With Superstorm Sandy’s effects still being seen across the east coast, the University of Wisconsin has put forth an effort to help predict Sandy’s effects as well as offer assistance to any UW students needing help in dealing with the situation.
According to UW atmospheric sciences professor Jonathan Martin, data collected on campus has been used daily and has proven especially helpful in alerting people most affected by Sandy and updating them on what could be expected from the storm.
UW’s atmospheric sciences department has tracked Sandy by collecting data from satellites over the ocean, then entering the data into computer models used for forecasting.
“We contribute data everyday, but with high-profile weather situations like the hurricane, our work is very significant and highly-valued,” Martin said.
Chris Velden, senior researcher at the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies, an institution based in Madison, said data processed at UW was sent to the National Hurricane Center. He added this data proved to be extremely valuable to the center, as it is difficult to collect a significant amount of information on the storm as it formed over the ocean.
“Our work puts satellite data into numerical models that work on a global scale, including the entire U.S. and other parts of the world,” Velden said. “The satellite data is often the only routinely available data to make the weather predictions from the models.”
Velden said UW also contributed to Sandy tracking through the construction at the Space Science and Engineering Center at UW using an instrument put aboard a NASA aircraft that allows for high-resolution pictures to be taken as the aircraft flies over the hurricane.
Martin said the predictions of Sandy’s effects were “right-on.” He added scientists were able to tell approximately where and when the hurricane would hit a week in advance, with the predictions becoming more and more accurate each hour.
“With our help, there were thousands of lives saved and probably many more people saved from injury and property loss from the effects of the hurricane,” Martin said.
Martin stressed UW’s role in tracking hurricane Sandy should give faculty, students and alumni pride in the valuable contributions the university makes in such emergency situations.
The Madison area, as well as surrounding regions in the Midwest, are also experiencing some effects from Sandy, according to Martin. These effects include wind warnings, 20-30 foot waves in the Great Lakes areas and flooding in areas around Chicago.
“The storm was so expansive that its effects are being felt in areas far from the east coast,” Martin said. “The cold wind you woke up to today is a result of [Superstorm] Sandy.”
UW spokesperson John Lucas said the Dean’s Office and University Health Services are offering counseling assistance to students in need of help as friends or family on the coast are hit by the storm.
He added students can call the Dean’s Office for other forms of support, including facilitating a necessary trip home or dealing with schoolwork issues that arise as they return home.
“We weren’t really sure how things were going to play out,” Lucas said. “We didn’t know how much help would be needed, but we want the students to know we are here for them in whatever they need.”