The 2020 Atlantic Hurricane season begins on June 1 and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts an above-normal season with an estimated 13 to 19 named storms. Of those storms, NOAA predicts six to 10 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.
Meteorology and Hurricane Intensification
Hugh E. Willoughby
Distinguished Research Professor, Department of Earth and Environment
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.
Social and Political Impact
Richard S. Olson
Professor and director, Extreme Events Institute
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.
Political science professor, Department of Politics & International Relations
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.
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.
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.
Associate Professor, Department of Earth and Environment and Department of Economics
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.
Associate 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.
Arindam Gan Chowdhury
Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Arindam Gan Chowdhury is a professor at FIU’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and PI and director of the NSF NHERI Wall of Wind (WOW) Experimental Facility (EF) managed by the Extreme Events Institute (EEI). Under Chowdhury’s direction, the WOW research team has had a significant impact on mitigating hurricane damage by enhancing building codes and patenting innovative mitigation technologies. Chowdhury is the recipient of an NSF CAREER Award and a Research to Applicant Award from the Florida Sea Grant Program. FIU honored Chowdhury by naming him a Top Scholar. He's also received the FIU Service and Recognition Award and the President’s Council Worlds Ahead Faculty Award.
Professor, 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.
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.)
Senior director, Academy for International Disaster Preparedness
A highly motivated and enthusiastic Fire Service professional with a specialty in the field of Emergency Management, Gomez is a member of the executive board for the State of Florida’s Domestic Oversight Council, co-chair of the Special Response Teams Coordinating Group, and belongs to the Regional Domestic Security Task Force. Gomez was a founding member of the City of Miami’s Sea Level Rise Committee. With over 35 years of experience in just about every aspect of the Fire Service, Gomez brings a well-rounded perspective and wealth of experience to emergency management. Gomez led the City of Miami’s response to Hurricanes Irma and Dorian as well as the recovery from both disasters. He served as a liaison in the State EOC in support of the State’s efforts for Hurricane Michael.
Phone: (786) 367-7746
Environmental and Ecological Storm Impacts
Research professor and director of Sea Level Solutions in the FIU Institute of Environment
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.
Professor, Department of Earth and Environment and FIU Institute of Environment
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.
Professor, Department of Earth and Environment
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.
Research associate professor, Institute of Environment
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.
Professor, Department of Biological Sciences
Director, Coastlines and Ocean Division, FIU Institute of Environment
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.
Professor, Department of Biological Sciences and Director of Marine Sciences Program
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.
Insurance and Finance
Professor, chair and professor, Department of Finance
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.
Director, Tibor and Sheila Hollo School of Real Estate Faculty
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.
Associate dean, Chapman Graduate School of Business
Director, Jerome Bain Real Estate Institute
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.
Aileen M. Marty, MD
Professor, Department of Translational Medicine
Director, FIU Health Travel Medicine Program and Vaccine Clinic
Dr. Aileen Marty currently serves on a working group for Miami-Dade County on hurricane strategy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Marty served as a Naval officer for 25 years and has more than 40 years of clinical and research work in the fields of infectious disease, public health, outbreak response, & mass gatherings. She also works with the World Health Organization and has responded to disease outbreaks around the world. Dr. Marty is co-editor-in-chief of One Health, the official journal of the International Federation for Tropical Medicine.
Dr. Marty is available to do interviews in both English and Spanish.
Juan Pablo Sarmiento
Research professor and associate director for research, 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).