HuRRiCANE To STRiKE

As coastal city populations continue to grow, they face the threat of greater losses to life and property. The following locations in the United States would incur the heaviest losses if an extreme hurricane were to make landfall.

rank

location

possible insured losses

potential economic losses

1

Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

$61.3 billion

$122.6 billion

2

new York City, new York

$26.5 billion

$53 billion

3

Tampa/St. Petersburg, Florida

$25.1 billion

$50 billion

4

Houston/Galveston, Texas

$16.8 billion

$33.6 billion

5

new Orleans, Louisiana

$8.4 billion

$16.8 billion

6

Mobile, Alabama

$6.0 billion

$12 billion

7

Boston, Massachussetts

$5.1 billion

$10.2 billion

8

Biloxi/Gulfport, Mississippi

$5.1 billion

$10.2 billion

9

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

$4.3 billion

$8.6 billion

10

norfolk, Virginia

$3.9 billion

$7.8 billion

Source: The Consumer Insurance Guide

Source: The Consumer Insurance Guide

This is an occluded mesocyclone tornado. Occluded means "old circulation" on a storm; this tornado was forming while the new circulation was beginning to form the tornadoes that preceded the F5 Oklahoma City tornado. This location is seven miles (11 km) south of Anadarko, Oklahoma. (NOAA, National Severe Storms Laboratory Collection)

The National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) is presently testing a new type of radar for weather detection called "phased array" that is able to scan the sky six times faster than the current Doppler radars in use. The NSSL also recently made a modification to Doppler radar called "dual polarization" that will provide meteorologists with more detail about what is going on inside storm cells. The lab is also using low-frequency sound waves, or "infrasound," to try to predict and detect tornadoes. Meteorologists also use computers to model severe weather in order to understand better violent storms and how to predict them.

NOAA is interested in improving its scientific understanding and predicting abilities of tornadoes and thunderstorms so it can more effectively monitor, track, and warn the public of emergencies. This in turn will hopefUlly minimize loss of life and damage to property.

Meanwhile, other scientists are researching ways to prevent tornadoes from forming to begin with. A project has been developed where using a burst of microwave energy specifically beamed down from a carefully calculated direction from a space satellite could be used to destroy the destructive power of a tornado cell in a thunderstorm. According to the American Meteorological Society, roughly 1,200 tornadoes on average are reported each year in the United States. These destructive storms average 55 fatalities annually and cause billions of dollars worth of property damage. Because climatologists have begun to warn that an increase in global warming may cause an increase in tornadoes in the future, scientists have been experimenting in the development of a device to negate their formation and destructive effects. A revolutionary new concept was presented at the American Society of Civil Engineers' Space 2000 Conference and Exposition on Engineering, Construction, Operations and Business in Space. Called a "thunderstorm solar power satellite," this revolutionary new concept proposes a system that beams microwave energy into the downdraft region of a thunderstorm, the portion in the system where the funnel cloud initially forms. Bernard Eastlund of Eastlund Scientific Enterprises Corp. and Lyle Jenkins of Jenkins Enterprises, who developed the system, believe that a pulse of microwave energy would serve to disrupt the convective flow that the tornado needs to concentrate the energy and form the funnel. By using these satellites as a type of high-tech "space-age gun," they believe the bursts of extremely well-placed strikes of microwave energy could change the temperature and structure of storm systems. According to Jenkins, "We call it taming the tornado. With just a little burst of microwave energy, we think we see a way to negate the trigger point in tornado creation. We want to heat the cold rain. By tailoring the beam, it could absorb the rain that is part of the tornado-making process."

In essence, heating the rain breaks up the downdraft that gives the tornado its energy. The team envisions placing their "tornado-stopping satellites" in a geosynchronous orbit, where the satellite is always positioned over the same spot on Earth. In this case, the satellites would be positioned over the areas in the United States that are commonly subject to tornadoes, such as Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas. They also envision adding the function of Doppler radar in order to detect the initial formation processes of tornadoes, giving them greater advanced warning. The scientists involved in this research acknowledge that more investigation is needed to determine how much microwave energy the bursts should have to be the most effective. Researchers are hopeful that in this new field of weather modification, the success of modifying tornadoes could also be applied to hurricanes in the future.

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