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A quick simulation of Hurricane Florence done without climate change

Simple analysis suggests global warming boosts Florences rain by 50 percent. In the last few years, teams of scientists have developed a consistent protocol for rapidly analyzing the influence of climate change on extreme weather events. Within a week of the disaster, reports have been available to inform the conversation about whether we can expect more events like it in the future. But on Wednesday, we saw the first example of something new—an analysis published before the event even happened. A group led by Stony Brook Universitys Kevin Reed ran a very simple computer model experiment on Hurricane Florence—which isnt due to make landfall until Friday—and quickly released the top-line results. The rapid studies weve been seeing are done by examining the historical weather record to estimate how rare and extreme a given storm or heat event would be in that area of the globe. From there, climate model simulations are used to see if climate change is expected to change the frequency of that type of event. In this case, theres obviously no data available for a thing that hasnt happened yet. Instead, the researchers focused on a much more limited question that is faster to answer: how does a warmer world change this storm? In the counterfactual world where global warming never happened, its impossible to say if Hurricane Florence would even have been born. Even small changes can have complex consequences on the atmosphere, such that events would play out completely differently. But thats not the point. Since Hurricane Florence is occurring in this warmer world, we can simply examine the effect of warmer temperatures. To do this, the researchers took the current state of the world on Tuesday, dropped that into their model as a starting point, and pressed play to simulate ahead to Sunday. For a comparison simulation, they took those starting conditions and essentially subtracted out global warming. In this counterfactual world, the storm looks significantly different. Hurricanes are fueled by energy from the evaporation of warm seawater, so its no surprise that warmer sea surface temperatures should give the storm a boost. The size of the boost in this case is pretty remarkable, though. The model analysis showed the real-world Florence dumping 50 percent more rain near the coast than it would in a world without human-caused warming. The modeled hurricane clearly stays stronger when simulated under current-day conditions, but its also larger. The diameter of the storm is about 80 kilometers (50 miles) greater than in the cooler simulation, which would translate into higher storm surge flooding on the coast. Team member Michael Wehner told Ars that the team is working to repeat this analysis with updated observations as the storm barrels down on the Carolinas, so we'll get to see how similar the results are for each iteration. The researchers also plan to repeat their work after the storm and carefully compare with the forecast analyses. That will help show how useful this trial run of pre-storm analysis was. For their part, the group behind the within-one-week studies explained Thursday that they wont be providing an analysis of Hurricane Florence in the near future (for reasons ranging from complex historical data to swamped workloads). But they did comment on these pre-storm results, writing, More analyses are needed to assess the robustness of this quick analysis, although the basic result that global warming increases the precipitation is a very robust one supported by observations and modelling studies.

This terrifying graphic from The Weather Channel shows the power and danger of Hurricane Florence

A new video from The Weather Channel shows in real time the danger of flood waters already rising in parts of the Carolinas as Hurricane Florence starts battering the coast. The storm is moving slowly and is anticipated to bring deadly storm surges to the region as well as torrential rains. Thats a recipe for a flooding disaster, meteorologist Marshall Shepherd told The Verge in an interview on Monday. The National Hurricane Center is predicting storm surges anywhere from two to more than 11 feet high. But its hard to visualize what those numbers actually mean for someone near the water. The National Hurricane Center tried to make it clear with a cartoon graphic that shows rainbow colored water levels rising over the heads of a family in a house. You'll be seeing the NHC potential storm surge flooding graphic a lot over the next few days as #Florence nears the coast. Here's how to interpret it; The graphic is more effective than numbers, or even maps. But The Weather Channel takes the visuals a step further using mixed reality that show the waters surrounding the on-screen meteorologists, including Greg Postel and Ericka Navarro. The flood rises above their heads as the wind howls and floating cars slosh at the surface. This @weatherchannel visualization of storm surge is an amazing and sobering use of technology to show what hurricanes like Florence can do The mixed reality graphics, created in partnership with augmented reality company The Future Group, harness the Unreal Engine — a popular video game development platform. Rather than creating effects and rendering them in post-production, the process used to create visuals for most films, the Unreal Engine builds effects in real time, Ren LaForme reported for Poynter when The Weather Channel unveiled the tech in a tornado demo. The Weather Channel has since used the immersive reality for an in-studio lightning explainer, and now, to visualize Hurricane Florences floods. The business that were in is safety, Michael Potts, The Weather Channels vice president of design, told The Verge in an interview. The weather is a visceral, physical thing, and were trying to recreate that in the most realistic way possible. On screen, the water towers over the meteorologist as fish swim by — adding emphasis to her words that Hurricane Florences floods will threaten lives. If you find yourself here, please get out, she says. If youre told to go, you need to go.