--Lord Hunt is a Visiting professor at Delft University, and former Director-General of the UK Met Office. The opinions expressed are his own.--
Sandy has been called, by some, the ‘perfect storm’ and the storm of the century’. But there are reasons to believe that strong storms could be even more dangerous in the future.
Normally, if storms move inland they lose strength rapidly. However, in this case Sandy met a cold front to the North West and high pressure to the North East. It is because of these interactions that the winds and rain extended over such a wide area; although the storm was downgraded from a hurricane to a post-tropical cyclone just before making landfall, the geographic spread remained around 800-900 miles wide from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes and the Mid-West. Moreover, some winds remained sustained at around 80 miles per hour.
As has already been seen in Asia, the tracks of such big storms may be changing as wind patterns are affected by climate change. It is also anticipated that cyclones and hurricanes will become stronger in areas where ocean surface temperatures are increasing, such as parts of the Gulf of Mexico, where many storms originate from which subsequently batter North America.
While Sandy is an unusual storm, the good news is that computer forecasting models have been quite good. It is remarkable that airlines, in particular, have relied so much on these forecasts to make their cancellation plans. This is a quite different experience from the previous ‘storm of the century’ in March 1993 in the Americas when airlines did not make good use of the-then computer forecasts.