CPP Task Force on Hurricane Science and Engineering


Statutory Basis
"The Board shall render to the President for submission to the Congress reports on specific, individual policy matters related to science and engineering and education in science engineering, as the Board, the President, or the Congress determines the need for such reports." (42 U.S.C. Section 1863) SEC. 4. (j) (2); and "...the Board shall establish the policies of the Foundation, within the framework of applicable national policies as set forth by the President and the Congress." (SEC. 4. (a))

Action Recommended
The National Science Board (NSB, the Board) should take action, in collaboration with NSF management and other organizations in the U.S. and abroad, to accomplish the following for hurricane related science and engineering research exclusive of operational decision making, organized civil response and human health issues: (a) summarize current activities, (b) identify gaps and opportunities, and (c) recommend priorities for action within a national agenda.

The Board will involve relevant Federal science agencies and appropriate organizations to produce a report and recommendations on hurricane science and engineering research for submission to the President and the Congress.

The devastation resulting from hurricanes is significant and widespread, including but not limited to loss of life, dislocation and destruction of families, and economic consequences having national reach and lasting impact. Despite this enormous tragedy, it is important to note that severe, hurricane-related loss of life and property are by no means unique to this year. Given that 90 percent of the U.S. population lives within 200 miles of a coastline, and that the built infrastructure in these regions continues to expand, the U.S. increasingly is vulnerable to hurricanes. However, two important questions have never to our knowledge been adequately addressed: First, to what extent does the Nation understand the hurricane as an integrated science and engineering problem? Second, how can such understanding be used to improve the Nation's ability to predict, mitigate and react? The relevance of these questions transcends U.S. borders as numerous other nations routinely deal with hurricanes and typhoons.

It is appropriate for the National Science Board to engage a multi-agency, multi-disciplinary dialog aimed at answering elements of the questions posed above. This effort is intended to focus on the "hurricane problem" in a more holistic manner than employed to date. Physical, social, behavioral, economic, biological, ecological, information technology and other appropriate sciences, as well as engineering (e.g., civil, environmental, mechanical) disciplines, will be considered as part of a truly integrative approach to address deep fundamental science questions regarding hurricanes as natural disasters. Given its national independent advisory role to the President and Congress, the Board is uniquely and ideally suited to framing this challenge and recommending a national agenda.

The need for understanding hurricanes in a broad context is made clear when one examines hurricane-related research conducted during the past decade. For the most part it has existed as a relatively modest, loosely coordinated enterprise that encompasses topics ranging from basic research in hurricane dynamics and atmospheric and hydrologic numerical prediction to human behavior and economic impacts. Although the quality of this research is quite high, much of it is performed within the boundaries of traditional disciplines whereas in reality, the hurricane is an exemplar multidisciplinary integrative problem.

Recent events have shown us that, although the U.S. possesses the most powerful research enterprise, the largest economy, and the most sophisticated societal infrastructure in the world, it remains notably vulnerable to natural hazards. Future land-falling hurricanes of tremendous destructive potential are inevitable. Thus, the research community owes to its fellow citizens - in this and future generations - a serious effort to maximize scientific understanding of hurricanes and ensure its effective application for the protection of life and property.

The ad hoc Task Group on Hurricane Science and Engineering recommends that the Board approve the creation of a formal Task Force on Hurricane Science and Engineering (HSE) under the NSB Committee on Programs and Plans (CPP). The HSE Task Force will use a broad-based multi-disciplinary approach to summarize the current status of research relevant to understanding hurricanes as an integrated science and engineering problem. The task force will then develop recommendations to address the following issues and submit a report, through CPP, to the Board:

  • Assess how increased understanding of hurricanes as natural disasters can be used to improve the Nation’s ability to predict, mitigate, and react to future events.

  • Recommend an integrative approach for addressing deep fundamental science questions regarding hurricanes as natural disasters.

  • Recommend priorities for meeting critical research needs.

  • Recommend an agenda for support of essential hurricane-related research within the Federal government and among research organizations.

  • Identify a specific role for NSF to fill in addressing national needs for essential hurricane-related research.

The HSE Task Force will convene a series of workshops to define the challenges, frame the issues, and recommend an agenda of appropriate depth and scope. Particularly important to this task will be coordination with mission agencies (especially the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the military), which conduct basic and applied research as well as provide operational infrastructures, along with but not limited to the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the National Science and Technology Council, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, the National Academies and private enterprise. The series of workshops will be held during winter and spring 2006 to address the issues identified above. The NSB Office will serve as the focal point for coordination and implementation of all task force activities.

It is anticipated that the task force will produce a final report that synthesizes the contributions from its own deliberations, workshops, and working groups, and from the activities of numerous others that are engaging similar topics from largely agency or disciplinary points of view. The report will be produced and broadly distributed during 2006. Printed copies of a final NSB report will be widely distributed and available on the NSB Web site for the public, universities, the Congress, various special interest groups, and the broad scientific community. Briefings will be given as appropriate. The task force expects to conclude its activities during 2006.

September 29, 2005 - NSB establishes ad hoc Task Group on Hurricane Science and Engineering (HSE) under CPP.

October/November 2005 - HSE Co-chairs and NSB Executive Officer contact appropriate agencies and organizations informing them of HSE and inviting collaborative participation to enhance HSE impacts and mitigate inefficient overlap of efforts.

November 30/December 1, 2005 - ad hoc Task Group reports to CPP on progress and recommends creation of Task Force with formal charge.

January-May 2006 - The task force organizes workshops and series of teleconferences.

August 2006 - Draft report to CPP.

September 2006 - Final report to the Board for approval.

Task Force Members

Co-Chairman: Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier
Dr. Kenneth Ford
Members:   Dr. Daniel Hastings
Dr. Elizabeth Hoffman
Dr. Alan Leshner
Executive Secretary: Dr. Russell Moy