A team of researchers at the University of Hong Kong developed a computer model to track the movement of a simulated tropical cyclone traveling across varying terrain, and found that big cities such as New York, Miami, New Orleans and Houston could act as magnets for hurricane landfalls.
How so? The results of the research, which will soon be published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, indicates that tropical cyclones tend to be attracted towards areas of higher friction. Therefore rough areas of land, including city buildings and naturally jagged land cover might actually attract what would ordinarily be passer-by hurricanes.
To obtain that conclusion the team modeled the effects that different terrain has on these storms to determine how cities that lie in the path of a hurricane change the storm's motion. They found that rough cityscapes (and forests alike) trap and compresses air, forcing it up into the atmosphere, which translates to added energy in the storm and a pulling of the center of circulation towards the rough region. Their model suggests that a city can cause a hurricane to swerve from its predicted path by as much as 20 miles.
Interesting, but not a concept I haven't heard before. Just look at that last-minute easterly jog of Charley right before landfall in southwest Florida! Friction all the way!
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