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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

URI Graduate School of Oceanography Professor
Receives NOAA Environmental Hero Award

Narragansett, RI -- April 16, 2002 -- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has given Isaac Ginis, an associate professor at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography, the NOAA Environmental Hero Award for 2002.

This prestigious national award, presented to individuals and organizations throughout the United States for their efforts to preserve and protect the environment, recognizes Ginis’s contributions in the field of hurricane forecast research. He was nominated for this award by colleagues at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) in Princeton, New Jersey. The award will be given on April 17 at Princeton University.

Ginis and his Narragansett Bay Campus colleagues, including physical oceanographer Lewis Rothstein, developed a computer model that predicts the intensity of hurricanes. This model was coupled with the GFDL model that predicts a hurricane track. The coupled model now provides a more efficient set of predictors that take into consideration the effects of atmosphere-ocean interaction during storms and more accurate predictions of storm intensity. Last year, the coupled model became an operational part of NOAA’s suite of tools used to more accurately forecast hurricanes.

"I am delighted by NOAA’s recognition of our research efforts in developing a new hurricane forecast computer model," said Ginis. "It is not very often results of fundamental research translate so directly into saving lives and property as in this case. The United States is more vulnerable to hurricanes than at any time in its history. I hope our computer model will help to more accurately forecast where a hurricane will strike and, thus, more precisely estimate the coastal zones that should be evacuated."

This is the first operational model in the world to include the two-way effects of a hurricane on the underlying ocean and the effects of the underlying ocean on the hurricane. While at GFDL several years ago, Ginis demonstrated the importance of the interaction of the ocean below a tropical cyclone on tropical storm intensity.

This was the most physically realistic simulation performed to date using both a high-resolution ocean model together with a state-of-the-art, three-dimensional hurricane model.

"Professor Ginis has made outstanding contributions to the study of hurricanes by showing how the ocean and atmosphere combine to determine the strength and motion of these dangerous storms," said URI Graduate School of Oceanography Dean David Farmer. "He has tackled the difficult problem of developing computer simulations of hurricanes and his work has let to better predictions, to the lasting benefit of all those affected by their passage."

More recently his group, in collaboration with GFDL, has demonstrated the potential for improved hurricane intensity prediction on real cases using case studies of Gilbert (1988), Opal (1995) and Fran (1996). During the past several years, Ginis and his group have run the coupled GFDL forecast system in semi-operational mode in the Atlantic Basin demonstrating that it can be applied practically in every-day forecasting.

A resident of South Kingstown, Ginis came to the URI Graduate School of Oceanography as a marine scientist in 1993. He was promoted to associate professor of oceanography in 1998. A native of Russia, he received his Ph.D. in geophysics from the Institute of Experimental Meteorology in Obninsk. He has developed several numerical modeling courses for URI that cover various numerical methods applied for solving the fundamental equations governing atmospheric and oceanic motions, marine geophysics, and biophysics.

Contact: Lisa Cugini, 874-6642, lcugini@gso.uri.edu

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