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Do You Have a Future in Hurricane Disasters Prevention?

Hurricanes wreak havoc on communities and their damage has a direct and indirect impact on ecosystems and the economy. With both short- and long-term solutions needed regarding hurricane preparedness and prevention, atmospheric science will take on an increasingly important role. Here’s a closer look at this vital field, why it matters, and one program leading the way in terms of educating the future’s hurricane disasters prevention experts.

Apr 3, 2017
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Do You Have a Future in Hurricane Disasters Prevention?

An estimated 10,000 people die every year due to hurricanes and tropical storms. These major storms also cause millions of injuries and massive property destruction. But their effects don’t end there. Not only can hurricane winds, rain, and storm surge have both direct and indirect impacts on the ecosystems and agriculture, but they also take a catastrophic toll on the economy. In fact, economists predict the global toll may reach a staggering $10 trillion. Perhaps most alarmingly of all? Scientists say hurricanes will increase in both strength and frequency as the planet warms and sea levels rise.

The takeaway? With both short- and long-term solutions needed regarding hurricane preparedness and prevention, atmospheric science will take on an increasingly important role. Here’s a closer look at this vital field, why it matters, and one program leading the way in terms of educating the future’s hurricane disasters prevention experts.

What are Atmospheric Sciences?

NASA defines atmospheric science as “the study of the physics and chemistry of clouds, gases, and aerosols (airborne particles) that surround the planetary bodies of the solar system.” It comprises a number of specialties, including climatology; dynamic meteorology; cloud physics, atmospheric chemistry; atmospheric physics; aeronomy; and oceanography.

Graduates with degrees in atmospheric sciences can be found working in a broad range of environments, including for the government, private weather services, the media, commercial airlines, state governments, colleges and universities, public utility companies, consulting firms, and aircraft and instrument manufacturing companies across areas comprising field research, laboratory studies, and computer analysis and modeling.

Cyclone

Why Atmospheric Sciences Matter

Barring the opinions of climate change disbelievers, hard science tells us that climate change is not only very real, but it’s packing a wallop in the form of extreme and unprecedented weather.

Explains Dr. Antti Lauri, Programme Director of the Atmospheric Sciences Master’s Programme at Finland’s University of Helsinki, “Hurricanes get their energy from condensation of water vapor over warm tropical oceans. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases act to warm the atmosphere and the oceans. This leads to larger evaporation from the ocean and stronger condensation of water vapor in the atmosphere. Therefore, in suitable conditions, hurricanes can grow more intense, with stronger winds and more precipitation.”

As a result, there is a critical need for experts with a multidisciplinary education in atmospheric and earth system. And as knowledge continues to expand and as new regulations and directives are implemented, people who understand this complex issue from a scientific point of view will be tasked with navigating the challenges ahead.

What, specifically, can atmospheric studies do to mitigate hurricane disasters? Continues Lauri, “In the short term, the simplest way is to discourage building in areas most prone to hurricane disasters. It is of course also possible to adapt by building stronger structures, introducing new alarm systems based on more accurate scientific results about the forming and evolution of hurricanes, and ultimately by introducing climate engineering methods such as injecting cooling sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere.”

As far as the long-term goal of preventing stronger and more threatening hurricanes from developing, Lauri calls for a strong decrease in greenhouse gas emissions, which can be achieved through strategies including the use of renewable sources in energy production and afforestation.

Be at the Forefront of Hurricane Disaster Prevention....in Finland?

Finland may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of hurricanes, but the University of Helsinki is not only home to a national center of excellence in the field of atmospheric sciences, but also plays host to global experts in the field. Students in the program are exposed to word-class teaching and cutting-edge research while also having the unique opportunity to collaborate with dozens of research groups from around the world.

Equally as important, insists Lauri, is the programme’s multidisciplinary approach across physics, chemistry, meteorology, geophysics of the hydrosphere, and biology. “Our master’s programme in atmospheric sciences focuses in the holistic understanding of the earth system,” he says. “We work on different levels, from sub-atomic processes to understand the chemical reactions in the atmosphere to models describing the whole earth system.”

Still wondering why you’d undertake tropically related studies in a decided non-tropical location like Finland? You don’t have to live in a hurricane-impacted area to understand these storms and to play a role in defending the earth and its people from their devastation they cause. Explains Lauri, “Hurricanes obey the same physical laws as other meteorological phenomenal. We teach meteorology and convection on a level, which allows the student to concentrate on different phenomena related to convection, such as a hurricane.”

Joanna Hughes

Author

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.