Tag Archives: Florida

Will tiny drones cure Floridians’ cynicism toward hurricanes?

6 Jun
Autonomous flying drones are the research of Kamran Mohseni and graduate researchers with the Institute for Networked Autonomous Systems in the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Florida. (Photo by: Eric Zamora/University of Florida

Autonomous flying drones are the research of Kamran Mohseni and graduate researchers with the Institute for Networked Autonomous Systems in the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Florida. (Photo by: Eric Zamora/University of Florida

Most residents of Florida–a state constantly pummeled by tropical storms and hurricanes—have become overly cynical of the often hyped-up weather news warning that the latest tropical action in the Gulf of Mexico or off the coast of the Atlantic Ocean could be deadly.

In fact, if you grew up here or anywhere along a coast where  heavy rain and wind between June and November is the norm, you probably remember getting excited for hurricanes.

No school! Hurricane party! Maybe we get to stay in a hotel out of town! Yippee!

This is because the reports are, more often than not, wrong and exaggerated. To us, a hurricane meant a couple days’ vacation, and sleeping in our bathing suits because our AC was out.

In fact, I was one of those children—until one turning point—Hurricane Ivan.

I was a freshman in high school and the weather reports ranted on about stocking up on food and water, boarding windows and evacuating if necessary. I waved goodbye to my friends when we were sent home from school.

See y’all in a couple of days!

I went home to my father, a New Orleans native who survived the terrible storms Betsy and Camille, mocking the news and calling the storm “Tropical Depression Ivan.” We did not evacuate, and I still remember that night vividly.

The first thing to fall was the living room ceiling fan. It was pitch black outside, but we could still hear it fall. The rain came pouring in as bits of the ceiling started caving in. Before long we were wading in three feet of water from room to room trying to avoid the ceiling bits. Our house was ruined. The news reports were right for once.  Two years later, the rest of my family lost their homes in Katrina.

So, should we trust the news? Why is hurricane intensity, for the most part, so inaccurate?

Autonomous flying drones are the research of Kamran Mohseni and graduate researchers with the Institute for Networked Autonomous Systems in the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the Univeristy of Florida. (Photo by: Eric Zamora/University of Florida)

Autonomous flying drones are the research of Kamran Mohseni and graduate researchers with the Institute for Networked Autonomous Systems in the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the Univeristy of Florida. (Photo by: Eric Zamora/University of Florida)

Kamran Mohseni, the W.P. Bushnell Endowed Professor in the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering and the department of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Florida, knows why the intensity is often miscalculated and believe he’s come up with a way to solve the problem.

He said the reason for the wrong predictions in intensity and trajectory is due to the inability to get measurements at the most violent area of a hurricane—the interface between the ocean and the storm. The area is too chaotic to send in a manned airplane, and sensors that are randomly dropped from aircraft above the storm may get tossed around, and therefore do not always measure what Mohseni calls “the hot spot.”

“The reason that these are not predicted very well is because they simply just guess what that boundary position is,” Mohseni said. Continue reading

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Monkeys in Florida? iPhonatography from a jungle in Central Florida

28 May

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As I pondered ideas on what to do on Memorial Day Monday, I decided I needed to explore the land-locked area of Florida I often complain about, being a spoiled coastal girl who is accustomed to living near a beach. A friend mentioned a trip he took where he saw wild monkeys on an island in the middle of Silver River, near Silver Springs, Fla. After doing some preliminary research (mainly hear-say from Gainesville locals) I found out that  Silver River was the filming site the early Tarzan movies. Some of the monkeys escaped, bred and hence that is why there are wild monkeys in Florida.

“How cool,” I thought. I knew the area had to be gorgeous and jungle-y if a man had to surf on vines for the film.

But, after digging a bit more into the history in order to post this blog, I realized I was wrong.

The monkeys had actually arrived in 1938 when Colonel Tooey thought it would be a good idea to create a monkey island in the middle of the river and profit from “jungle cruises.” He figured it would be okay since they were on an island and “couldn’t swim.” To his surprise, when they were released they did know how to swim, which created the Rhesus monkey populations throughout Silver Springs.

Today, the monkey population is controversial because they are an invasive species who sometimes have trouble finding food. Residents have had similar complaints as those related to raccoons, such as digging through garbage. But, other residents cherish the presence of the monkeys as part of the quirkiness that is Florida. Although the term “invasive species” is often connected, at least in Florida, to not-so-cute critters, such as Lionfish, African snails and giant pythons, environment officials warn that this cute creature still has consequences on the natural ecosystems.

Today, some even capture the monkeys to be used both for research and profit.

Either way, I sure enjoyed them!

If you want to visit Silver River State Park to get a glimpse of the monkeys (who are not afraid of people, one almost jumped in our canoe), visit the Silver River State park website.

UF Student Government elections

5 Oct

Second video for the Alligator, kind of hard to see because of the lighting, but I think both parties were happy with the results!