MIT Professor To Talk At CU-Boulder April 3 On Link Between Global Warming, Hurricanes

March 13, 2008

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Kerry Emanuel, internationally recognized for his research linking hurricane intensity to global warming, will speak at the University of Colorado at Boulder on Thursday, April 3.

A professor of atmospheric science at MIT, Emanuel will speak at 7:30 p.m. in Macky Auditorium for the 43rd George Gamow Memorial Lecture. The talk is free and open to the public and is titled, “Is Global Warming Affecting Hurricanes?”

Much of Emanuel’s research focuses on tropical meteorology and climate, with a specialty in hurricane physics. A key paper published by Emanuel in July 2005 in the journal Nature showed that tropical cyclones, which include hurricanes and typhoons, have grown in intensity since the mid-1970s as a result of warming ocean temperatures on Earth.

Emanuel’s statistical analysis indicated that the power of North Atlantic hurricanes and North Pacific cyclones has nearly doubled in the last 50 years. The study suggests that rising sea-surface temperatures – in part a result of human-caused warming -- have made more energy available for intense storms to develop.

Emanuel said the energy released by the average hurricane appears to have increased by about 70 percent in the past 30 years, corresponding to a roughly 15 percent increase in maximum wind speed and a 60 percent increase in storm lifetime. The trend in increasing hurricane damage in the United States, however, is due primarily to increasing coastal populations, including increased building in hurricane-prone areas, said Emanuel.

Emanuel earned a bachelor’s degree from MIT in 1976 in earth and planetary sciences and a doctorate in meteorology, also from MIT, in 1978. His research interests include cumulus convection and advanced methods of sampling the atmosphere to enhance the accuracy of weather prediction.

He is the author of more than 100 peer-reviewed scientific papers and two books, including “Divine Wind: The History and Science of Hurricanes,” published by Oxford University Press in 2005 and aimed at a general audience.

Emanuel was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2007. He served on the board of the Boulder-based University Corporation for Atmospheric Research from 1989 to 1992 and was a member of the Council of the American Meteorological Society from 1999 to 2002. He has served on the Board of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate of the National Academy of Sciences since 2003.


The George Gamow Memorial Lecture Series began in 1971 and honors the late CU-Boulder physics professor who was pivotal in developing the Big Bang theory for the creation of the universe. Gamow also was recognized for his many books popularizing science for non-scientific audiences.

In addition to the April 3 talk, Emanuel will give a free public lecture on hurricanes and climate at 4 p.m. on April 4 as part of the CIRES Distinguished Lecture Series. The lecture will be held in the CIRES Auditorium, located in the Ekeley Sciences Building north of the University Memorial Center and will be followed by a reception.

For more information on Emanuel and his research, visit the Web at: wind.mit.edu/~emanuel/home.html. For more information on the George Gamow Memorial Lecture Series, contact Nancy Lee Miller at 303-735-3391 or visit the Web at: www.colorado.edu/physics/Web/Gamow/lecture_2008.htm.

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