New $50 million hurricane research center: a bad idea

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:28 PM GMT on July 01, 2009

Share this Blog
3
+

Hurricane track forecasts have improved by about 50% over the past twenty years, which has undoubtedly saved many lives and billions of dollars. These forecast improvements have primarily resulted from the investment made in hurricane research, which has been funded at approximately $50 million per year over that period. To me, it is unfathomable that our nation spends so little on scientific research that provides such an incredible value. The President's National Science Board, which makes budget recommendations for the National Science Foundation (NSF), agrees, and recommended a six-fold increase in hurricane research spending to $300 million per year in a 2007 report. But exactly how much "bang for the buck" are we getting from hurricane research? The answer is murky, making it difficult to excite the kind of attention and political appeal needed to give hurricane research funding the big shot in the arm it deserves. However, recent moves by the Obama administration show that they are taking notice of the need to spend more money on hurricane research. But, a recent proposal by Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Florida, to build a new $50 million hurricane research center in Orlando, is the wrong way to boost hurricane research.


Figure 1. A science team led by NOAA's Hurricane Research Division (HRD) prepares for a mission into Hurricane Gustav in 2008. Image credit: NOAA/HRD.

How current hurricane research is funded
In 2008, about $50 million was spent by the U.S. government on hurricane research, with about 25% of this total going to maintain the facilities that do the research. The $50 million funded 228 person-years of research. About 35% of this was provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), with the rest of the money coming from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Office of Naval Research (ONR), and NASA. An additional $4 million was earmarked by Congress in 2008 to fund NOAA's promising new effort to improve hurricane intensity forecasts--the Hurricane Forecast Improvement Project (HFIP).

Where future funding increases should go: HFIP and JHT
The President's proposed FY 2010 budget continues the roughly $50 million dollars the hurricane research community traditionally gets, but adds $13 million in funding for the HFIP effort. To me, this is a great way to channel new hurricane research funding, as the HFIP effort is heavily focused on improving hurricane intensity forecasts, which have not improved at all over the past twenty years. Specific advancements outlined in the HFIP plan include:

1) Improving hurricane track forecast accuracy by 50% out to 5 days by 2018.
2) Improving hurricane intensity forecast accuracy by 50% out to 5 days by 2018.
3) Extending the lead time for hurricane forecasts out to 7 days.
4) Reducing the false alarm rate for rapid intensity forecasts.
5) Increasing the probability of detection of rapid intensification.

Another great way to boost hurricane research funding would be to put more money into NOAA's Joint Hurricane Testbed (JHT) project. This $1 million per year program has funded 50 separate hurricane research efforts over since 2001, 30 of which have been adopted operationally by the National Hurricane Center. Examples of successful JHT projects include the successful integration of the Stepped Frequency Microwave Radiometer (SFMR) surface wind measurement instrument into NHC operations; improvements to the GFDL and HWRF computer models; and improving techniques to make a "consensus" forecast based on the output of our four best computer models. However, no new money for JHT has been proposed in the FY 2010 budget, though some of the money earmarked for HFIP may flow into JHT.

A new $50 million hurricane research center proposed
Instead, a new proposal for hurricane research funding has been championed by Representative Alan Grayson, D-Florida. According to an article in the Orlando Sentinel, Grayson is pushing for a new $50 million hurricane research center to be built in Orlando. He demanded that such a hurricane research center be built in exchange for his vote for the controversial climate change bill passed Friday by the U.S. House, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. There is no language in the actual bill authorizing funds for such a center--Grayson merely has the word of democratic lawmakers, including President Obama, that such a center would be built. "I think it's a very worthwhile project. I look forward to working on it and making it a priority as the legislative process moves along," said U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, the California Democrat who sponsored the bill, in the Orlando Sentinel article. The center could be constructed with funds aimed at helping states "study and adapt to climate change," money that would not be available until 2012 at the earliest. The hurricane center is "among the type of activities that would be eligible to receive funding," Waxman said. "We've never had anything [like this] come into this district before, ever," said Grayson, a freshman lawmaker. "This will be the world-leading facility for hurricane research. This will draw people from all over the world."

Well, I have championed efforts to give more funding to hurricane research over the years, and I think the $300 million per year in funding for the National Hurricane Research Initiative proposed in 2007 by the President's National Science Board is what is needed. However, I think Grayson's proposed new hurricane center is a bad idea. Florida already has a world-leading facility for hurricane research, NOAA's Hurricane Research Division on Virginia Key, and does not need another. The U.S. hurricane research community has an infrastructure in place that works, and the best way to foster hurricane research is to pump money into this existing infrastructure. I talked with a number of senior hurricane research scientists about the idea of a new hurricane research center, and none of them supported it. It's great that Rep. Grayson's wants to put new much-needed funding into hurricane research, but he didn't consult with the experts to see if a new research center was a good way to do this. It isn't. Where are all of the scientists needed to staff such a center going to come from? Presumably, they will be drawn from existing successful research teams, leading to the disruption of these proven research efforts. Adding a new national research center with a new bureaucracy with new management needing on-the-job training will dilute and distract from current hurricane research efforts, and is not a good way to spend $50 million. Several senior hurricane research scientists are going to be reaching out to Rep. Grayson over the next few months to make him more aware of the abilities and needs of the hurricane research community. Hopefully, these efforts will result in a more productive way for the Congressman to boost hurricane research. If you live in Rep. Grayson's district, I recommend you contact him to express your desire to see him champion a more effective way to boost hurricane research than with his proposed $50 million hurricane research center. Putting the $50 million into the National Hurricane Research Initiative (HFIP) effort would be a better use of the funds. To his credit, Rep. Grayson is a co-sponsor of the National Hurricane Research Initiative of 2009 (H.R. 327), a bill introduced into the House of Representatives on January 8, 2009. This bill is a lesser ($150 million per year) version of the $300 million per year National Hurricane Research Initiative proposed in 2007 by the President's National Science Board.

Good links for HFIP information are at:

http://www.nrc.noaa.gov/HFIPDraftPlan.html
http://www.dtcenter.org/plots/hrh_test/workshop20 09/presentations/1_Gall_HRH%20HFIP%20presentation. pdf

Some summaries of recent HFIP activities in the last year are at:

http://www.dtcenter.org/plots/hrh_test/index.php
http://rammb.cira.colostate.edu/research/tropical _cyclones/hfip/workshop_2009/

My next post will be Friday, when I'll have the first half of July hurricane outlook.

Jeff Masters

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 483 - 433

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19Blog Index

483. plywoodstatenative
11:47 PM GMT on July 01, 2009
Levi, what about the low level item that was mentioned in here recently. Depending on the trough, is there any chance of moving it away from the Colombian heat setup?
Member Since: November 15, 2005 Posts: 16 Comments: 4189
482. Cavin Rawlins
11:45 PM GMT on July 01, 2009
The GFS has been spawing up lows in the ITCZ for the past week or two and maybe adjusting to seasonal changes. Model consensus is critical this year. TD 1 and 90L had some amazing consensus and so was 92L but 92L formed from an existing non tropical low. Something 93L did not had. Very critical this year.

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
481. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
11:45 PM GMT on July 01, 2009
evening all
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 171 Comments: 53838
480. plywoodstatenative
11:44 PM GMT on July 01, 2009
What I worry about is even though we may not have an active CV season this year. The waves that come off of Africa will have an impact on the CONUS. My feeling and it has been this way since last year ended, is that South Florida's no show on storms since Wilma is over, and that alot of people who were once complacent about getting ready for hurricane season will be shocked out of their lives.
Member Since: November 15, 2005 Posts: 16 Comments: 4189
479. CaneWarning
11:43 PM GMT on July 01, 2009
Quoting Weather456:
If anyone missed it

90L TCR


This is awesome.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
478. ALCoastGambler
11:43 PM GMT on July 01, 2009
Quoting Levi32:


It is very hard to prove something like that. I don't have a great knowledge of hurricane history so I can't tell you if El Nino years have had strong gulf hurricanes. In general El Nino lowers the potential for intense hurricanes in the Atlantic, but there is always the potential for a big storm, especially in a year like this with very warm SSTs relative to normal.
Thank you for the response. You answered the question I asked...lol
I think I meant the more amount instead of intensity of hurricanes. But Thank you
477. StormJunkie
11:42 PM GMT on July 01, 2009
Nice loop Oz, shows a pretty quiet June as it usually is. Had a little trouble with the buffering on it, but other then that pretty neat to see a month long loop! Worked best when I paused it and let the whole thing load prior to viewing. At least for me.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16554
476. Levi32
11:42 PM GMT on July 01, 2009
Quoting plywoodstatenative:
Someone was saying that the GFS was hinting at something coming off of Africa and forming near the Lesser Antilles


Ok I remember that run now, it was yesterday or the day before when the GFS tried to pull a miracle with that wave as it hit the lessers. It's always possible but in my opinion very unlikely. Higher than normal easterlies in the Caribbean are producing surface divergence near and east of the Antilles, and ruining surface convergence in the central/east Caribbean. Unless you get an already formed cyclone in moving into that area it's extremely difficult to get a tropical wave to develop with such strong surface winds.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
475. Cavin Rawlins
11:42 PM GMT on July 01, 2009
If anyone missed it

90L TCR
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
474. plywoodstatenative
11:40 PM GMT on July 01, 2009
If I was Patrap, I would be concerned with the temps located just south of New Orleans. I have not seen sst's that hot in that region for a while.
Member Since: November 15, 2005 Posts: 16 Comments: 4189
473. Levi32
11:39 PM GMT on July 01, 2009
Quoting ALCoastGambler:
Levi,
Do I misunderstand EL Nino? I was always told that it caused the GOM to have more intense storms.


It is very hard to prove something like that. I don't have a great knowledge of hurricane history so I can't tell you if El Nino years have had strong gulf hurricanes. In general El Nino lowers the potential for intense hurricanes in the Atlantic, but there is always the potential for a big storm, especially in a year like this with very warm SSTs relative to normal.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
472. plywoodstatenative
11:38 PM GMT on July 01, 2009
Someone was saying that the GFS was hinting at something coming off of Africa and forming near the Lesser Antilles
Member Since: November 15, 2005 Posts: 16 Comments: 4189
471. fishcop
11:37 PM GMT on July 01, 2009
another hot and sticky one in Grand Cayman today. some clouds and rain would be nice. had some great lightning last night with brief showers. come on rain!
Member Since: September 16, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 71
470. hunkerdown
11:36 PM GMT on July 01, 2009
Quoting HurricaneSwirl:
wowww is this what I should expect every once in a while I check to see whats up with the tropics? I hope your all pleased how good you make dr. master's blog look. im not going to get closer to involved than this post.

This is what happens when you get a room full of child "prodigys".
Member Since: August 15, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2515
468. TampaFLUSA
11:35 PM GMT on July 01, 2009
I don't see anything developing over the next week or two..
Member Since: June 21, 2007 Posts: 10 Comments: 1657
467. Cavin Rawlins
11:35 PM GMT on July 01, 2009
Quoting HurricaneSwirl:
wowww is this what I should expect every once in a while I check to see whats up with the tropics? I hope your all pleased how good you make dr. master's blog look. im not going to get closer to involved than this post.

I have to be honest that yes it can get so, but do not come to expect it since the blog still provides good info. And I apologize you had to see such.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
466. Levi32
11:35 PM GMT on July 01, 2009
Quoting plywoodstatenative:
Levi, Tampa: whats your feeling on the rising SST's around the Yucatan Channel, south of Cuba. Could we see anything impact those temps anytime soon and if so would it be the wave that some of the models were hitting on?


I'm not sure what model hints you're referring to. I haven't noticed anything in that area on the models for the next week but if you've got a link I'd be glad to see it.

I don't see anything significant making use of those warm SSTs during the first half of July, and 2 weeks out is all I'm comfortable with saying that. The western Caribbean may see more bursts of moisture come out of the eastern Pacific like we saw with invest 93L which is why I think it's the 2nd-most-likely area to see a tropical disturbance in the next 2 weeks, but it will depend a lot on what's going on in the east Pacific.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
465. Cavin Rawlins
11:32 PM GMT on July 01, 2009
Quoting hurricane2009:


2004 was wet during May and June


Ok and 2004 had a weak El Nino. So I would say it signifies such but not related to activity in the tropics.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
464. CycloneOz
11:30 PM GMT on July 01, 2009
GOES East Infrared Hurricane Alley & Sector - JUNE 2009 in HD



Every year, I look forward to producing these incredible animations for all my friends at WeatherUnderground.com, but never more so than this year! Produced in spectacular HD for the first time, other firsts include a new animation of Hurricane Alley and new imagery of the Hurricane Sector that highlights the landmasses not with a drawn line, but with natural lighting. It is truly an amazing sequence of images that will hold you spellbound, even though June 2009 was a quiet month in the tropics. So sit back and enjoy this unique experience of watching the world go by day by day from space as provided by imagery created by the GOES East Satellite!
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 3684
463. plywoodstatenative
11:30 PM GMT on July 01, 2009
Sebastian, would you give us some lat/longitude so that we know what area you are talking about. The only item in the area that I know of is the old invest.
Member Since: November 15, 2005 Posts: 16 Comments: 4189
461. Levi32
11:30 PM GMT on July 01, 2009
Quoting sebastianflorida:
Is that a spin in the Southern Carib, I think so. I think we will have an Invest here Tommorow, and finally something to watch; should get into the Gulf and the who knows by the 4th.


It has very slight low-level turning but that is not uncommon near the Columbian Heat Low. The convection is being caused by divergence south of an upper low in the western Caribbean coupled with instability due to the Columbian low. There are no surface features in the area so I don't think there are any chances of development.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
460. sebastianflorida
11:30 PM GMT on July 01, 2009
maybe my eyes, but I thought I saw something spinning up off the coast of S America
Member Since: August 5, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 709
459. savdavid
11:29 PM GMT on July 01, 2009
Ok, let's not give any money. How do you like that?
458. Cavin Rawlins
11:29 PM GMT on July 01, 2009
Taz, I would call it weak. There's an old saying and correct me if I'm wrong but when Floirda has alot of rain in May and June it signifies a quiet season ahead. The science behind it, if it's true, is that during El Nino years the the subtropical jet stream is further south and thus storm tracks (non tropical) shift further south than normal and contributes to a wetter than normal conditions across the SE USA.

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
456. ALCoastGambler
11:27 PM GMT on July 01, 2009
Levi,
Do I misunderstand EL Nino? I was always told that it caused the GOM to have more intense storms.
455. plywoodstatenative
11:27 PM GMT on July 01, 2009
Levi, Tampa: whats your feeling on the rising SST's around the Yucatan Channel, south of Cuba. Could we see anything impact those temps anytime soon and if so would it be the wave that some of the models were hitting on?
Member Since: November 15, 2005 Posts: 16 Comments: 4189
454. HurricaneSwirl
11:27 PM GMT on July 01, 2009
Quoting TampaFLUSA:

It actually sends that post before it's modified to admin...


just trying to give him just a tiny bit of credit. oh well i said i wouldn't get involved so that's all im posting.
Member Since: July 7, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 3237
451. sebastianflorida
11:25 PM GMT on July 01, 2009
Is that a spin in the Southern Carib, I think so. I think we will have an Invest here Tommorow, and finally something to watch; should get into the Gulf and the who knows by the 4th.
Member Since: August 5, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 709
Quoting HurricaneSwirl:
wowww is this what I should expect every once in a while I check to see whats up with the tropics? I hope your all pleased how good you make dr. master's blog look. im not going to get closer to involved than this post.


I'm sorry it's like this sometimes. It's embarrassing for the site. You can help make it better by flagging inappropriate posts and the admins usually do a good job of getting rid of the crud.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
Tomorrow at 12:00 PM (NOON) marks the halfway point of 2009! Just did a blog about some of the major events that have occurred so far in 2009...
Link
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting HurricaneSwirl:


LOL! at least he's clever

It actually sends that post before it's modified to admin...
Member Since: June 21, 2007 Posts: 10 Comments: 1657
"Quoting hurricane2009:
The day you get banned we will have a big old celebration"

Hopefully this time, it might stick a bit longer than the one he got just about a week ago.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Drak,

That trough that was going to enhance our weather all week long, is there any chance of seeing anything form off of the Carolina coast or off the Gulf coast from it? I know that normally thats what we would be looking at around this time.
Member Since: November 15, 2005 Posts: 16 Comments: 4189
Quoting Tazmanian:



how strong could El nino be right now all so could this be why FL is see so march rain??


It was probably a contributor yes. El Nino will likely stay mostly in the "weak" category and possibly hit low-end "moderate" status before coming back down. It shouldn't be very long-lasting because it's just a reaction to the overall trend towards a cold PDO (La Nina domination).
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
Quoting hurricaneseason2006:
So thats how he avoids getting ban. He modified all his comments and replaced them with images.


LOL! at least he's clever
Member Since: July 7, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 3237
wowww is this what I should expect every once in a while I check to see whats up with the tropics? I hope your all pleased how good you make dr. master's blog look. im not going to get closer to involved than this post.
Member Since: July 7, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 3237
Of all the models, what if anything are they saying about the week to come. I know that the GFS was hitting on the next african wave, but then again...

Is it possible that this year will be like 1992 where we did not see any tropical systems until late August?
Member Since: November 15, 2005 Posts: 16 Comments: 4189
Quoting Weather456:
Taz, yea I stated earlier that westerly anomalies in the equatorial pacific and warming of the sub-surface are indicating El Nino conditions. The SOI has sustain negative values for a while with a recent spike.

The cool surface waters some are noticing is the Humboldt current which is enhanced during the SH winter.










how strong could El nino be right now all so could this be why FL is see so march rain??
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Normal conditions:

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
Its ok Hurricane2009,
I reported him. It wont be long...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Viewing: 483 - 433

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19Blog Index

Top of Page

About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

Local Weather

Partly Cloudy
74 °F
Partly Cloudy