Professor Jase Bernhardt is taking his virtual reality hurricane simulation project on the road to help communities prepare for the upcoming Atlantic storm season as part of the National Weather Service’s annual Hurricane Awareness Tour.
Dr. Bernhardt, a meteorologist and assistant professor in the Department of Geology, Environment, and Sustainability, will join the tour at airports and airfields in Roanoke, VA, Charlotte, NC, and Brunswick, GA in early May.
He will be part of an impressive roster of industry A-listers including representatives from as the National Weather Service, the American Red Cross, and the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH). Headlining the tour will be the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron – also known as the Hurricane Hunters of the Air Force Reserve, which flies around and inside the eye of a storm. National media outlets such as The Weather Channel will also be present and covering the tour.
The Hurricane Awareness Tour, sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Weather Service, is designed to help people better understand and prepare for risks associated with hurricanes, including storm surge, high winds and freshwater flooding.
“Public outreach is so important,” Bernhardt said, “and this is the gold standard.”
Bernhardt’svirtual reality hurricane project, launched in 2017, simulates storm categories one through five and is aimed at improving storm warnings and preparation. Over the past year, Bernhardt and his students have surveyed people on campus and in Long Beach to gauge their reactions to the virtual experience.
Participants were also asked questions such as how likely they would be to evacuate if a similar virtual experience was included in a real storm warning. Bernhardt plans to share the experiment’s findings thus far on the Hurricane Awareness Tour. He recently co-authored a paper on these surveys with some of his undergraduate students and colleagues in Hofstra’s Educational and Research Technology department. The paper was accepted for publication in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS), a leading meteorology journal.
“Given their strength, size and natural beauty, hurricanes have always fascinated me,” said Bernhardt. “But seeing how impactful and devastating they can be is what really inspired me to learn more and inform others.”