2021 Hurricane Season experts

The National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration recently released the 2021 hurricane season predictions. Forecasters predict 13 to 20 named storms, of which six would become hurricanes, including three to five major hurricanes.

FIU experts are available to discuss the NOAA predictions, including why this season is expected to be an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season.


Haiyan Jiang, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of MeteorologyDepartment of Earth and Environment
Haiyan Jiang is a meteorologist with research interests in hurricane intensity, intensity change and structures of inner-core convection and precipitation. Jiang’s expertise is in satellite remote sensing techniques that can detect various characteristics of weather systems. She successfully applied these technologies to study hurricane rainfall, convection, winds, and warm-core structures. A coherent theme of her research is to advance our understanding of hurricane intensity and intensity change. She developed long-term satellite-based tropical cyclone databases and used these tools to study the climatology of hurricanes and to develop algorithms for estimating current intensity and predicting rapid intensification of tropical cyclones. Her research on hurricane intensity estimation, rapid intensification prediction, and climatology of hurricane inner-core structures has been funded by federal agencies including NOAA and NASA. For more information on her research, click here.

Hugh E. Willoughby, Ph.D.
Distinguished Research Professor, Department of Earth and Environment
FIU Institute of Environment

Hugh Willoughby studies tropical cyclone structure, intensity, and impacts. He has flown more than 400 missions into the eyes of hurricanes and typhoons as a meteorologist for the federal government.  Willoughby was a Research Meteorologist at the Hurricane Research Division of NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, where he worked since 1975 and served as director from 1995 until 2002. Willoughby also serves on the Florida Commission on Hurricane Loss Projection Methodology and has extensive knowledge of hurricane impacts and insurance. For a video on Willoughby, please click here.

Environmental and Ecological Impacts

Henry Briceño, Ph.D.
Research Professor
FIU Institute of Environment
Briceño can talk about hurricane impacts regarding waters in coastal and estuarine areas. For over 15 years, Briceño has been leading water quality monitoring efforts at FIU. He focuses on how our changing climate is impacting our waterways and the impacts that people and nature have on our ecological systems. Briceño leads the institute’s Water Quality Monitoring Network. He is fluent in Spanish.

Stephen Leatherman, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Earth and Environment

FIU Institute of Environment
Stephen Leatherman is professor in the FIU Department of Earth & Environment. About this year’s season he says the last few years have been marked by a huge influx of Sargassum seaweed and another invasion is expected this summer; perhaps the big waves from a passing hurricane would tear up these mats offshore before reaching our beaches, so it could be a silver lining. Known as “Dr. Beach” for his annual rankings of U.S. beaches, Leatherman’s major research focuses on storm impacts, including beach erosion and rip currents. He has given expert testimony to U.S. Congressional committees more than a dozen times on issues such as coastal storm impacts and federal disaster response. He was the review coordinator for the National Academy of Sciences & Engineering for the federal study of the breaching of the New Orleans levees and flooding by Hurricane Katrina. 

Jayantha Obeysekera, Ph.D.
Research Professor and Director of Sea Level Solutions
FIU Institute of Environment
Obeysekera can talk about hurricanes as they relate to sea level rise, climate change, flooding and water management. He previously served as chief modeler at the South Florida Water Management District, where he had a leading role in modeling of the Everglades and Kissimmee River and Everglades restoration projects. He was co-author of the sea level rise projections report published by NOAA for the National Climate Assessment. He also co-authored a report on regional sea level projections for Department of Defense facilities across the globe. He has extensive media experience, including print and broadcast.

Randall Parkinson, Ph.D., P.G.
Research Associate Professor
FIU Institute of Environment
Randall Parkinson has spent the past 35 years researching the effects of climate change and urbanization on the resiliency of the human, built and natural environments of the Northern Gulf of Mexico, Peninsular Florida, and the Georgia Bight.  More importantly, he has focused on ensuring the results of his research are conveyed in a way that can be understood and applied by the broadest array of stakeholder and practitioners who are responsible for the management of our coastal resources. Parkinson has conducted numerous vulnerability assessments  to quantify the effects of climate change, including rising temperature, changes in precipitation, increasing storminess, acidification, and sea-level rise, on the coastal zone and  has developed adaptation action plans designed specifically to reduce climate-related risks to the human, built and natural environment.

Shimon Wdowinski, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Earth and Environment
FIU Institute of Environment

Shimon Wdowinski is an expert in space geodesy, natural hazards and sea level rise. His research has focused on the development and usage of space geodetic techniques that can detect very precisely small movements of the Earth’s surface. Wdowinski has successfully applied these techniques to study tectonic plate motion, earthquakes, land subsidence, sinkhole activities, wetland hydrology, climate change, and sea level rise. He is currently spearheading research supported by NASA examining whether powerful hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones can trigger earthquakes. 

Social and Political Impacts

Pallab Mozumder, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Earth and Environment and Department of Economics
FIU Institute of Environment

Pallab Mozumder is an environmental economist with expertise in socio-economic aspects of natural hazards. His research on hurricane risk mitigation and evacuation behavior has been funded by federal and state agencies such as the National Science Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Florida Department of Community Affairs and Florida Sea Grant.