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FIU experts are available for the 2020 hurricane season

FIU experts are available for the 2020 hurricane season

As the 2020 hurricane season approaches, FIU experts are available to discuss various issues surrounding hurricanes and their aftermath.

August 30, 2019 at 9:52am

The 2019 Atlantic Hurricane season began on Saturday and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts an estimated nine to 15 named storms. Of those storms, NOAA predicts two to four can become major hurricanes.

FIU experts are available to discuss various issues surrounding hurricanes and their aftermath. The full list of experts, which will be continuously updated, can be found below.

For help contacting any of our hurricane experts, please call the Office of Media Relations:

  • Maydel Santana, assistant vice president: 305-348 -1555,
  • Madeline Baro, director of media relations: 305-348-2234,
  • Dianne Fernandez, broadcast media manager: 305-698 4870,
  • JoAnn Adkins, director of marketing & PR, College of Arts, Sciences & Education:
  • Ileana Varela, associate director of marketing and PR for the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine: 305-348-4926,
  • Cynthia Corzo, assistant director of media relations & communications for the College of Business: 305-348-1664,
  • Diana Hernandez, senior account manager for the College of Engineering & Computing: 305-348-7511,

Meteorology and Hurricane Intensification

Hugh E. Willoughby
Distinguished Research Professor, 
Department of Earth and Environment
College of Arts, Sciences & Education 
Hugh Willoughby studies tropical cyclone structure, intensity, and impacts. He has flown more than 400 missions into the eyes of hurricanes and typhoons as a meteorologist for the federal government.  Willoughby was a Research Meteorologist at the Hurricane Research Division of NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, where he worked since 1975 and served as director from 1995 until 2002. Willoughby also serves on the Florida Commission on Hurricane Loss Projection Methodology and has extensive knowledge of hurricane impacts and insurance. For a video on Willoughby, please click here.

Office: 305-348-0243

Haiyan Jiang
Associate Professor of Meteorology, Department of Earth and Environment
College of Arts, Sciences & Education 

Haiyan Jiang is a meteorologist with research interests in hurricane intensity, intensity change and structures of inner-core convection and precipitation. Jiang’s expertise is in satellite remote sensing techniques that can detect various characteristics of weather systems. She successfully applied these technologies to study hurricane rainfall, convection, winds, and warm-core structures. A coherent theme of her research is to advance our understanding of hurricane intensity and intensity change. She developed long-term satellite-based tropical cyclone databases and used these tools to study the climatology of hurricanes and to develop algorithms for estimating current intensity and predicting rapid intensification of tropical cyclones. Her research on hurricane intensity estimation, rapid intensification prediction, and climatology of hurricane inner-core structures has been funded by federal agencies including NOAA and NASA. For more information on her research, click here.
Office: 305-348-2984

Social and Political Impact

Richard S. Olson, Professor,
Politics and International Relations

Extreme Events Institute

 Director, International Hurricane Research Center
Richard Olson researches the political fallout from natural disasters and has been involved in more than 20 field responses and post-disaster investigations. He has served on the Climate Change and Social Stress panel of the National Academy of Science and has written extensively about urban vulnerability to disasters and the political ramifications of how governments respond. Olson is also featured in the independent documentary titled “Built to Last? Saving our Homes in the Age of Disasters.” The documentary communicates what ordinary people around the world can do to make their homes safe and hazard-resilient. To learn more about the documentary, please click here. Olson speaks Spanish.


Eduardo Gamarra
Political Science Professor
Political Science Professor Eduardo Gamarra has done research on the regional dynamics of Latin America and the Caribbean, including Haiti and the Dominican Republic. He is well versed on political, social and infrastructure issues in Haiti. He is the author of more than half a dozen books and more than forty academic articles on Latin America. Professor Gamarra speaks Spanish.

Cell: 786-253-4898


Stephen Leatherman
Professor, FIU Institute of Environment
College of Arts, Sciences & Education 
Known as "Dr. Beach" for his annual rankings of U.S. beaches, Stephen Leatherman’s major research focuses on storm impacts on coastal areas, including beach erosion and storm surges. He has given expert testimony to U.S. Congressional committees more than a dozen times on issues such as coastal storm impacts and federal disaster response. He was the review coordinator for the National Academy of Sciences & Engineering for the federal study of the breaching of the New Orleans levees and flooding by Hurricane Katrina. 
Phone: 305-238-5888

Hugh Gladwin
Associate Professor, Department of Global and Sociocultural Studies
Gladwin has closely followed how people prepare for and are affected by hurricanes. He has collaborated with FIU and other researchers on more than 15 National Science Foundation (NSF), State of Florida, and FEMA funded projects studying hurricane preparation/evacuation behavior and disaster resilience. He also works on the human impact of the hurricane/climate change linkage. Gladwin’s most recent NSF-funded research focuses on communication of hurricane forecast meteorology and expected storm effects. He was a member of a NOAA working group on social science research needs for the hurricane forecast and warning system, work that has resulted in new research initiatives from NSF. His hurricane-related publications cover forecast communication, evacuation decision-making, and the effects of hurricanes Andrew, Katrina, and Sandy.

Cell: 305-608-9961

Maria Ilcheva
Senior Research Associate, FIU Metropolitan Center
Maria Ilcheva is investigating how prepared Floridians are to face hurricanes and how they use information toward their preparations. Ilcheva is examining the measures residents, businesses and public officials are taking to mitigate the effect of hurricanes and what barriers exist to implement optimal preparedness. Ilcheva’s hurricane research focuses on the real and perceptual changes in homeowners insurance. Ilcheva specializes in the administration of surveys, polls and interviews, data analysis and reporting.
Cell: 305-779-7872

Pallab Mozumder
Associate Professor, Department of Earth and Environment and Department of Economics
College of Arts, Sciences & Education 

Pallab Mozumder is an environmental economist with expertise in socio-economic aspects of natural hazards. His research on hurricane risk mitigation and evacuation behavior has been funded by federal and state agencies such as the National Science Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Florida Department of Community Affairs and Florida Sea Grant.
Office: 305-348-7146

Erik SalnaAssociate
Director, Extreme Events Institute (EEI) & International Hurricane Research Center (IHRC)

Erik Salna works with the Wall of Wind research team and coordinates education and outreach activities. He has experience as a broadcast meteorologist and within both non-profit and for-profit environments in meteorology, mitigation, preparedness, education, media and EOC activations.  Before EEI & IHRC, he worked at America’s Emergency Network, which focused on live video streaming technology. He also served as project coordinator for the non-profit Hurricane Warning at the Disaster Survival House, located in Deerfield Beach.  He also recently served as hazard mitigation manager for the City of Deerfield Beach, was on the city’s crisis activation team and participated in all activations of the emergency operations center.
Office: 305-348-1146

Shu-Ching Chen
 School of Computing and Information Sciences

Shu-Ching Chen’s team has developed the Storm Surge Simulator that simulates the storm-surge flooding along key South Florida coastal areas. As the head of FIU’s Distributed Multimedia Information Systems Laboratory, Chen uses topographical data from LIDAR, wind speed and direction, tides and other factors to create 3D visualizations of a surge. The goal is for these visualizations to assist the general public and emergency management officials in hurricane preparation and recovery efforts. In addition, a 3D Hurricane Storm Surge Animation project has been created to visually simulate the impacts of storm surge in the coastal area. This helps the viewers to better understand the dangers of storms by allowing them to visually experience the potential storm surge effects. Another project that has been successfully developed by Chen’s team is the FIU’s Disaster Response Tracker (DRT) tool. This web and mobile friendly tool has been adopted by Miami-Dade County Emergency Management’s Business Recovery Program (ESF-18). It greatly facilitates the information exchange among public and private sector organizations during the hurricane season.
Office: 305-348-3480

Aris Papadopoulos
Distinguished Expert in Resilience, FIU Extreme Events Institute
Aris has more than 35 years experience in the construction and energy industries and is founder of the Resilience Action Fund, a non-profit advancing greater awareness, transparency and education for resilience in the built environment. He is author of Resilience–The Ultimate Sustainability: Lessons from Failing to Develop a Stronger and Safer Built Environment, which inspired the one-hour documentary, Built to Last? Saving Our Homes in the Age of Disasters, now showing on PBS. Aris serves on the board of the UN Alliance for Disaster Resilient Societies (ARISE.)
Office: 305-348-1607

Environmental and Ecological Storm Impacts

Jayantha Obeysekera
Research Professor and director of the FIU Sea Level Solutions Center
College of Arts, Sciences & Education 

Jayantha Obeysekera can talk about hurricanes as they relate to sea level rise, climate change, flooding and water management. Obeysekera previously served as chief modeler at the South Florida Water Management District, where he had a leading role in modeling of the Everglades and Kissimmee River and Everglades restoration projects. He was co-author of the sea level rise projections report published by NOAA for the National Climate Assessment. He also co-authored a report on regional sea level projections for Department of Defense facilities across the globe.  He has extensive media experience, including print and broadcast.
Phone: 561-722-9994

Shimon Wdowinski
, Department of Earth and Environment 
College of Arts, Sciences & Education 

Shimon Wdowinski is an expert in space geodesy, natural hazards and sea level rise. His research has focused on the development and usage of space geodetic techniques that can detect very precisely small movements of the Earth's surface. Wdowinski has successfully applied these techniques to study tectonic plate motion, earthquakes, land subsidence, sinkhole activities, wetland hydrology, climate change, and sea level rise. He is currently spearheading research supported by NASA examining whether powerful hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones can trigger earthquakes.  
Office: 305-348-6826

Randall Parkinson
Research Associate Professor, Institute of Environment
College of Arts, Sciences & Education 

Randall Parkinson has spent the past 35 years researching the effects of climate change and urbanization on the resiliency of the built and natural environments of the Northern Gulf of Mexico, Peninsular Florida, and the Georgia Bight.  More importantly, he has focused on ensuring the results of his research are conveyed in a way that can be understood and applied by the broadest array of stakeholder and practitioners who are responsible for the management of our coastal resources.  Parkinson has conducted numerous vulnerability assessments quantifying the effects of rising temperature, changes in precipitation, increasing storminess, acidification, and sea-level rise on the coastal zone and preparing adaptation action plans to reduce exposure and mitigate risk. 
Phone: 321-373-0976

James Fourqurean
Department of Biological Sciences
College of Arts, Sciences & Education 
James Fourqurean studies the impacts of hurricanes on the shallow water marine ecosystems of South Florida and the Caribbean. He is the director of FIU’s Marine Education and Research Initiative for the Florida Keys, the principal investigator of FIU’s Aquarius Reef Base undersea research laboratory, a professor of biology and a member of FIU’s Southeast Environmental Research Center. 
Office: 305-348-4084

Joel Trexler
Professor, Department of Biological Sciences and Director of Marine Sciences Program
College of Arts, Sciences & Education 

Joel Trexler has researched the impacts of hurricanes on the wetland ecosystems of South Florida and the effects of those storms on populations of aquatic animals in the Everglades. For a video on Trexler, please click here.
Office: 305-348-1966

Insurance and Finance

Shahid Hamid
Professor, chair and professor, Department of Finance
College of Business

Shahid Hamid works primarily on the financial and insurance consequences of hurricanes. He heads the development and operation of the Florida Public Hurricane Loss Model that forecasts the insurance losses caused by hurricanes. As the director of the FIU International Hurricane Research Center’s Laboratory for Insurance, Financial and Economic Research, Hamid leads a multi-disciplinary team of more than 15 professors and experts, and a dozen graduate students, who work on the model.
Cell: 305-807-0451


Eli Beracha
Director of FIU’s Tibor and Sheila Hollo School of Real Estate Faculty
Director of the Master of Science in International Real Estate (MSIRE) Program
College of Business

Beracha conducts empirical research in the areas of real estate and finance. Among the courses he teaches are: Real Estate Invest, Real Estate Market Analysis, and Real Estate Markets, Institutions and Practices. He has years of practical experience in the area of real estate investments and has served as a consultant for real estate development projects.  He’s also managing editor of the Journal of Real Estate Practice and Education and is an elected member of the board of directors of the American Real Estate Society.
Cell: 785-841-4470

William Hardin
Associate Dean, Chapman Graduate School of Business
Director, Jerome Bain Real Estate Institute
College of Business

Hardin is an a recognized expert on commercial real estate markets, financial markets and securitized real estate. A member of the board of directors of the American Real Estate Society, he has authored or co-authored some 40 papers on varied topics in commercial real estate investment, including REIT governance and financial structure. Dr. Hardin is co-editor of Journal of Real Estate Practice and Education and is an elected member of the board of directors of the American Real Estate Society.
Cell: 954-298-8675 


Aileen M. Marty 
Professor, Department of Humanities, Health, and Society
Director, FIU Health Travel Medicine Program and Vaccine Clinic
Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine
Aileen M. Marty, M.D., is a member of the FIU-FAST (Florida Advanced Surgical Transport) team which is trained to treat and evacuate critical care patients in a disaster. During her 25-years in the U.S. Navy, she specialized in tropical medicine, infectious disease pathology, disaster medicine, mass casualty, and in the science, medical response and policy involving weapons of mass destructions. Dr. Marty has led international teams on outbreak responses in Africa. She  is a member of the Presidential Advisory Council on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, technical advisor for the World Health Organization’s new Health Emergencies Programme, and member of the WHO’s Health Security Interface- Scientific and Technical Advisory Group. Aileen Marty is available to do interviews in both English and Spanish.

Juan Pablo Sarmiento
FIU Extreme Events Institute

Juan Pablo Sarmiento’s professional and research experience spans 33 years and includes working in Colombia for the Civil Defense, Central Military Hospital, Ministry of Health, Colombian Red Cross, and Pontificia Universidad Javeriana. Additionally, he worked as a consultant for the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO); he was member of United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) teams, and, for ten years worked as the technical manager of the regional risk management program that the International Resources Group (IRG) implemented in Latin American and the Caribbean for the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA).
Office: 305-348-0346