09/14/2018

Water, Water, Everywhere

5:08 minutes

a gif of a spinning hurricane headed towards the east coast of the U.S.
Hurricane Florence. Credit: ESA/NASA–A. Gerst

As Hurricane Florence approaches the Carolinas this week, forecasters and disaster management officials are stressing one key piece of advice to evacuating residents: Take the storm seriously, regardless of the category designation. Once projected to hit Category 4, Florence was at Category 2 as of Thursday morning, but that number only describes the wind speed. Meanwhile, as University of California-Irvine civil engineer Amir AghaKouchak notes, there could be unusually devastating flooding, as storm surge from the ocean meets rainfall from a storm that is projected to pour on the region for days.

[Our podcast, Undiscovered, is BACK. In the first episode of the new season, some psychologists probe just how far kids’ empathy for robots will go.]

“Compound flooding” is the phenomenon that left Houston under water after Hurricane Harvey in 2017, and, at its worse, could cause rivers to run in reverse. And, AghaKouchak says, climate change and sea level rise both make such flooding more likely in storms such as Florence.

AghaKouchak talks to Ira about flooding, Florence, and the factors that could shift the storm favorably or unfavorably in the coming days.


Find out what’s happening on Science Friday…on Thursday. Subscribe to our preview newsletter.

Segment Guests

Amir AghaKouchak

Amir AghaKouchak is an associate professor of civil engineering at the University of California-Irvine.

Meet the Producer

About Christie Taylor

Christie Taylor is an associate producer for Science Friday. Her day involves diligent research, too many phone calls for an introvert, and asking scientists if they happen to have an audio recording of their research findings.

Explore More