Dr. Philip Orton to Open Conference on Tropical Storms Irene and Lee
September 11, 2012
Experts gather to outline and analyze the historic combined effect of the two storms
During a torrid week in 2011, cities and communities along the Hudson River were hammered by Tropical Storms Irene and Lee, causing $1.5 billion in damage and creating conditions so unique that scientists and researchers are still studying the effects a year later. On September 19, Dr. Philip Orton, Research Scientist for the Center for Maritime Systems at Stevens Institute of Technology, will give the opening talk at a conference hosted by the Hudson River Environmental Society (HRES), where experts in meteorology, hydrology, sediment transport, and biology will come together and share their research on the impacts of Irene and Lee on the Hudson River.
Dr. Philip Orton
“The unparalleled location of Stevens on the Hudson River allows our experts access to some of the most complex and dynamic waterways in the world,” says Dr. Michael Bruno, Dean of the Charles V. Schaefer, Jr. School of Engineering and Science. “We are pleased that the Hudson River Environmental Society has asked Dr. Orton to give the introductory science talk summarizing the storms and their effects.”
The Hudson River runs 315 miles through New York State and has a profound impact on major population areas from Albany down to New York City. Dr. Orton will discuss how heavy rain and high storm surges from Irene and Lee affected the Hudson’s characteristics and surrounding ecosystems. The summary rainfall of both storms was between 12 and 18 inches within the Hudson Valley. “The cumulative effect of Irene and Lee was a once-in-a-hundred-year event,” says Dr. Orton. “Irene dropped so much rain in so little time, nearly all the salt was washed from the Hudson River estuary southward of Manhattan, and there was only a brief return to brackish conditions before a second storm, Lee, nearly did it again a week later.”
Click to see Dr. Orton's animation and explanation of modeled tropical storm Irene storm surge and total water elevations.
At the conference, he will also detail a more comprehensive understanding of flooding around the Hudson River, by quantifying and demonstrating how the flood waters from coastal storm surges and inland rain merged. Understanding this merging flood allows researchers to better understand the impact of future sea level rise as well as potential increases in storm intensities and rain rates on flooding along the Hudson.
The New York Harbor Observing and Prediction System (NYHOPS), developed at Stevens, and the Hudson River Environmental Conditions Observing System (HRECOS) provided Dr. Orton with observations and computer model simulations that he used to study the storms’ effects. Water elevation, salinity, and direction and speed of water currents are among the many properties NYHOPS displays using real-time data and model forecasts, making it an invaluable tool used by researchers, boaters, the shipping industry, Coast Guard and many others.
“Dr. Orton’s research on the Hudson River and surrounding New York area waterways is an excellent foundation for the Hudson River Environmental Society conference,” says Dr. Alan Blumberg, director of the Center for Maritime Systems. “His enthusiasm for all things ocean-related is contagious and will be an excellent catalyst for a valuable and engaging conference.”
“Many people are surprised an oceanographer would thrive in New York City, but I find it an ideal location,” says Dr. Orton. “The area is very diverse, with estuaries and tidal straits of every kind running through or nearby New York City, making it perfect for my research and interests.”He has researched oceanography for 16 years, studying air-sea interactions, storm surges, biophysical oceanography, turbulent mixing, sediment transport, and ocean acidification and carbon dioxide. His passion for oceanography extends on the web as a lead author of SeaAndSkyNY, a blog about New York City weather and oceanography, which has over 29,000 views.
The Hudson River Environmental Society is a nonprofit, non-advocacy organization that delivers the science behind Hudson Valley issues to citizens, scientists, and decision makers. The Society is composed of academic researchers, government officers, nonprofit scientists, private consultants, teachers, students, and interested residents. HRES works to facilitate and coordinate research in the physical, biological and social sciences, and other disciplines in the Hudson River region. The conference, bringing together experts in meteorology, hydrology, sediment transport, and biology.
The Center for Maritime Systems at Stevens Institute of Technology works to preserve and secure U.S. maritime resources and assets through collaborative knowledge development, innovation and invention, and education and training. Composed of four integrated laboratory activities and three support groups, this Center has become the world’s leader in delivering new knowledge, advanced technology, and education in support of the maritime community. It uniquely integrates the fields of naval architecture, coastal and ocean engineering, physical oceanography, marine hydrodynamics and maritime security to create a trans-disciplinary enterprise that can address both the highly-specialized issues confronting each discipline, as well as the more complex, integrated issues facing natural and man-made maritime systems.
Learn more about programs or research initiatives at the Center for Maritime Systems, or apply at Undergraduate or Graduate Admissions.