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Hurricane Ida: Extreme weather, infrastructure experts available

‘Unprecedented and extreme events are the calling card of human-caused climate change’

Northwestern University climate, infrastructure and evacuation experts are available to discuss Hurricane Ida, which made landfall yesterday in New Orleans.

The experts can discuss how human-caused climate change has increased the likelihood of extreme weather events, how New Orleans infrastructure is faring after the city invested in resilient infrastructure following Hurricane Katrina and how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting evacuations.

An extreme weather expert, Daniel Horton is an assistant professor of Earth and planetary sciences in Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. He studies the link between human-caused climate change and extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, droughts and hurricanes. Contact Horton directly at

Quote from Professor Horton:

“Unprecedented and extreme events are the calling card of human-caused climate change. In the case of Hurricane Ida, its rapid intensification can be tied to the warm Gulf of Mexico waters that it passed over. Warm water is the fuel that drives tropical cyclones, and increases in sea surface temperatures and ocean heat content are both signatures of human caused climate change. Now that the storm has passed, and the damages are assessed, it will be important to see if the post-Katrina infrastructure changes were successful in lessening the potential impacts of a storm of this intensity.”

A transportation and infrastructure expert, Joseph Schofer is a professor of civil and environmental engineering in Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering. He studies decision making and policies for transportation and infrastructure systems as well as learning from experience and natural experiments, including natural disruptions and major infrastructure investment projects. Contact Schofer directly at

Quote from Professor Schofer:

“Massive natural disasters like Hurricane Ida test our infrastructure and emergency response capabilities. New Orleans and Louisiana paid a high price during Hurricane Katrina, but important lessons were learned leading to massive investments in more resilient infrastructure. So far, despite serious damage, the learning from Katrina — which informed other vulnerable cities, as well — seems to have paid off. Still, nature delivers new tests at every instance, and it is important that we continue to learn from them.” 

A transportation and logistics expert, Hani Mahmassani is the William A. Patterson Distinguished Chair in Transportation and director of the Northwestern University Transportation Center. He studies large-scale human infrastructure systems, emergency evacuations, user behavior and real-time logistics and distribution systems. Contact Mahmassani directly at

Quote from Professor Mahmassani:

"The impacted areas appear to be better prepared than in some earlier hurricane events, providing residents with early notice, but especially challenging this year is evacuating vulnerable populations while the COVID-19 pandemic continues its unrelenting spread." 

Interview the Experts