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Hurricanes

Kevin Reed. Photo from SBU

By Daniel Dunaief

At the beginning of this month, the North Atlantic started its annual hurricane season that will extend through the end of November.

Each year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration offers a forecast in May for the coming season. This year, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center anticipates a 60 percent chance of an above-normal season. The Center anticipates 13 to 19 storms, although that number doesn’t indicate how many storms will make landfall.

These predictions have become the crystal ball through which forecasters and city planners prepare for a season that involves tracking disturbances that typically begin off the West coast of Africa and pick up energy and size as they travel west across the Atlantic towards Central America. While some storms travel back out to sea, others threaten landfall by moving up the Gulf Coast or along Atlantic Seaboard of the United States.

Kevin Reed, an Associate Professor at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, and Alyssa Stansfield, a graduate student in his lab, recently predicted the likely amount of rainfall from tropical cyclones.

Alyssa Stansfield at the 33rd Conference on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology in 2018. Photo by Arianna Varuolo-Clarke

 

Using climate change projection simulations, Reed and Stansfield came up with a good-news, bad-news scenario for the years 2070 through 2100. The good news in research they published in Geophysical Research Letters is they anticipate fewer hurricanes.

The bad news? The storms will likely have higher amounts of rain, with increased rain per hour.

“If you focus on storms that make landfall over the Eastern United States, they are more impactful from a rainfall standpoint,” Reed said. “The amount of rainfall per hour and the rainfall impact per year is expected to increase significantly in the future.”

In total, the amount of rainfall will be less because of the lower number of storms, although the intensity and overall precipitation will be sufficient to cause damaging rains and flooding.

Warmer oceans and the air above them will drive the increased rainfall, as these storms pass over higher sea surface temperatures where they can gain energy. Warmer, moist air gives the hurricanes more moisture to work with and therefore more potential rainfall.

“As the air gets warmer, it can hold more water in it,” Stansfield said. “There’s more potential rain in the air for the hurricanes before they make landfall.”

Stansfield said the predictions are consistent with what climatologists would expect, reflecting how the models line up with the theory behind them. She explored how climate change affects the size of storms in this paper, but she wants to do more research looking at hurricane size in the future.

“If hurricanes are larger, they will drop rainfall over a larger area,” which could increase the range of area over which policy makers might need to prepare for potential damage from flooding and high winds, Stansfield said.

While her models suggest that storms will be larger, she cautioned that the field hasn’t reached a consensus about the size of future storms. As for areas where there is greater consensus, such as the increased rainfall their models predict for storms at the end of the century, Stansfield suggested that the confidence in the community about their forecasts, which use different climate models, is becoming “more apparent as more modeling groups reach the same conclusion.”

Alyssa Stansfield at Sequoia National Park in 2018. Photo by Jess Stansfield

In explaining the expectations for higher rainfall in future storms, Reed said that even storms that had the same intensity as current hurricanes would have an increase in precipitation because of the availability of more moisture at the surface.

While storms in recent years, such as Hurricanes Harvey, Florence and Dorian dumped considerable rain in their path because they moved more slowly, effectively dumping rain over a longer period of time in any one area, it’s “unclear” whether future storms would move more slowly or stall over land.

Several factors might contribute to a decrease in the number of storms. For starters, an increase in wind sheer could disrupt the formation of some storms. Vertical wind sheer is caused when wind speed and direction changes with increasing altitude. Pre-hurricane conditions may also change due to internal variability and the randomness of the atmosphere, according to Reed.

Reed said the team chose to use climate models to make predictions for the end of the century because it is common in climate science for comparison to the recent historical record. They also used a 30 year period to limit some of the uncertainty due to internal variability of weather systems.

Stansfield, who is in her third year of graduate school and anticipates spending another two years at Stony Brook University before defending her graduate thesis, said she became interested in studying hurricanes in part because of the effects of Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

Alyssa Stansfield at Yosemite in 2019. Photo by Kathy Stansfield

When she was younger, she and her father Greg used to go to the beach when a hurricane passed hundreds of miles off the coast, where she would see the impact of the storm in larger waves. At some point, she would like to fly in a hurricane hunter plane, traveling directly into a storm to track its speed and direction.

Stansfield said one of the more common misconceptions about hurricanes is that the category somehow determines their destructive power. Indeed, Superstorm Sandy was a Category 1 hurricane when it hit New York and yet it caused $65 billion in damage, making it the 4th costliest hurricane in the United States, according to the NOAA.

After Stansfield earns her PhD, she said she wants to continue studying hurricanes. One question that she’d like to address at some point is why there are between 80 to 90 hurricanes around the world each year. This has been the case for about 50 years, since satellite records began.

“That’s consistent every year,” she said. “We don’t know why that’s the number. There’s no theory behind it.” She suggested that was a “central question” that is unanswered in her field. 

Understanding what controls the number of hurricanes will inform predictions about how that number will change in response to climate change.

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In the last few weeks we have been subjected to a constant bombardment of tragic news. The horrific mass killings in Las Vegas is just the latest. We have lived through reports of the sequential hurricanes that have killed, maimed and destroyed lives and property in Texas, Florida, the Caribbean and Puerto Rico. We have agonized for the men, women and children caught in the Mexican earthquakes. And this latest horror of crowd homicide is the worst because it is not a paroxysm of the natural world, something we have to accept, but the act of a crazed human against hundreds of other innocent humans. Imagine the concertgoers’ happy anticipation for an evening of music under the stars with lovers or family only to be killed by a sniper’s bullets. And why?

We ran away from news of the carnage the other night and took refuge in art. The glorious embrace of Giacomo Puccini and his soaring arias of “La Bohème,” at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, welcomed us.

Puccini, you may well know, is considered one of the two most famous Italian opera composers of the 19th century, the other being Giuseppe Verdi. What I didn’t know is that he was the offspring of a musical dynasty in Lucca that included his father and the fathers preceding them as far back as his great-great-grandfather. All of these ancestors studied music at Bologna, wrote music for the church and, aided by their genes and family connections, were distinguished in their time.

Puccini’s first opera, “Le Villi,” premiering in 1884, when he was 26, was well enough received, and his subsequent “Manon Lescaut” was a triumph. His personal life, however, was as riveting as his librettos. He eloped with his married, former piano student at the risk of being shunned. They did eventually marry, after another husband killed her womanizing husband. By coincidence, Puccini’s opera premiered the same week as Verdi’s last opera, “Falstaff,” and talk began of Puccini being the natural heir to Verdi. At least that was what George Bernard Shaw is reported to have said.

Puccini’s next three operas are among the most popular and most often produced: “La Bohème,” “Tosca” and “Madama Butterfly.”

When “La Bohème” premiered in Turin in 1896, Arturo Toscanini conducted it, and it was immediately popular. The story is of four young artists, all starving and freezing as they work in a garret in Paris and experience the pleasures and pains of young love. The opera is at turns joyful with the energy of youth and tragic with the premature death from tuberculosis of Mimi, the seamstress, and Rodolfo’s love. As a young man in Milan, Puccini lived the life he wrote about, once sharing a single herring with three others, as portrayed in the opera.

Puccini almost died in a car accident before finishing “Madama Butterfly” but then went on to complete what is now one of the most loved operas in the world. “Tosca” followed; then “La Fanciulla del West,” a plot set in America; “La Rondine;” and a three-act opera, including “Gianni Schicchi,” which contains my favorite aria, “O mio babbino caro.” “Turandot” was his final opera, finished after his death by his associates from his sketches, and offering the memorable, “Nessun dorma.”

Publicity about his personal life continued when his wife accused their maid of having an affair with Puccini, who was known to wander off the reservation. The maid then committed suicide, and an autopsy revealed that she had died a virgin. Puccini’s wife was accused of slander, found guilty and sentenced to five months in jail; but a payment by Puccini spared her that experience.

Ultimately 11 of Puccini’s operas are among the 200 most performed operas in the world, and the abovementioned three are in the top 10. Only Verdi and Mozart have had more operas performed. By his death in 1924, Puccini had earned $4 million from his works.

I hope this excursion in art has helped you, as it did me, to escape at least briefly from the omnipresent bad news.

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Sohpomore guard Nora Gabel drives the baseline in Comsewogue's triple overtime loss to Westhampton on Jan. 30. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

It took three overtime periods to decide the Comsewogue girls’ basketball team’s fate Saturday, when the Warriors fell Westhampton, 59-57, after both teams were deadlocked at 41 points apiece at the end of regulation.

“We all wanted it so bad,” Comsewogue junior Stephanie Collins said of winning the game. “We wanted to come out and have a good last home game. We all just gave it our all. We hit some key shots, but I never thought it would go to three overtimes.”

The Warriors broke out to a 10-2 lead early in the game before the Hurricanes picked up speed, taking a one-point lead into the second quarter. Comsewogue battled back to outscore its opponent 13-7 over the next eight minutes, to take a 25-20 advantage into the halftime break.

Junior forward Samantha Collins reached for the rim. Photo by Bill Landon
Junior forward Samantha Collins reached for the rim. Photo by Bill Landon

Westhampton scored five unanswered points to tie the game at 25-25, but Collins went to the line shooting two and swished both to help her team edge ahead 27-25 with just under four minutes left in the third.

In the final seconds of the period, with the game retied at 32-32, the Hurricanes let a fall-away jumper go at the buzzer, which hit its mark to help the team edge ahead 34-32 to begin the final quarter.

Collins went to the line shooting two, and again netted both to tie the game at 34-34 with just over five minutes left in regulation. Collins was 9-for-10 at the charity stripe, and led her team in scoring, along with sophomore Nora Gabel. The two hit the scoreboard with 20 points apiece.

Both teams traded points while the clock unwound, and Westhampton hit a field goal to bring the game to 41-41 with 40 seconds on the clock.

With 3.9 seconds left, Westhampton inbounded the ball only to have it picked off by Comsewogue’s Sofia Colocho. The Warriors immediately called time out.

With time for one more play, Comsewogue junior guard Megan Turner dribbled to the top of the key, but didn’t have a clear look. Head coach Joe Caltagirone barked from the sideline for his team to shoot the ball. Turner didn’t like the look, but let the ball fly. Her attempt just rimmed out at the buzzer, sending the game into overtime.

“It was a great effort, especially on a Saturday morning coming off a loss to Islip that officially eliminated us from the playoffs, but they came out with everything they had,” Caltagirone said. “Westhampton is very good. They’re stingy on defense, so getting them in foul trouble was big, and to be able to come up with some loose ball rebounds.”

Senior forward and captain Toni Ann Velazquez scores. Photo by Bill Landon
Senior forward and captain Toni Ann Velazquez scores. Photo by Bill Landon

Gabel was busy at the charity stripe netting both in her overtime appearance at the line, to help her team take a 43-41 lead with 2:47 left to play. Westhampton answered back with two points from the line, and with 43 seconds remaining, Gabel swished two more free throws to help her team retake the lead, 45-43. The Hurricanes tried to counter with their appearance at the charity stripe, but split  the attempts, to make it a one-point game.

Again, Gabel went to the line with two attempts, but missed her mark on one, pushing her team ahead 46-44 with 17.3 seconds on the clock.

Desperate to score in the final seconds, Westhampton tried to force a shot and ended up drawing a foul as the clock expired. Westhampton senior Madison Skala matter-of-factly sank both of her shots to retie the game at 46-46, forcing a second overtime period.

Two of Westhampton’s starters fouled out to give Comsewogue an edge, but the Warriors had three players with four fouls.

At the 1:36 mark of the next four minutes, Westhampton edged ahead 50-48 as the clock wound down to 15 seconds. Comsewogue’s final shot from the outside missed, but senior captain and forward Toni Ann Velazquez was right there with the putback to kept the Warriors alive for a final overtime session.

“I think we played a hell of a game,” Velazquez said. “Although we didn’t win, I think it was a great way to end our last home game. That our defense was able to hold them down and not foul as much as they did was very important.”

Gabel opened the third overtime period with another pair of free throws for a 52-50 advantage, but Westhampton answered with a pair of field goals to retake the lead, 54-52. Comsewogue freshman guard Julianna Watson took matters into her own hands as she muscled her way to the rim from the paint for a field goal, but the Hurricanes tacked on a three-point play to pull ahead 57-54 with 27 seconds left in the third overtime period.

Sophomore guard Nora Gabel hits her game-tying trifecta. Photo by Bill Landon
Sophomore guard Nora Gabel hits her game-tying trifecta. Photo by Bill Landon

As the clock wound down to eight seconds, Gabel drained a three-pointer to tie the game, and Westhampton immediately called for a timeout.

“I don’t even know what set that up,” Gabel said. “It’s not a set play, but it was pretty hectic out there, so I dribbled over and found an open shot. We needed three to tie it up, so I went for it, and luckily, it went in.”

In the little time remaining, the Hurricanes inbounded the ball and threw deep to the paint, finding the net as the buzzer blared to win the game 59-57. Comsewogue fell to 3-8 in League V, while Westhampton improved to 7-4.

“We had a couple of miscues early that cost us some opportunities early in the game,” Caltagirone said. “But it was a great game, a clutch shot by Nora for that three, so it was a total team effort.”

Behind scoring leaders Gabel and Collins, Velazquez finished with eight points while Colocho netted five. Watson and Turner rounded out the scoring banking two points each.

Comsewogue will close its season on the road on Feb. 8 against Sayville. Tipoff is at 4 p.m.

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By Bill Landon

Just call it the fabulous fifth.

The No. 2 Kings Park girls’ volleyball team defeated No. 1 Westhampton Beach in three straight sets Thursday, 25-23, 25-20 and 25-17, to claim the school’s fifth straight Suffolk County Class A title.

The Kingsmen took seven straight points in the first set, and broke out to a 10-6 lead as both teams continued to trade points until Kings Park was ahead 17-12 at the first time out.

The Hurricanes battled back with several long volleys to close the gap to 20-18, but the Kingsmen rattled off four more points to take a 24-20 advantage. Kings Park looked to put the game away, and did, but not before Kings Park took three more points, to win the first set, 25-23.

“Our team is about coming out and doing what we have to do,” Kings Park junior outside hitter Lauren Kloos said. “We come out with so much excitement, so this win is just amazing for us.”

With the teams tied 7-7 in the second set, Kings Park surged ahead 24-17, but Westhampton Beach scored the next three points to trail 24-20. Again, the Kingsmen found a way to dig out the last point, to win the second set 25-20.

Kings Park sophomore middle hitter Erika Benson said her team has a winning formula.

“I think it’s the passion we have for each other,” she said. “All three matches were close, and they played really well, but in the end we came out stronger.”

Westhampton Beach struggled, and fell behind in the third set 8-2 in a must-win set to stay alive. The Hurricanes would not go quietly though, and battled back to close within four points late in the match.

Kloos finished with 14 kills; senior middle hitter Lauren Kehoe added 12 kills and 16 digs; senior outside hitter Jaclyn Wilton had 12 kills and 16 digs; sophomore libero Meagan Murphy had 25 digs; and senior setter Stephanie Cornwell added 31 assists.

“We communicate really well; Meagan Murphy, Lauren Baxter and Kayla Buell played really great defense,” Kehoe said. “Lauren Kloos and Jaclyn Wilton were swinging great and Stephanie Cornwell was serving really well, so it was just a good performance all around.”

It was the third time the teams faced each other this year, and although Kings Park won the second meeting between the two, the Hurricanes handed Kings Park their only loss in the season in the first game of the year.

Wilton said Westhampton Beach is a much stronger team this season compared to last.

“We lost to them in our first game, we’ve been undefeated in my high school career and that first lost hurt,” Wilton said. “I never knew what that felt like, but since then, I knew that I never wanted to experience that again.”

And so far, they haven’t.

With the win, Kings Park advances to the Long Island championship round.  The team will return to Suffolk County Community College’s Brentwood campus tomorrow, Nov. 14, to face Wantagh at 3 p.m.

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Comsewogue’s Justin Virga stops the ball at home in the Warriors’ 7-4 win over Westhampton on May 11. Photo by Bill Landon
Comsewogue’s Dan Colasanto, who went 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI, hurls a pitch from the mound in the Warriors’ 7-4 win over Westhampton on May 11. The win helped Comsewogue claim sole possession of first place with a 16-3 mark in League VI. Photo by Bill Landon
Comsewogue’s Dan Colasanto, who went 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI, hurls a pitch from the mound in the Warriors’ 7-4 win over Westhampton on May 11. The win helped Comsewogue claim sole possession of first place with a 16-3 mark in League VI. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

The League VI title is on the line for the Comsewogue baseball team.

The Warriors took one step closer to claiming that elusive title and the first-round bye after topping Westhampton at home Monday afternoon for the team’s seventh win in a row, to break the first place tie, as both teams were tied 15-3 at the top of the standings.

Westhampton scored first, but the Warriors rallied in the bottom of the fourth inning and fended off a late comeback-effort to earn a 7-4 win.

Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the fourth, Comsewogue’s bats came alive.

The runs started adding up when Robert Dattoma’s hit drove in Dan Colasanto to tie the game. Jordan Lisco set up the next scoring opportunity when he singled to right field, putting runners on both corners.

Ryan Szalay’s bat spoke next when he hit a line drive to right center that drove home Dattoma for a 2-1 lead, and Mike Stiles struck next when he laid down a perfect bunt and beat the throw to first.

Erik Bono stepped into the batters’ box and waited for his pitch. He smacked the ball deep to right field to bring home Lisco and Szalay, to give the Warriors a 4-1 advantage.

Comsewogue’s Erik Bono takes a cut in the Warriors’ 7-4 win over Westhampton on May 11. Photo by Bill Landon
Comsewogue’s Erik Bono takes a cut in the Warriors’ 7-4 win over Westhampton on May 11. Photo by Bill Landon

“I knew it was going to be a tough game today — we had to come out strong after they scored first,” said Lisco, who went 3-for-4 with a run. “We came back and took the lead and we had good, solid defense, and when you can do that, you win baseball games.”

The Warriors weren’t done for the inning.

Vin Velazquez stepped to the plate and hit a fly ball that dropped into the gap to move Bono over to third, and John Braun finished the job with a shot to left field to bring Bono across the plate as the team surged ahead, 5-1.

Having given up five unanswered runs, Westhampton made a pitching change to try to stop further damage from being done, but Colasanto, back at the plate for the second time in the inning, had something to say first, when he ripped one deep for a stand-up double that scored Velazquez for a 6-1 lead.

Comsewogue’s Justin Virga makes a catch at home plate in the Warriors’ 7-4 win over Westhampton on May 11. The win helped Comsewogue claim sole possession of first place with a 16-3 mark in League VI. Photo by Bill Landon
Comsewogue’s Justin Virga makes a catch at home plate in the Warriors’ 7-4 win over Westhampton on May 11. The win helped Comsewogue claim sole possession of first place with a 16-3 mark in League VI. Photo by Bill Landon

“We have a great group of guys,” Szalay said. “Once we get a hit, we all start to hit, and the game- changer was when Dan Colasanto got that RBI-double.”

Westhampton tacked on a run in the top of the fifth, and threatened with one out and two runners in scoring position. Colasanto was able to pitch his way out of the jam though, as he got the batter to ground out to Dattoma, the short stop, who quickly flicked the ball to second and helped his team turn the double play to end the inning.

“We knew coming in we could beat these guys — we all just needed to stay loose,” said Colasanto, who went 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI. “I told the team that if we stayed loose, kept the chants going and have some fun, we could win it.”

Mike Stiles took over the mound at the top of the sixth, and Westhampton scored two more runs to bring the score to 6-4 before Stiles was able to work his way out of the inning with a strikeout.

“We’ve been able to play error-free baseball all year long,” Comsewogue head coach Mike Bonura said. “Our strong points are our defense and the mound. We’ve struggled with hitting, and obviously you’ve got to hit to score runs to win ball games, but today we finally put a good part of the bat on the ball.”

Comsewogue’s Mike Stiles tosses a pitch in a 1-2-3 inning that helped the Warriors claim a 7-4 win over Westhampton on May 11. The win helped Comsewogue claim sole possession of first place with a 16-3 mark in League VI. Photo by Bill Landon
Comsewogue’s Mike Stiles tosses a pitch in a 1-2-3 inning that helped the Warriors claim a 7-4 win over Westhampton on May 11 and sole possession of first place in League VI. Photo by Bill Landon

In the bottom of the sixth with a man on base, Dattoma cracked one to right field for added insurance.

Comsewogue needed three outs in the top of the seventh and Stiles answered the call, putting the game away with a 1-2-3 inning.

“We knew we needed to win this,” Dattoma said. “It’s been a while since we got a title; we’re hungry. We were looking for a little revenge and we got it today. For the playoffs, we’ve got to stay mentally tough, don’t let bad at-bats get in our head, and just work on the next one.”

With one game left in the regular season, Comsewogue traveled to Harborfields Wednesday, but results were not available by press time. A win would give the Warriors the league title and first-round bye for the playoffs.

“We’re all rested and if we get a bye, that’s huge because it’s all about pitching,” Bonura said. “Anyone’s No. 1 can beat anyone. Our pitching staff is healthy, and I’ve got plenty of them.”