Researchers link drought and urbanization to “perfect storm”

Researchers in a NASA-funded study have found that a rare mix of interacting conditions were responsible for a recent unprecedented urban tornado in Downtown Atlanta, Georgia, USA. 

One of the main agendas of the Humanitarian Futures Programme is to help organisations prepare for complex, interconnected crises unlike they have ever experienced before.  We call these synchronous, sequential and simultaneous failures, defined below:

  • Synchronous failures – major systems failures, eg, energy collapse, affecting infrastructure and basic survival mechanisms in transnational contexts.
  • Sequential crises – series of crises “feeding off” each other, like falling dominoes cascading into each other and magnifying their effects.
  • Simultaneous crises – major crises occurring at the same time, stretching existing resources and abilities to cope.

The downtown tornado in Atlanta (CNN coverage here) is an excellent example of how such crises can occur.  Researchers studying how and why this rare tornado occurred write,

“The Atlanta tornado, though forecasted well, caught us by surprise because it evolved rapidly under very peculiar conditions during a drought and over a downtown area,” said Dev Niyogi, an assistant professor of regional climatology at Purdue and lead author of the modeling study.

The press release can be found here.

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