Guest Post: Anand Gnanadesikan, Oceanographer

I know Anand Gnanadesikan, professor at Johns Hopkins University’s department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, from when we were both studying physics as undergraduates in college.  He wrote something today that speaks with more authority than I could in my post earlier this morning, and it is a pleasure to make it available to you.

 

As Sandy approaches the coast I am very thankful for my former colleagues at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab who have spent decades trying to make better predictions of tropical cyclones. And the colleagues around the world who have spent decades developing the techniques of observing and modeling the physics of cyclones. Both the recurving of the storm and the high storm surge (currently already at major flood levels at a number of points between NY and DE) would have taken tens of thousands of people, at a minimum, by surprise. Kurihara’s first paper in the line of research that led to today’s prediction (http://www.gfdl.noaa.gov/bibliography/results.php?author=1061) was in 1965. It took him almost a decade to get to the first three-dimensional model of a hurricane and another couple of decades to improve the models to the point where they showed useful skill.

Just a little plug — it is important to remember that this kind of event, low-probability, high impact, is what well-run government is for. Putting together a storm-surge warning system for NY Harbor is not something that a private company is likely to do — the chances of it being used in any given 10-year period are so small as to make it a worthless investment. And the research that goes into making a forecast like this involves understanding of small-scale turbulence, understanding the transfer of radiation through the atmosphere and its interaction with multiple scatterers and absorbers, figuring out how to put weather satellites into orbit and keep them running, figuring out how to incorporate this information in computer codes, getting these codes to run reproducibly on large numbers of processors… almost all of this was accomplished by people working on the government dime.
 

Anand Gnanadesikan

9 responses to “Guest Post: Anand Gnanadesikan, Oceanographer

  1. It took him almost a decade to get to the first three-dimensional model of a hurricane and another couple of decades to improve the models to the point where they showed useful skill. … almost all of this was accomplished by people working on the government dime.

    Thanks Professor Matt Strassler for posting. Thanks Professor Anand.

  2. Interesting, he is a patient man and dedicated to his profession. I heard similar endeavor here in Saudi Arabia about simulation of environment using supercomputer named Shaheen.. isn’t it nice if professionals of allied nations will link-up and collaborate? especially on humanitarian projects like risk reduction on natural calamities? I think it will reduce the time required to realize a project. Just a thought.

  3. Gravity probe B proved geodetic and frame dragging effects, are those somehow affecting the behavior of hurricane? considering the chaos theory? Shaheen is upgrading into exaflop capability, I guess it’s a lot of room for modifying a hurricane model and improve predictability.

  4. Nature doesn’t select from Probability density function. The gap(variable) between “being” and nothing” is highly random and discrete so that, frequency probabilities have no meaning- Evidential probability depends on causality of perception.
    The phenomenon of Higgs field absorbed proportional to energy of the momentum(bag)- is another “survival of the fittest” ? Which was the cause for all modern wars and genocides like holocaust, Rwanda, communist Dialectics(and collective Logos λόγος) ect…

  5. Physics doesn’t exist without perception. When our intuition is “collective Logos” the Limit of sequence(like survival of the fittest..) will become illusion. Without personal harmony with nature- the childish, innocent “Laugh” will vanish. Weather could be predicted, but predictions cannot master the events.

  6. Fascinating insight into the “Art of Science”..it’s not purely technical, there’s an intuitive aspect.

    “It’s when the Instinct speaks. Of course, everything that we learn, think about, & intellectualize is very enriching & does nothing but SOPHISTICATE the intuition”
    – Sergio Tiempo, pianist
    [ 7:00 at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTJqgQNrT8c , see 3:37 for some parallel to Science discovery “interpretation [ by artist or scientist ] is an instance of eternity of solutions” ]

    Another example at

    http://oralhistories.library.caltech.edu/180/

    Goldreich: Well, no. It was physical — all these things are a matter of touch. They’re never purely technical

    Cohen: You’re saying intuition

    Goldreich: Yes, somehow getting a feeling for what the essential aspects are & then being able to make a model problem that you can solve which captures that aspect. All my work is the same, in that sense. Sometimes it’s technical for the field but not technical relative to what people can do in other fields. But somehow it captures the essence of something in a model that is possible to analyze. And that’s nice. Pick the problem & then somehow isolate the guts of it.

  7. Pingback: Another Storm Predicted | Of Particular Significance

  8. “Putting together a storm-surge warning system for NY Harbor is not something that a private company is likely to do — the chances of it being used in any given 10-year period are so small as to make it a worthless investment.”

    This sentence is breathtaking in its ignorance. [Host's note: that is possible, but your comment was breathtaking in its nasty, insulting tone, and I have therefore deleted the rest of it. If you have a serious point to make that might convince other people, there is no need to be a jerk about it; in fact it undermines your credibility when you feel you need to be unpleasant in order to persuade other people of your point of view.]

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