Outspoken hurricane scientist Ivor van Heerden cut loose by LSU

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

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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

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355. TheCaneWhisperer
3:15 AM GMT on April 15, 2009
I am not understanding the talks about an omega or rex block for that matter. The front is progressing out of the plains as forecast and moving things along. I don't see any block happening. Maybe a little lag on the sheared TD running the SE GOM but that is all.

Quoting RMM34667:


Well.. I read it here, then heard tampa's fox 13 talk about it. Googled and read what it said. But I still don't understand what it means for us. Which is why I asked.. Does that mean more rain for FL? Early start to rainy season. But with the exception of this blog in the last three years, my meterological studies stopped in 1981 when my first child was born.
Which is why I LOVE this blog. I can learn something everyday without it feeling like school!!
354. presslord
3:15 AM GMT on April 15, 2009
We'll know for sure if he asks: "So...Miami is definitely, positively in danger of getting hit?" about a wave still on the African continent....
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
353. hahaguy
3:15 AM GMT on April 15, 2009
Quoting stillwaiting:
anyone else get nasty weather today????


We were under a tornado warning around 2pm and from 7:30 till now had a few 40-50moh gusts.
Member Since: August 12, 2007 Posts: 2 Comments: 2838
352. firegirl
3:14 AM GMT on April 15, 2009
Quoting Tazmanian:
hey oh has the loop eddy for the gulf link??


taz, you can find the loop eddy for the GOM at www.esl.lsu.edu.
351. stillwaiting
3:13 AM GMT on April 15, 2009
anyone else get nasty weather today????
Member Since: October 5, 2007 Posts: 20 Comments: 4970
Basin Temps here Taz ....thru the 14th
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129089
Where's Jfv is it presidential election?
Member Since: August 12, 2007 Posts: 2 Comments: 2838
344. presslord 8:09 PM PDT on April 14, 2009
Taz....I'd like a bourbon Frosty, please


lol
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115350
oh in here has yahoo IM say I
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115350
Excellent Pat.....

"Memories...of the way we were..."
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
Quoting PresidentialElection:


You're making me thirsty there, Taz! LOL
nuttin like a good ole bud sir
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 175 Comments: 54827
Taz....I'd like a bourbon Frosty, please.....
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
from Google Images..

Geez Patrap..that kinda gives one the Heebie Jeebies if ya know what I mean mate..





Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129089
hey oh has the loop eddy for the gulf link??
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115350
My good ole bud JFV is back, sir?!?!?!?!?!?!?!
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
lol
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115350
Quoting Tazmanian:
329. atmoaggie 7:48 PM PDT on April 14, 2009
gee, Taz. Can you get me a Frosty? (sorry, had to do that



sure but 1st you have too pay me $500 for it


I'd pay $500 for a frosty any day LOL.
Member Since: August 12, 2007 Posts: 2 Comments: 2838
329. atmoaggie 7:48 PM PDT on April 14, 2009
gee, Taz. Can you get me a Frosty? (sorry, had to do that



sure but 1st you have too pay me $500 for it
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115350
326. KoritheMan 7:47 PM PDT on April 14, 2009
Quoting Tazmanian:
KoritheMan do you have yahoo IM??


I added you, remember? I'm thesamehada



oh cool thanks
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115350
Last year someone ran Amanda's photo through a program that determined it was a stock photo from the internet. Wish I saved how he did it. Might come in handy this season.
Member Since: September 7, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 912
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
P E R U J F V

its been nagging at me to ask



looks just like him,I was thinking the same thing when he said he's been lurking since 2005....got about 1.5 inches here in sarasota today with thunderstorms for a good 3hrs strait!!!!!!!,now winds are over 30mph out of the NW
Member Since: October 5, 2007 Posts: 20 Comments: 4970
Now I have to unlock him and see what he is saying... I blocked him a couple weeks ago
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
Quoting HIEXPRESS:
260 - Good point - LSU is obviously a big outfit with lots of good people. That said, we've all heard the phrase "business as usual" in connection with business & government big and small, and recognnize its inherent pervasiveness. ithinkyourehot!


LOL! thanks for the acknowledgment!
330. beell
322. Ok, I'll bite. There is a block but it is moving east. Slowly, lol. Not stuck in place for a week or more like in the middle of Summer sometimes. Opinion.

The Easterly Waves are usually tied to the northward advance of the African Easterly Jet (AEJ). Mean position of the jet during the Verde season is about 13N (i think)

Blogger Weather456 had a great blog last season on the AEJ I thnk. Give him a call.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
gee, Taz. Can you get me a Frosty? (sorry, had to do that)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
If one discusses the Omega block, they should also mention the Rex block.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Ossqss:
Well it seems we had no attempts to validate the Omega Block item(thats happeing) or the question of the latitude position of African Waves as it relates to this time of the year, approaching Hurricane season in the Atlantic, and how it changes. Are you all on Easter break or what.?? or is it you just want to read what is happeing vs understanding what and why? The more you understand, well, the more we understand.


Well.. I read it here, then heard tampa's fox 13 talk about it. Googled and read what it said. But I still don't understand what it means for us. Which is why I asked.. Does that mean more rain for FL? Early start to rainy season. But with the exception of this blog in the last three years, my meterological studies stopped in 1981 when my first child was born.
Which is why I LOVE this blog. I can learn something everyday without it feeling like school!!
Member Since: September 7, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 912
Quoting Tazmanian:
KoritheMan do you have yahoo IM??


I added you, remember? I'm thesamehada.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
The return of JFV. >_>
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Ossqss:
Well it seems we had no attempts to validate the Omega Block item(thats happeing) or the question of the latitude position of African Waves as it relates to this time of the year, approaching Hurricane season in the Atlantic, and how it changes. Are you all on Easter break or what.?? or is it you just want to read what is happeing vs understanding what and why? The more you understand, well, the more we understand.
Shhh... you want MORE homework! - Good night folks
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
317. hahaguy 7:32 PM PDT on April 14, 2009
Quoting Tazmanian:
305. hahaguy 7:16 PM PDT on April 14, 2009
Quoting Tazmanian:
yes its time for the party whats get this season going


Aren't you a anxious one lol.



thansk do you have yahoo IM???


Yep, I do



here my yahoo IM david_thomas4000
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115350
Well it seems we had no attempts to validate the Omega Block item(thats happeing) or the question of the latitude position of African Waves as it relates to this time of the year, approaching Hurricane season in the Atlantic, and how it changes. Are you all on Easter break or what.?? or is it you just want to read what is happeing vs understanding what and why? The more you understand, well, the more we understand.
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8186
No sir! it is not him sir! not at all.
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
i'm tellen ya it is there is only one that talks like that and its him


I am pretty sure you are on the right track. If not exactly, could be a wannabe copycat type. either way it just crawled out from under a bridge.
Member Since: September 7, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 912
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
i'm tellen ya it is there is only one that talks like that and its him


I was suspecting so. Suspicions growing stronger by the post.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
i'm tellen ya it is there is only one that talks like that and its him
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 175 Comments: 54827
Quoting Tazmanian:
305. hahaguy 7:16 PM PDT on April 14, 2009
Quoting Tazmanian:
yes its time for the party whats get this season going


Aren't you a anxious one lol.



thansk do you have yahoo IM???


Yep, I do
Member Since: August 12, 2007 Posts: 2 Comments: 2838
Better see if that restraining order works for the internet too...
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
drakoen you do know who it is right
good ole bud sir

lol


I don't think so
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
drakoen you do know who it is right
good ole bud sir

lol
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 175 Comments: 54827
Complete Blog Refresh, with New Weather/CritterCam
Mirror Site
Current Home weather station data.

Daily Area of Interest
Click to enlarge
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Quoting PresidentialElection:


Good evening, Dark. Welcome on-board!


Where did you come out of???
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305. hahaguy 7:16 PM PDT on April 14, 2009
Quoting Tazmanian:
yes its time for the party whats get this season going


Aren't you a anxious one lol.



thansk do you have yahoo IM???
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115350
Quoting Ossqss:
My apologies if this double posts my PC had a hickup

One other note and I will be out for a while, I see an Omega block setting in over the eastern US. Is that happeing ? L8R




FOX 13 just said OMEGA BLOCK.. I had to read back to see what it was.. I only skimmed my first time through the blog. Does this mean we may get MORE rain? Will our rainy season start early this year?
Member Since: September 7, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 912
308. JRRP
Quoting KoritheMan:


I'm looking for at least a tropical disturbance in May, but likely not a named storm -- May is right around the corner, and vertical shear is still very prohibitive across the entire Atlantic basin.

The jet stream typically doesn't retreat far enough northward to reduce the shear in the basin until around July.

Still, I foresee the possibility of a named storm in June, but I think it likely that this season will start off slow, like 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2004, and then subsequent activity will be significant.

In terms of numbers, I'm going with 14/8/3. I don't think we'll see an El Nino event this season, at least not in time to have a detrimental effect on the season. That said, I do feel confident that we will be on the warm side of neutral conditions.

i agree
i think that we will see 1 or 2 storms before august
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
307. beell
98L, July 30th, 2008 Wave. Axis along 32W. Much later in the season of course but strong and well defined. Even got trailing precip behind the wave axis from the model.

GFS 700mb
Photobucket
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Tazmanian:
starting may i think that will we will have a hand full of 90Ls
we could get a STS in may hell maybe in april but nothing from across the atlantic for a while yet this time of year is just priming time for east atlantic
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 175 Comments: 54827
Quoting Tazmanian:
yes its time for the party whats get this season going


Aren't you a anxious one lol.
Member Since: August 12, 2007 Posts: 2 Comments: 2838

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

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