Why Hurricane Florence is Unusual and Dangerous

Hurricane and disaster experts within the Earth Institute are closely monitoring Hurricane Florence, a storm that is both unusual—and unusually dangerous.

It’s somewhat rare for hurricanes this intense to make landfall in the Carolinas, says Dr. Suzana Camargo, Executive Director of the Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and faculty for Columbia’s Master of Science in Sustainability Science program.

“It’s a not a typical track,” she says, referring to the storm’s expected path. Normally hurricane trajectories curve backwards toward Europe, sending the storm back into the ocean. Not so for Florence—simulations show it making a beeline for the Carolinas.

What concerns Dr. Camargo most is that the forecasts for what will happen when Hurricane Florence nears the coast have been very uncertain. Different models are showing different predictions for exactly where the storm will go, whether it will make landfall, and how slow it will be moving. That’s due to a second high pressure system in the Midwest, similar to the one in the Atlantic, which also wants to push the hurricane away.

“To determine where the hurricane will go, we have to predict which high is going to be stronger,” says Camargo. “It’s like they’re competing, and it depends on the winds and what’s happening in the storm.”

Read the full story at State of the Planet and learn more about the Master of Science in Sustainability Science program at Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies.