A Hurricane Force

News Feature

News & Events

October 25, 2012

Long before Hurricane Sandy began making its way up the East Coast, the national hurricane forecast for the season was being put together two thousand miles away. Few may know that the data that serves as the bedrock for that forecast is housed and maintained inside BSU's GeoGraphics Lab.

Since 2004, the United States Landfalling Hurricane Probability Project has been an important source of data for the forecast, put out each year by Colorado State University. BSU servers house the project, and the staff of the GeoGraphics Lab, overseen by Professor Uma Shama of the computer science department, maintains it.

Begun by Dr. Philip J. Klotzbach, ’99, now a research scientist at CSU’s Tropical Meteorology Project and co-author of the annual forecaster, the project looks at more than a century’s worth of data concerning hurricane landfalls across the United States. It calculates the chances, county by county, that a hurricane will hit.

The forecast developed by Dr. Klotzbach at CSU, is done with his mentor, Dr. William Gray. Each spring when it is made public, the forecast is carried by newspapers, radio and television stations across the country. When the forecast is featured in the media, Dr. Klotzbach goes out of his way to mention its connection to his alma mater.

Since its inception, the site has had more than half a million visitors.

Available to the public, the Landfall site often provokes some strange questions, Dr. Shama said.

“People say they planned their wedding for a particular weekend and want to know if there’s going to be a hurricane,” she said. “We try to educate them about what probability means.”

Check out the Landfall Probability Web site here: http://e-transit.org/hurricane/welcome.html.

(Story by John Winters, G ’11, University Advancement, photo courtesy of CSU)

(Left to right) Drs. Gray and Klotzbach