Hurricanes and Volcanoes in the East Bay

NBC Meteorologist Rob Mayeda teaches weather and natural hazards at Cal State East Bay.

26 photos
Gabrielle Coleman
Gabrielle Coleman
We all know Rob Mayeda as the weatherman on KNTV ....
Gabrielle Coleman
... hanging out with the anchors...
Gabrielle Coleman
... and pointing to the next cold front moving in at the Chromakey wall. (A computer replaces the green behind him with an image of a weather map.)
Tim Gora
But he's also Professor Mayeda to students at Cal State East Bay.
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This quarter, Mayeda is teaching two classes in Hayward: "Natural Disasters" and "Weather and the Atmosphere."
Gabrielle Coleman
These photos are from the "Natural Disasters" class - a geology course for non-majors and underclassmen considering a geology focus.
Rob Mayeda
The "Natural Disasters" class focuses on understanding natural disasters - both the physical "why" they happen, and the social and political implications.
Gabrielle Coleman
Topics range from hurricanes, volcanoes and earthquakes to coastal erosion, pollution and global warming.
Rob Mayeda
This day focused on hurricanes and typhoons. These are both types of cyclones - they just have different names depending on where they form.
Gabrielle Coleman
Class discussion focused on hurricane strength increasing in the last few decades possibly as a result of global warming.
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"Warmer ocean temperatures feed hurricane strength," says Mayeda, "it's like 'Miracle-Gro' for hurricanes." In fact, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration is forecasting up to twice the average number of severe hurricanes this year due to unusually warm sea surface temperatures and the decline of El Nino. We don't usually get these storms in the Bay Area because the water along our coast is too cold.
Gabrielle Coleman
One theme of the class is that simple changes - like stronger building codes - can help prevent major storms from becoming major disasters. But these seemingly obvious solutions can be tough sells in the real world.
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Hurricane Katrina is one of Mayeda's best examples of this - and he challenges students to consider whether or not our government's solutions will actually help. For example....
Gabrielle Coleman
During Hurricane Katrina, flood waters reached 12 feet, but some building codes only required structures to have 3 ft of ground clearance. Also, the city of New Orleans is sinking due to land "subsidence" (essentially - compression of ground below). Even if the levees are rebuilt higher, if the city of New Orleans continues to sink, is that a real solution?
Gabrielle Coleman
Mayeda also points out the difference between the cost of prevention vs clean-up. It's hard to get people to pay $2 billion to improve levee systems before a disaster. But when they don't, the cost of clean-up and repair are much higher - in the case of Katrina, about $30 billion and climbing.
California has similar problems. Remember the floods after the Sacramento River Delta levees failed in 1997 and 2006? We've begun retrofitting and repairing our aging levee system but it will take a long time and it will be expensive. Says Mayeda, these projects are "political hot potatoes."
Gabrielle Coleman
Mayeda hopes students will finish the class with a greater appreciation of the Bay Area's unique geology.
Christi Clark
Sophomores Frances Ancheta (center) and Anthony Griffith (right) ended up in this class somewhat by chance, but love it! Both liked the earthquake unit best so far and it changed the way they think about where they live and study. Griffith and Ancheta are in a second geology class in a basement lecture hall, which they see in a whole new way after learning about the major fault line under the school. Says Ancheta, "I try to sit next to the door!"
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Based on what they know now about natural hazards - where would Griffith and Ancheta live? "Not too close to the coast," says Anchetta. And Griffith agrees "Maybe the Tri-Valley."
Gabrielle Coleman
Both like Mayeda's lectures filled with real news clips and ripped-from-the-headlines examples. "His lectures are really fluid and vivid," says sophomore Frances Anchetta, who adds that if you come to class, you'll do fine on exams.
At the end of class, Mayeda returned their second mid-term exams.
Gabrielle Coleman
Students write papers on natural hazards past, present and future.
Last winter was Mayeda's first quarter at Cal State East Bay. His favorite part of teaching is interacting with students and discussing topics important to them, like global warming.
Gabrielle Coleman
What do students think about having a weatherman for a teacher? Says Mayeda, "I hope they think it's cool. They are always surprised to hear what time I start my day (2am). Sometimes they ask if something I said on NBC Bay Area is going to show up on an exam. (laughs) I tell them not to worry, TV work is like a bonus mini-lecture."
Mayeda will be teaching "Weather and the Atmosphere" again in the fall for the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department.
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