A self-described ‘weather geek’, doctoral candidate Dan Chavas is fascinated by hurricanes. More specifically, he is interested in what factors influence hurricane development and how large a given storm will become. As he describes, “right now, we have no capacity to predict how big or small a hurricane will be. Sometimes they’re big; often they’re small. I am trying to understand the mechanisms and processes that determine the size of a particular hurricane.”
Using weather models, Dan is investigating how specific changes in meteorological conditions impact the final size of an eventual hurricane. By relating initial weather conditions to the final storms that they produce, Dan hopes to improve our ability to predict how large forming storms will eventually become. “If we can predict that,” he explains, “it’s useful because these storms impact people’s lives—they make landfall and destroy things, and a bigger storm affects a bigger area.” By allowing us to predict the final size of a forming storm, Dan’s work may enable us to better prepare for and respond to emerging hurricanes. As both the frequency and intensity of severe weather events could increase with climate change, this predictive capacity may become increasingly important.
Discussing his work, Dan describes hurricane research as an “open area,” saying, “There is a lot of research to be done in the field, which makes it kind of exciting… we still don’t really understand how hurricanes form; we are not very good at predicting when they are going to get stronger or weaker. There are a lot of fundamental things that we don’t understand still.” For this reason, he may continue to study how hurricanes develop after completing his doctorate. However, Dan is also interested in the policy side of things and would like to work at the nexus where science meets decision-making. For now, Dan is enjoying his work with the Joint Program and being involved with “a lot of interesting people doing a lot of interesting work.”
Spring 2011, by Danya Rumore