Hurricane Maria was the strongest hurricane to hit the island of Puerto Rico since 1928, with an estimated damage cost of ninety billion dollars between the island of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Hurricane Maria recorded unprecedented total rainfall resulting in flooding, mudslides, and high-speed winds that led to the destruction of most electrical power and communication transmission systems on the island. The meteorological data recorded during extreme events are of paramount importance in predicting future events and preparing for damage control. Unfortunately, limited data was recorded for Hurricane Maria due to the collapse of the recording station during the first few hours of the storm.  

A team of researchers from the City College of New York led by Professor Jorge González along with his colleagues Dr. Rabindra Pokhrel, Salvador del Cos, Juan Pablo Montoya Rincon, and Equisha Glenn simulated Hurricane Maria in weather research and forecast (WRF) modeling tool, a numerical weather prediction system developed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), compared and validated the results of the model with limited observational records during Hurricane Maria . The original article was published in the research journal Weather and Climate Extremes.

Professor Gonzalez said that: “Hurricane Maria was an exceptional storm with record-high mortality. The study’s motivation is to provide insights before and during the event for impact analysis, especially on critical power infrastructure.”

Professor Gonzalez and colleagues have identified the hydro-meteorological processes that occurred before and during this exceptional event. WRF model outcomes were used for geospatial risk assessment of the failure of electrical power poles on the island.

With regard to the synoptic analysis of conditions that led to the storm indicate, recorded 2017 as the hottest year for sea surface temperatures globally. The higher sea surface temperature was accompanied by low vertical wind shear that helps hurricane formation and intensification.

The research team predicted comparable landfall location and magnitude of Hurricane Maria by using WRF. The maximum wind speed simulated by the model was similar to the wind speed recorded by ocean buoys during the hurricane. The simulation also predicted comparable total rainfall peaks at the center of the island by utilizing precipitation records and the orographic effect of the high altitudes in the island’s central mountains. In addition, it is simulated that the orographic variation increased the rainfall by more than four times. A risk assessment for the failure of electrical power towers on the island was conducted using the wind speed and maximum rainfall data, which concluded a higher risk of failure at the north and center of the island.

This study has successfully provided critical insight into the events that preceded Hurricane Maria. Record high sea surface temperatures and low vertical wind shear were responsible for unparalleled precipitation and flooding caused by the Hurricane. The led author Dr. Rabindra Pokhrel said to Science Featured:  “The validated meteorological variables can be further utilized for further impact assessments such as hydrological modeling (for flood risk) and resiliency model (for impact on critical infrastructures). Future works will be focused on generating reliable data sources for other hurricanes in the Island and utilizing the data for impacts on critical infrastructures.”

Journal Reference:

Pokhrel, Rabindra, Salvador del Cos, Juan Pablo Montoya Rincon, Equisha Glenn, and Jorge E. González. “Observation and modeling of Hurricane Maria for damage assessment.” Weather and Climate Extremes (2021): 100331.

About the Author

Assistant Professor Rabindra Pokhrel

Kathmandu University Department of Environmental Science & Engineering PoBox 6250, Dhulikhel, Nepal. Email:

Dr. Pokhrel got his PhD degree (2021) from City College of New York, CCNY and Master’s (2009) from Santa Clara University, California. He holds a bachelor degree in Mechanical Engineering (2003) from Kathmandu University, Nepal. Since 2011, Dr. Pokhrel has been teaching in Kathmandu University as an Assistant Professor focusing mostly on alternative energy and recently in environmental dynamics and urban planning. His PhD research prepared him on understanding Caribbean climatology, extreme weather events, and especially on urban energy sustainability. He has developed tools to incorporate in urban climate model to study the impacts of building integrated technologies on mitigating peak energy usage for historic and future extreme heat events. Dr. Pokhrel career objective is to use modeling/observation data to understand, implement and promote measures to adapt to climate change.

Salvador del Cos Garza

Salvador del Cos is a is a graduate student at City College of New York working who had previously graduated from the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (ITESM), earning a bachelor’s degree (2012) in Mechanical Engineering and a Master’s Degree (2017) in Energy Engineering.  His Masters’ Thesis involved the simplification of a design method for parabolic solar concentrators and the evaluations of the resulting designs vie the radiation intensity at the receiver tube using SolTrace.  Since then, he has worked with the Coastal-Urban Environmental Research Group (CUERG) in analyzing weather and climate data for Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.

Juan P. Montoya-Rincon        (

Juan P. Montoya-Rincon received a B.S. degree in mechanical engineering from EAFIT University, Medellin, Colombia, in 2018. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. degree in mechanical engineering at the City College of New York, NY, USA. His research interest includes the extreme weather-related power outages prediction using statistical models, power grid resiliency analysis, and risk assessment of the transmission systems

Equisha Glenn (

Equisha Glenn is a NOAA EPP Center for Earth System Sciences and Remote Sensing Technologies (CESSRST) graduate research scholar at the City College of New York. She is pursuing her doctorate in civil engineering (2021) with a focus on water resources, climate, and resiliency. Additionally, she holds a B.S. and M.S. in Earth Systems Science and Environmental Engineering. She has worked with local, city, and federal government agencies throughout her academic and professional career, including NASA, the NYC Dept. of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP), and the NYC Mayor’s Office of Resiliency. Currently, she is working on several climate-related research projects. Her work with NOAA is focused on understanding the influence of climate changes on water resources to adapt water management strategies for floods and drought. Additionally, her projects with NASA are focused on analyzing extreme heat conditions for Chicago and Durban (South Africa). Equisha is interested in bridging the gap between, data, climate, and policy to help build a more resilient future for cities and society.

Professor Jorge E. González

Presidential Professor of The City College of New York

The City College of New York, NY



Prof. González is the Director of The CCNY Initiative to Promote Academic Success in STEM (CiPASS), lead scientist of the Coastal-Urban Environmental Research Group (CUERG), and The City College of New York Presidential Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the City College of New York (CCNY). Prof. González earned his Doctorate (1994) and Bachelor (1988) degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, respectively. He teaches and conducts research in urban energy sustainability, urban weather and climate, urban remote sensing, and regional climate modeling and analysis.  Professor González holds several patents in solar energy equipment, aerosol detection, and energy forecasting for buildings, and was recognized as a prominent young researcher by the National Science Foundation with a prestigious CAREER Award.  He has authored or co-authored more than 100 peer-reviewed publications, has delivered 100s of conference presentations, and his research has attracted more than $40M in external funding.  He is a Fellow Member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineering (ASME), and Former Vice-Chairman of the American Meteorological Society Board on the Urban Environment.  He was appointed in 2015 by the Mayor of the City as Member of the Climate Change Panel for the City of New York, and more recently as Senior Visiting Scientist of the Beijing Institute of Urban Meteorology and of Brookhaven National Laboratory. He is the coeditor of the ASME Handbook of Integrated and Sustainable Buildings Equipment and Systems, and was named this year 2019 as the Founding Editor of the newest ASME Journal of Engineering for Sustainable Buildings and Cities.