IMAGES: Storm Seers

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Science  29 Oct 1999:
Vol. 286, Issue 5441, pp. 867
DOI: 10.1126/science.286.5441.867a

A hurricane is like a towering turbine, sucking air in at the base and venting it out at the top, as indicated in this computer model of Hurricane Floyd churning north toward the North Carolina coast on 16 September. Researchers at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab (GFDL) in Princeton, New Jersey, spent 2 decades refining an approach that involves feeding global and regional temperatures, wind speeds, pressures, and so on into a supercomputer. Their toil has saved lives: Since 1995, federal meteorologists have used this model to help predict hurricane paths and intensities. “It's a little different every time,” notes John Sheldon of GFDL, who says last year's deadly Mitch was particularly hard to pin down: There were no winds to steer Mitch, so it wobbled “like a spinning top.” See GFDL's gallery for movies of Floyd and other hurricanes, or this site for more storm simulations.

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