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November 4, 1999
The Hurricane Man
Nitish Rele in Tampa
With storms and hurricanes destroying billions of dollars property across America's east coast each year, scientists studying their behavior are in high demand in universities and research centers in Florida and neighboring states.
Tiruvalam N Krishnamurti is one of the most consulted weather scientists because he is an authority not only on hurricanes but also on typhoons and monsoons.
And in recent weeks, the 65-year-old scientist has been getting even more recognition as he and his team at Florida State University's Real-Time Hurricane Forecast Center have developed a new "Super Ensemble" method that can predict the path of a hurricane.
"We collect global weather data from computer forecast models around the world," said Dr Krishnamurti, who teaches courses in tropical meteorology at the university in the state capital, Tallahassee. "Then we check the models to see what all errors they are making."
Dr Krishnamurti received a bachelor's degree in physics from Delhi University and a master's in meteorology from Andhra University. He moved to the United States and earned a Ph D at the University of Chicago in 1960. After a five-year stint at UCLA, he moved to Florida State University in 1967 along with his wife, who has a doctorate in oceanography.
His contributions in the field of meteorology have earned him several accolades and awards. His peers at the Florida State University have honored him with the Robert O Lawton Distinguished Professorship. The American Meteorological Society has bestowed on him its highest award, The Carl-Gustaf Rossby Research Medal, and its second highest, the Charney Award. He has also been named Florida Scientist of the Year by the Museum of Science and Technology in Tampa.
Some of the computer forecast models being used for the 'Super Ensemble' are from weather stations in London, Melbourne, Miami, Montreal and Tokyo.
"We use all these pieces of information that we have gathered to predict weather patterns," says Dr Krishnamurti.
The 'Super Ensemble' was applied to Hurricane Irene, which hit Florida and the Carolinas recently. It also was applied to hurricanes Floyd, Danielle, Bonnie and Mitch. "We are picking a potential hurricane as soon as it is formed," says Krishnamurti.
This year's Atlantic region hurricane season will end in November. "We run all the information we have collected through a huge computer called Typhoon," he says.
"The Typhoon produces a one-day to six-day forecast. This process takes about 12 to 16 hours and we repeat it after 24 hours."
Dr Krishnamurti feels the Super Ensemble works better than other methods since "it takes into consideration all the forecasts instead of just one or two forecasts. In short, it takes into account the best of all the forecasts. The forecasts appear to do better than the participating individual models."
Great improvements in skill of forecasts of precipitation, tropical cyclone tracks and seasonal monsoon forecasts have been seen from these applications too.
Dr Krishnamurti's group including Dr C M Kishtawal of the Space Applications Center in Ahmedabad and Drs Sulochana Gadgil and Sajani Rajendran of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore have also published a paper on 'Super Ensemble' in a recent issue of Science magazine.
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