 5. So why did Katrina, at only Category 3, cause so much more destruction than most Category 5 storms? And what does that tell us about what the Saffir-Simpson scale is missing?

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Climate Change is Increasing the Likelihood of Worst-Case Scenarios

If you were following coverage of Hurricane Delta this week, you might’ve noticed that it seemed to come out of nowhere — one day we were all talking about Tropical Storm Gamma, and then seemingly overnight the conversation shifted to sounding alarms over Hurricane Delta. This phenomenon, in which a hurricane goes from nobody to nightmare in under a day, is known as rapid intensification. The one-two punch of rapid intensificaton being both deadly and difficult to predict has made it an urgent problem for forecasters as we all try to adjust to our changing climate.

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Turning the Sahara Green: Some Unintended Consequences of Wind and Solar Farms

A few days ago, the IPCC released a special report announcing that we only have about twelve years before we cross the 1.5-degree warming threshold that many countries are trying to avoid.  We need to reduce our carbon emissions more urgently than ever, and some scientists have risen to this challenge with proposals so ambitious that they almost sound like science fiction.  One proposal is to cover much of the Sahara Desert with wind turbines and solar panels. A move this big could have many unintended consequences for the climate, but fortunately, a new study by Li Yan et al. suggests that enormous wind and solar farms could actually have positive impacts for those living around the Sahara.

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Can the structure of a hurricane make it wobble?

Hurricanes are among the most dangerous natural disasters, but they can still be a challenge to forecast!  In particular, it’s really difficult to understand how a hurricane’s structure – that is, its specific pattern of clouds, winds, and rain – can affect its motion.  In a recent theoretical modeling study, Konstantin Menelaou and his co-authors have examined how one particular kind of hurricane structure, known as a secondary eyewall, can make a hurricane wobble.

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More than just a coincidence? What the co-occurrence of species can teach us about how they interact

Different kinds of plants, animals, and fungi interact with each other in a myriad of ways.  Recently, researchers have been trying to infer the nature of these interactions just by looking at whether you can find these species in the same place!  In a 2018 study, Mara Freilich of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and her co-authors examined the reliability of this co-occurrence approach.

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