Greater scientific research and instrumentation to forecast hurricanes: William Lee Alardín

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Mexico.- Although there is progress in meteorological predictions and in the understanding of hurricanes, there are areas that we do not fully understand, which is why more science is required to study them in more depth - even those that do not go beyond the norm - and understand the deviations that occur such as the case of “Otis,” highlighted the coordinator of Scientific Research at UNAM, William Lee Alardín.

The above is only possible if we have sufficient monitoring, constant throughout the year and every year, with adequate equipment and personnel to have the correct references, be able to interpret when something is deviating from what is expected and take appropriate measures, he noted at the conference. remote press Is hurricane season continuing?

“The needs are enormous and the consequences of not having this knowledge, both materially, humanly and socially, are gigantic; To the extent that we are better prepared to face these phenomena, the effects will be smaller,” he said.

Lee Alardín highlighted that Mexico is a country always exposed to these events, which are a fundamental atmospheric manifestation of the exchange of heat and the movement of atmospheric phenomena to redistribute energy on the planet. “They are linked to the temperature in the ocean and predominantly impact areas at the latitude of our country.”

In recent years, hurricane-type phenomena have occurred in the seas surrounding Mexico and others in the world, which also indicate changes in atmospheric patterns with greater intensity, he added.

He recalled that in the case of “Otis” the analyzes focus on the suddenness of the storm's formation and the rapid increase in intensity, as well as the effects that occurred on the coast of Guerrero and on the population.

When speaking, the director of the Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate Change (ICAyCC), Jorge Zavala Hidalgo, pointed out: it is expected that hurricanes will be more intense on average and with greater associated rainfall, while their frequency will continue intensifying.

In “Otis,” he considered, all the forecasts failed, even those of the United States National Hurricane Center, based in Miami, where studies are carried out with hurricane hunter planes. "It was predicted as a tropical storm and quickly rose to a category one hurricane, and rose to category five in 12 hours, instead of 24. This rise should have been anticipated at least a day before."

He explained that hurricanes are classified according to their category, which is based on the intensity of sustained winds (which last one minute on average at a height of 10 meters).

Additionally, it has an impact on the precipitation that falls on a region, and the rain that runs down the rivers and creates overflows, as well as the storm surge, which is the entry of seawater towards the continental part as a result of the push caused by the winds and which, in numerous cases, has caused the greatest number of deaths.

Zavala Hidalgo said that the possible causes of the rapid intensification observed in “Otis” are four:

The high surface temperature of the sea, greater than 30 degrees Celsius. “This is due to the time of year, the El Niño condition in the Pacific Ocean and the warming of the planet.”

High heat content in the ocean, due to high temperature and a deep mixed layer. “This is favored by the El Niño condition that generates waves trapped on the coast that deepen the hot layer and, probably, by the presence of an anticyclonic oceanic eddy.”

Likewise, conditions of horizontal cutting of the winds in the vertical that facilitate intensification; and favorable relative humidity.

Regarding the possible origins of the errors in the intensity forecast of “Otis”, Zavala Hidalgo highlighted the deficit of observations, in particular lack of data on the west coast of Mexico. “We will have to investigate the most suitable places to install buoys and other measurements.”

Also the lack of radar observations on the Mexican coasts and the possible failure in some of the model parameterizations that prevented them from predicting intensification, “but it is considered unlikely”; as well as physical factors that have exceeded threshold values.

Among the challenges for the coming years, the director of the ICAyCC estimated: to deeply study this case to learn from it, as happens with other phenomena here and in other parts of the world; review the monitoring networks, identify the gaps that are desirable to fill on the coast of Guerrero and other areas of Mexico.

Additionally, evaluate early warning protocols, adapting them to changing technologies and situations; multiply training on various related topics; as well as strengthening collaboration and communication between academia and the public sector.

At the time, Benjamín Martínez López, researcher in the Climate Change and Solar Radiation group of the ICAyCC, reiterated the need for science to be recognized and strengthened.

“Much more research is needed in the country on a topic as relevant as hurricanes, with such devastating effects. The academy has a formidable challenge to understand exactly what happened, improve the models and, based on this watershed, encourage more young people to join this type of careers,” he noted.

The government side, he continued, has to realize that it is undeniable that we must improve in academia and civil protection. "It is a very technical issue and we hope that this event will help us all to make our contribution and achieve a better alert system, which allows us to always be prepared for these events."

With information from UNAM

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