Outspoken hurricane scientist Ivor van Heerden cut loose by LSU

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 12:38 PM GMT on April 14, 2009

Share this Blog
7
+

Louisiana State University (LSU) will not renew the contract of controversial hurricane scientist Ivor van Heerden, according to nola.com . Dr. van Heerden has been stripped of his title as deputy director of the LSU Hurricane Center, and will lose his job in May 2010. The Director of the LSU Hurricane Center, engineering professor Marc Levitan, resigned from that post in protest over the firing of van Heerden. LSU has given no reason why it is removing Dr. van Heerden, but said it was not because of his performance. Van Heerden, who holds a Ph.D. degree in marine sciences from LSU, was one of the most outspoken scientists on the vulnerability of New Orleans before Katrina struck in 2005. He worked extensively with FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers, and political figures at the local, state, and U.S. Congressional levels to try to improve New Orleans' disaster readiness. In the aftermath of the storm, he provided support for the search and rescue efforts and plugging of the levee breaches, then headed one of the teams assigned to figure out what caused the levees to fail. PBS's NOVA did a nice story on him in 2006, featuring interviews before and after Katrina. He was highly critical of the Army Corps of Engineers and politicians at the local, state, and federal level for allowing the Katrina disaster to happen, and for their abysmal response to the storm's aftermath.

It is no surprise that van Heerden has been fired, as he has also been very critical of the LSU administration. His May 2006 book, The Storm: What went wrong and why during Hurricane Katrina--the inside story from one Louisiana scientist, (see my review), tells of a case in November 2005 after Katrina where two LSU assistant chancellors told him to stop talking to the press, because it was "hurting LSU's quest for federal funding across the board." Van Heerden further remarked:

A balanced view on research is lacking at many universities obsessed with competing for the big brownie points, where upper administrators' egos and boasting rights are more important than solving problems to the benefit of society at large. You would think that our work before, during, and after Katrina might have turned some heads at LSU, but not really. Witness the gag order placed on me by the school during the levee investigation a couple of months later (soon rescinded with apologies)

Van Heerden is a big proponent of building a flood protection system that will protect Louisiana from a Category 5 hurricane. He proposes doing this by restoring wetlands, building armored levees, and installing huge flood gates on Lake Pontchartrain, similar to what the Dutch use to protect their country from the North Sea. I especially like his emphasis on the importance of doing good science. He is not a fan of what politicians and business leaders do with good science:

The science is the easy part. The hard part is overcoming the narrow-mindedness and selfishness of politics and business as usual. For decades the two have undermined plan after plan to restore wetlands, build new ones, and thereby protect people and property. They have played hell with improving the existing levee system. We must do better now, or we can kiss it all good-bye for good. I was not exaggerating in the introduction when I said that politics and business as usual in Louisiana will eventually put everything below Interstate 10 underwater. Science and engineering can save the day, but not if they're censored or manipulated. If that's to be the case, just shelve them and start packing. It's over.

According to an article in The Nation, Dr. van Heerden is scheduled to testify in a trial that begins in federal court on April 20. Judge Stanwood Duval will rule on a claim by six homeowners that the Corps failed to heed environmental laws in building and maintaining the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet shipping shortcut, which they claim led to the catastrophic flooding of New Orleans during Katrina. A second trial will begin shortly after that--a large class action suit seeking hundreds of millions in damages from the Corps. When Dr. van Heerden was first asked to testify at these trials in spring 2007, LSU's then-president, Sean O'Keefe, told plaintiffs' attorneys that if van Heerden testified against the Corps he would be fired (O'Keefe had served as head of NASA under George W. Bush between 2001 - 2005, and stepped down as LSU chancellor in January 2008). According to van Heerden, the LSU president said "nobody from LSU was going to embarrass the Bush administration or upset the major Republican companies that benefit from Corps of Engineers contracts." LSU has officially blocked Dr. van Heerden from testifying as an "expert witness" in the upcoming trials, but he can still testify as a "fact witness".

Regardless of where he winds up next, I'm sure Van Heerden will continue to voice his valuable views on the science of what is best for Louisiana and New Orleans. In an interview with the Associated Press, Dr. van Heerden said Friday he would appeal the college's decision and was considering legal action. "Before going that route, I hope LSU will recognize the signal they've sent to the world is that academic freedom does not exist at LSU. The folks who are going to lose in this is LSU, not me. I will find a job rather easily. There have already been some offers."

Less politics and better science would go a long ways towards reducing our vulnerability to hurricanes. Ivor van Heerden has been a much-needed critical voice in advocating this, and I applaud his tenacity in calling it as he sees it. Louisiana very much needs Dr. van Heerden's input over the coming decades on how to move ahead to protect the vulnerable coast of the state against the twin threats of hurricanes and rising sea levels. The move by Louisiana's flagship university to silence his voice should concern everyone in the path of the next Katrina.

Jeff Masters

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 505 - 455

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15Blog Index



ITV.com
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127570
Update
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
Quoting Patrap:
So much for the BBC Channel 2..


I believe it's from ITV.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Is she a big story over there Cotillion?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Shears decreasing throughout the Atlantic except in some areas. Starting to see some blue on the map.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
#498,

I wondered how long it'd take for that to get here...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
So much for the BBC Channel 2..
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127570
Totally non-weather related...so I apologize. But this is a poignant moment from last Monday's airing of a reality show called Britain's Got Talent...


Susan Boyle on Britain's Got Talent
by dwarthy
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
497. beell
Virtual seabreeze for me sadly. In Houston here!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
493. beell
Your welcome. Enjoy the breeze
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 6 Comments: 2490
Unfortunately, all of it keeps missing me!

It's getting ridiculous. Maybe surfmom can do her rain rituals for me.

Hardly a drop from the last three fronts. Sheesh.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
That rare thunder sound in West Palm...Madison wrapped around my neck like a mink stole
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
493. beell
Thanks, KEH!
I proudly present-The Seabreeze.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Patrap:
Seems the Tea has a Euphoric effect on the Weak Minded..



Must have or perhaps lack there of. 2300+ locations with thousands at each in all 50 states with Dems, Rep, and independents all represented accordingly. But, mysteriously missing from the major network news reports to any great degree. It appears it was about something that all Americans share,a Dislike of excessive Gov spending.

Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8185
Quoting beell:
I really should know this by now, but how do I post a WU radar loop?
If you mean the nexrad ones... on the bottom left corner you will see a link for 'view/save this image'.
Click that, you will now have an image that can be right clicked and choose option 'copy image location'
That is the url you will use for your posted image.
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 6 Comments: 2490
490. beell
You can (for a short time) get a peek at the seabreeze coming ashore. Gets a little wavy, starts to get pushed back offshore by the westerlies. Too much for the seabreeze to overcome maybe. Flare up in convection as the small t-storms cross over this boundary.

Ft. Lauderdale Radar
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
489. beell
I really should know this by now, but how do I post a WU radar loop?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Seems the Tea has a Euphoric effect on the Weak Minded..

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127570
LSU's firing of Dr. van Heerden is probably due to his continued spouting off his personal views, while forgetting who is paying his salary. He is employed, he is paid to work for LSU, and not himself. If he has no respect for who pays his salary, he ought to be fired. Also the blogs supporting global warming are hogwash. There is nothing we could do to stop it anyway. It's just another Liberal scare tacktic. Greenhouse garbage is nothing but another instrument to control the people and put useless, worthless restrictions upon them that has absolutely no effect on global warming or cooling or anything else.

Thanks
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Hawaii Tsunami Site,with shakers.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127570
Magnitude 6.1 - KEPULAUAN MENTAWAI REGION, INDONESIA
2009 April 15 20:01:33 UTC
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 6 Comments: 2490
woo hoo rain in Delray beach

RUSTY COSTANZA / THE TIMES-PICAYUNE
Members of the Louisiana Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration, Orleans Levee District and East Jefferson Levee District survey and take measurements in the 17th Street Canal on Wednesday.

17th Street Canal erosion prompts investigation

by Sheila Grissett, The Times-Picayune
Wednesday April 15, 2009, 12:19 PM

A technical team led by state engineers floated into the 17th Street Canal this morning to examine the eroding bank along the Metairie side of drainage channel.

The crew is taking measurements from a boat and collecting other data that engineers hope will help determine what's happening in the canal, why it's happening and what the consequences could be.

Although the rate of erosion is gradual, an estimated six to eight inches per year, levee officials said they hope to understand the cause and whether the same forces or circumstances are also affecting the underwater land slope that helps stabilize the canal's floodwall.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127570
bill evens is the shizzle,I watch him every time I visit my fam in nyc(great detailed forcasts for snowstorms!!),I remember when dave price was the man for fox news NY,that was back in 2000.......
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
The very mention of gravity waves makes me ill. The Jarrell, TX tornado of May 97 (EF5) was said to have been *possibly* caused/enhanced due to a gravity wave left by a previous line of thunderstorms. Dark day for us in central texas.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
478. beell
Quoting Vortex95:
467. Could this get nasty?


Has to get onshore first! Shear is weak-but enough for thunderstorms as a guess.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

AP Photo/Bill Haber
With the Louisiana Superdome in the background construction crews work on a street project Wednesday. Billions of dollars in government-backed rebuilding projects are planned or under way following hurricanes Katrina and Rita.


Louisiana holds up better than most in recession

State has 10th lowest unemployment rate and was the only one to add non-farm jobs in February

When Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal touts the state's job market and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin sells his city as one of the best places to ride out the recession, it's not just routine boosterism.

In the midst of a severe nationwide downturn, the Louisiana economy is holding up better than most. It's a role reversal from a few years ago, when Louisiana was one of the country's weaker states financially following the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127570
Quoting Vortex95:
We are the least taxed industrialized nation in the world may I remind you.



I wonder if the "tea partiers" realize the big stimulus package was bushes,not the presidents!!!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting beell:
Cool, TCW!
Something else to watch anywayze. Some puffy little cumulus off the coast near Boca Raton.

3:32 PM EDT

If I am not mistaken, those wrinkles over central florida, look like those Altostratus Undulatos clouds that were part of the Gravity wave discussion.

Link

Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8185
Quoting SevereHurricane:


I concur,
I think the big oil companies should pay the tab when it comes to restoring the wetlands...


You do realize, of course, that big companies in all industries do not pay for anything...their customers do. This is true of any and all taxes,fines, and fees levied against any industry.

Not knocking what you are saying, just pointing out whom really pays.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
Quoting IpswichWeatherCenter:


Nah... I agree:

May: 1 - 4 Tropical Depressions and 1 - 3 Named Storms
June: 2 -5 Named Storms
July: 0-1 Tropical Depressions
August: 12 to 13 Tropical Depressions 5 to 7 Named Storms 3 to 4 Hurricanes
September: No activity
November: " "
December: 2 Named Storms, 1 Hurricane


While opinions are always respected... you *may* want to go and re-visit your hurricane history a bit.

- Yes, once in the last 100 years there have been 3 straight seasons with May storms, 1932-4. However.. I think it's only been once, possibly twice that there have been two storms in May.. let alone 3 or 4.

- Even 2005 only had 2 June storms in Arlene and Bret. 1968 had 3.. which was rare. But 5 maybe pushing it a bit.

- The last time in 'recorded' history that a storm has not formed in September was in 1930. However, that still had one storm that spent the vast majority of its time in September. Have to go back further to have no mention of any storms in September. That was in 1904... with President Teddy Roosevelt in power. Given the way technology was at the time, it's possible that something was out there in September.

- October/November... okay, maybe. 1993's season finished on October 1st. So if this El Nino really ramps up, it's a remote possibility. No storms in November is pretty common, October much less so... but it has happened. 1986 for example didn't have an October storm (though it had one in November.)

- No storms in July has certainly happened more than once, though not a lot lately. (2004 was pretty close as TD1 formed on July 31st.)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
472. beell
Cool, TCW!
Something else to watch anywayze. Some puffy little cumulus off the coast near Boca Raton.

3:32 PM EDT
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Cotillion:


Depends how picky you want to be...

There are storms all the time!

And a few European windstorms have happened, with names attached...

There have been two TDs in the WPac thus far, but nothing more.

So yeah, I think it's the first 'proper' tropical named storm.

(I should be a lawyer. Hah.)


The very last thing is what I meant... but yes, thanks
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Futuremet, nice job on the vid. I would suggest slowing down the slide rate so old folks, like me, can read the 13+ letter words without having to rewind. Thanks :'}
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8185
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting beell:


Does look pretty decent at that, TCW.
Only missing some suface convergence. Winds look like they are west all the way up. A seabreeze could do it. Nothing easterly on the Sfc charts yet- but I have seen these charts miss something small-like the onset of a seabreeze!


We'll find out in about 30 minutes, sea breeze is starting to come in now.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Talk about a Wall Street strike.
The book...Category 7...is about just that.



Bill Evans is the five-time Emmy Award-winning, nationally-renowned senior meteorologist for WABC, Channel 7 in New York City. He can be heard on a regular basis on Radio Disney and ESPN Radio and has appeared on Good Morning, America and Live with Regis and Kelly. Evans has received the Outstanding Meteorologist Award from the National Weather Service and has hosted the National Hurricane Conference. Category 7 is his first novel. Bill Evans and his family live in Connecticut.


Please note...this is a trailer video for the fictional book!




Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Great video futuremet.
Member Since: August 12, 2007 Posts: 2 Comments: 2838
Quoting hurricane23:
Weak NINO by summer....ENSO Update

Three of the most intense S. Florida landfalls,in recent decades have occured in(VERY) slow seasons.

1960 - 6 named storms; one was Donna
1965 - 5 named storms; one was Betsy
1992 - 6 named storms; one was Andrew


2004 was a weak El Nino, and look what happend.
weak El Ninos might as well be Neutral ENSOs.
I still don't see an El Nini happening until October.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Latest Video From Futuremet Productions

Synoptic Scale Baroclinity

I was incapable of doing a voice over due to a lack of time...sorry for the inconvenience


Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting hurristat:
Unless I am mistaken, Bijli is the first storm for the northern hemisphere this year...


Depends how picky you want to be...

There are storms all the time!

And a few European windstorms have happened, with names attached...

There have been two TDs in the WPac thus far, but nothing more.

So yeah, I think it's the first 'proper' tropical named storm.

(I should be a lawyer. Hah.)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Unless I am mistaken, Bijli is the first storm for the northern hemisphere this year...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Patrap:
448. SevereHurricane 1:46 PM CDT on April 15, 2009

Thats a Great Obs...

Remember how the Nation freaked as Gas rose to 3 Bucks a Gal Post Katrina and Rita in 05?

They aint seen nuthin yet.

Let them disregard Se.La..Coastal Texas,Miss. and Ala.

One day.. they all will be screaming,
Why Didnt the Feds do something to protect these All Important National resources from disappearing?

Imagine 2 Catastrophic Cane Strikes in Se La,and Se Texas ,big uns in the same time span as Rita and K in 05.

The masses will be a walking,not driving.


So quick to forget,yet so fast to Criticize, the out of touch crowd is.

YUP...


I concur,
I think the big oil companies should pay the tab when it comes to restoring the wetlands...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting NEwxguy:
Seems like its said every year,slow season or busy season,has nothingto do with how deadly or destructive a hurricane season can be.


Agreed , Anything can happen regardless of a slow or busy season.
Member Since: August 12, 2007 Posts: 2 Comments: 2838
Seems like its said every year,slow season or busy season,has nothingto do with how deadly or destructive a hurricane season can be.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
457. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
FKIN20 VIDP 151650
DTG: 20090415/1200Z
TCAC: NEW DELHI
TC: BIJLI
NR: 01
PSN: N1500 E08630 (15.0N 86.3E)
MOV: NNW 12KT
C: 996 HPA
MAX WIND: 40KT GUSTING TO 50KT

FCST PSN+ 06 HRS: 151800 N 1600 E08600
MAX WIND+12 HRS: 40KT GUSTING TO 50 KT
FCST PSN +12HRS: 160000 N 1630 E 08600
MAX WIND+12HRS : 45KT GUSTING TO 55 KT
FCST PSN+18HRS : 160600 N 1700 E 08600
MAX WIND+18HRS : 45 KT GUSTING TO 55 KT
FCST PSN+24 HRS: 161200 N 1730 E 08600
MAX WIND+24 HRS: 45KT GUSTING TO 55KT
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
451,

Not to mention hits on Miami and New York. The economy of everywhere has problems... a direct 'cane hit on Wall Street would be a total disaster.


453,

Plus, 2004 was a weak Nino.

Just because the Pacific says 'El Nino' doesn't make the season any less dangerous.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Viewing: 505 - 455

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15Blog Index

Top of Page

About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

Local Weather

Mostly Cloudy
80 °F
Mostly Cloudy