Science Pops Open, Ep. 18: Voice of a Storm Surge

Research fellows of the AXA Research Fund tell the story of their work to reduce an array of risks

Hurricane Katrina: 1,200 dead. Typhoon Hayian: 6,241 casualties. These storms offer just two examples of the damage caused around the world by storm surges, unexpected increases in sea level caused by storms.

Resulting in abnormally large waves striking the coast, this threat occurs much more frequently than the more famous tsunamis, yet the public and policy makers are considerably less aware. In addition, current detection systems operate on a global scale, missing local events, and have failed to provide early warnings in the past. A perfect storm surge of problems.

Dr. Emiliano Renzi has always been fascinated by the sea and, today, is putting his training in engineering and mathematics to use in developing a pioneering technology to warn of approaching storm surges. Surprisingly, his tool for predicting extreme ocean waves depends on sound waves! The same weather phenomenon that kicks up such events at the water’s surface creates a fast-moving acoustic wave that travels ahead of the surge. Dr. Renzi plans to use underwater microphones to pick up this signal that a dangerous storm surge is coming. He is currently testing his mathematical models on real-life situations and expects his hydrophone detection system to be ready in a few years’ time. The advance warning this could provide will aid in evacuation decisions and allow threatened coastal residents to reach safety.

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Ep. 2 – Improving outcomes of crisis and conflict, thanks to an ethnographic outlook, with Ruben Andersson

Ep. 3 – After an Earthquake, the Show Must Go On, with Anna Reggio

Ep. 4 – Disrupting the Sleeping Sickness Symphony, with Fabien Guegan

Ep. 5 – Optimizing Welfare…and Equality, with Sean Slack

Ep. 6 – Awaiting Balance in the Adolescent Brain, with Kiki Zanolie

Ep. 7 – Come Drought or High Water, with Luciano Raso

Ep. 8 – Taking European Tornadoes by Storm, with Bogdan Antonescu

Ep. 9 – Learning to Tackle Climate Change Together, with Sandrine Sidze

Ep. 10 – Nourish the Children of Urban Slums, with Sophie Goudet

Ep. 11 – In Money Matters, We're Only Human, with Jeroen Nieboer

Ep. 12 – A Depressed Sense of Smell?, with Kalliopi Apazoglou

Ep. 13 – Climate Shifts Carried on a River of Air, with Nikolaos Bakas

Ep. 14 – Something in the Air Down There, with Fulvio Amato

Ep. 15 – Foretelling a Complex Future for our Complex Ecosystems, with Phillip Staniczenko

Ep. 16 – From Childhood Illness to Innovative Antibiotics, with Agata Starosta

Ep. 17 – Plants & Poisons: Assessing Contamination in Our Environment, with Natalia Ospina-Alvarez