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Windy cities: Researchers invent new tool to calculate hurricane risk
Date:8/2/2010

Bad news, Miami. Of all Florida's major population centers, the city is the most vulnerable to strong hurricane winds, according to Florida State University researchers who developed a new tool to estimate the frequency of extreme hurricane winds at a particular location.

Geography doctoral student Jill C. Malmstadt, working with Professor James B. Elsner and research consultant Thomas H. Jagger, created the Hurricane Risk Calculator and used it to estimate the risk to 12 cities in Florida. The findings are outlined in "Risk of Strong Hurricane Winds to Florida Cities," to be published in the November issue of the American Meteorological Society's Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology.

"Not unexpectedly, we found that the extreme wind risk from hurricanes varies across the state," Malmstadt said. "Areas in the northeast, such as Jacksonville and in the Big Bend between Tampa and Tallahassee, have longer periods between occurrences of a given strong wind speed compared to areas such as Miami and Pensacola. That's also where we found the highest annual threats of a catastrophic hurricane event."

Using the Hurricane Risk Calculator, the researchers found that Miami can expect to see winds of 112 mph or stronger that's a category 3 hurricane once every 12 years on average. Miami last saw winds of that strength with Hurricane Wilma in 2005. By contrast, Tallahassee, the state's least vulnerable city, can expect to see winds of that speed only once every 500 years.

The Hurricane Risk Calculator is a statistical model based on extreme value theory a theory that is used to estimate the occurrence of the rare and extreme events like hurricanes Andrew and Katrina, Malmstadt said. Researchers applied the theory to wind speed data derived from the National Hurricane Center's Hurricane Database, which is the official record of tropical cyclones for the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea dating back to 1
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Contact: Jill Malmstadt
jcm07d@fsu.edu
414-704-2432
Florida State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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