Researchers Available to Discuss How Hurricanes Might Affect Gulf Oil Spill

Forecasters predicted an active hurricane season this year, so those involved in containing and cleaning up the massive Gulf oil spill are keeping a close eye on tropical depressions and potential storms that may threaten the recovery effort.

The path, point of landfall, trajectory, and unique characteristics of each storm, such as the longshore currents it may produce, will determine its impact on oil spill contamination and cleanup throughout the Gulf Coast.

University of Houston researchers also are keeping close tabs on the 2010 hurricane season and are available to discuss the possible effects it could have on the oil spill cleanup, including the ongoing work to drill relief wells to stop the oil leak. As you consider stories for your coverage of Hurricane Alex and those that follow, be prepared with these UH resources. If you are unable to reach a professor, contact Laura Tolley at 713-743-0778 or Lisa Merkl at 713-743-8192. 

Donald Van Nieuwenhuise, with his experience as a production geologist and ongoing research on the impact hurricanes have on the Texas coast, understands the lengthy process of drilling relief wells and what effect a Gulf storm could have on that process as well as the overall recovery effort. Van Nieuwenhuise, Ph.D., is Director of the Professional Geoscience Programs in UH’s department of geosciences, as well as Director of the Applied Sequence and Biostratigraphy Program. Van Niewenhuise can also address how a storm's path and trajectory may impact the spread of oil on Gulf Coast states. His previous experience includes 18 years with AMOCO in stratigraphic research, stratigraphic applications and management. His assignments included fields and prospects within the United States and in more than 40 other countries. Prior to joining the AMOCO Research Center in Tulsa, he was a geologist for MOBIL in New Orleans, where he successfully drilled more than 15 exploration, production and blow-out kill wells. Reach him at 713-743-3423 or

Click for full interview and text of Q&A with Dr. Van Nieuwenhuise

Cumaraswamy Vipulanandan, professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of the Texas Hurricane Center for Innovative Technology, deals with how to mitigate damages to structures and pipelines onshore and offshore, and how to protect coastal areas during extreme weather conditions.  A multi-infrastructural model for coordinating the efforts of various entities for rapid recovery after a hurricane or a major disaster is being developed.  Vipulanandan has been working with his engineering students to develop revolutionary, alternative technology to combat the effects of hurricanes and is hoping to make these ideas a reality for protecting the Texas coastline. He says the new wave of technology being developed at the center is effective and is modeled after technology that is already used in Japan very effectively, as well as other countries in Europe. On August 6, the center will be hosting a conference addressing hurricanes, major disasters and rapid recovery in Texas and the Gulf Coast. The event is open to the public, with a focus on the latest plans and procedures to prepare for hurricanes.  Reach him at 713-743-4278 or

Click to watch news clip: UH Texas Hurricane Center for Innovative Technology

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