Brian Haus watches as the still air stirs into over 150 mph winds. The flat turquoise water suddenly churns a series of endless crashing waves of white frothy foam. Thankfully, Haus does not have to actually weather these powerful storms. Instead, he gets a close view from a safe distance at the Surge Structure Atmosphere Interaction Facility (or SUSTAIN Laboratory, for short). With a flip of a switch and a large diesel generator, the lab can concoct hurricanes on command in a box—a very large box stretching 75 feet long and 6.5 feet high—mimicking some of the most intense hurricanes that have ever been observed. By brewing these contained storms, Haus and his team can study the complex interactions between the air and the surface of the sea under extreme conditions, and use the information to improve intensity forecasting.

Science Friday travels to the University of Miami in Florida to witness this important research facility and their Hurricane in a Box. Read more about their efforts to save lives through observing and forcasting extreme air-sea interactions at sustain.rsmas.miami.edu/research.

Follow this with Engines of Destruction: The Science of Hurricanes. Plus: The FloWave Ocean Simulator & the AMOEBA wave pool.

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