New $50 million hurricane research center: a bad idea

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

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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

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Quoting Weather456:
The mew CFS model on pro accu show maximum cloud cover and rainfall over the Western Caribbean, Eastern Gulf, FL, and East Atlantic for July with little over the Eastern Caribbean and tropical Atlantic. I guess the eastern Caribbean islands will have another dry month.


That makes sense with the very strong trades coming through the Caribbean for the next few weeks.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26547
Again i strongly believe El Nino conditions are going to be quite detrimental to MDR cyclogenesis during the peak months of this particular season. I hope I am wrong. Even if that occurs, small scale features can allow an Andrew to develop.
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June Continues Wet Pattern Across Most of South Florida


The precipitation outlook for July calls for an increased likelihood of above normal rainfall, possibly continuing through the remainder of the rainy season which typically ends in October.
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The new CFS model on pro accu show maximum cloud cover and rainfall over the Western Caribbean, Eastern Gulf, FL, and East Atlantic for July with little over the Eastern Caribbean and tropical Atlantic. I guess the eastern Caribbean islands will have another dry month.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
Quoting Weather456:
What Adrian/hurricane23 is doing is bringing the wrong perception to the general population. Every single post he thinks the season is a bust, storm number-wise. But what about human impact, how can you predict that? how can you downplay that? How can you predict that out of the 6 named storms 5, impacted someone, somewhere?, how I ask you? The season is expected to be near normal, and we already know that (heck I prediected 12 named storms) but you remind us of it almost single day! But none of the experts have downplayed the importance of being prepared.


Human impact?? Your kidding me right? Its his or her responsibility to know your vulnerability to tropical cyclones if you live in a hurricane prone area.Ive always stressed no matter what the predictions call for one must always prepare the same way you did the previous season.All you need is a ripe pattern for hurricanes and their tracks to affect the U.S. for about a 5 to 8 week period and it could be a very bad year.
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My 09 season prediction

6 named storms
2 hurricanes
0 major hurricanes

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Quoting CybrTeddy:
I'm rain dancing for no more rain the next 3 weeks.


That's gonna backfire on you lol.
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I'm rain dancing for no more rain the next 3 weeks.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23566
Quoting Drakoen:


DAM is gaining in stratification! Finally able to make a consensus model.


What, once? j/k
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Snakes in the rain: Pets in danger when clouds burst

TBO.com

Published: July 1, 2009

With rain pelting the Tampa Bay area this morning, the slimy, slithering things begin to surface.

Guess I'll be having nightmares tonight

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Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


During the last several years of development, I've seen the D part of DAM in conflict with the A part, resulting in inconsistent forecasts. This year, so far so good.


DAM is gaining in stratification! Finally able to make a consensus model.

DAM was just made operational this year.
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Levi don't let the great one get you down. You are a pretty good forecast and you were not the only one who thought the upper low would give space to 93L by moving southwest.

Frankly, it's not good to point out when a person was wrong, becuz we all are wrong sometimes.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
Quoting Drakoen:


The DAM model kept low chances the whole way through.


During the last several years of development, I've seen the D part of DAM in conflict with the A part, resulting in inconsistent forecasts. This year, so far so good.
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Drak!! There's no need to curse the models...
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Drak and Levi. I think this will be an interesting season for both of you! LOL!!
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Quoting Levi32:


But the ULL didn't lack support lol. Anyway it doesn't really matter, most of our forecasts got blown on that system.


The DAM model kept low chances the whole way through.
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Quoting Levi32:


The first part of your sentence is what we want to avoid thinking. The 2nd part is correct. Storms forming closer to home and north of 20N will probably be the rule. The thing people need to realize is that even with a below-average season storms can still form close to home and hit people, sometimes more often than in a very active season, making the season just as costly despite the low total number of named storms.


I agree Levi. And this also seems to have been the trend the last few years. Very few Cape Verde storms but storms blowing up very near land. It only takes one.
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Quoting Drakoen:


Just like who? LOL!

And no, not all the models featured that. 93L lacked model support to begin with.


But the ULL didn't lack support lol. Anyway it doesn't really matter, most of our forecasts got blown on that system.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26547
Quoting Levi32:


Yup I did, just like you, the NHC, NWS, all the models, and everyone else did. Those nasty ULLs can behave erratically.


Just like who? LOL!

And no, not all the models featured that. 93L lacked model support to begin with.
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Quoting tennisgirl08:


So, basically a dead season. Or mainly storms only forming close to land. Correct?


The first part of your sentence is what we want to avoid thinking. The 2nd part is correct. Storms forming closer to home and north of 20N will probably be the rule. The thing people need to realize is that even with a below-average season storms can still form close to home and hit people, sometimes more often than in a very active season, making the season just as costly despite the low total number of named storms.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26547
Quoting Levi32:


Well there are always waves coming off in the middle of the season, although certainly they fluctuate in frequency. The thing is this year they are unlikely to encounter favorable conditions very often, with downward air motion expected to prevail over the central Atlantic.


So, basically a dead season. Or mainly storms only forming close to land. Correct?
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Quoting Drakoen:


You had it moving SW and it moved West.


Yup I did, just like you, the NHC, NWS, all the models, and everyone else did. Those nasty ULLs can behave erratically.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26547
Quoting tennisgirl08:
So, basically, a lot of waves with poor environmental conditions. When the conditions become more favorable will there be this many waves?? That is the question really.


Well there are always waves coming off in the middle of the season, although certainly they fluctuate in frequency. The thing is this year they are unlikely to encounter favorable conditions very often, with downward air motion expected to prevail over the central Atlantic. We probably won't see very many Cape Verde-type storms this year.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26547
Quoting Levi32:


Yeah, it was ironic that the upper low which was supposed to set up the perfect environment as it backed away, ended up being one of the main features that killed 93L.


You had it moving SW and it moved West.
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Quoting hurricaneseason2006:


Yep, something a wishcasting baby would say. Let me ask you, are we suppose to have a named storm by now or you think we should have a named storm by now?

Honey, what we think and what is actual are totally different.


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So, basically, a lot of waves with poor environmental conditions. When the conditions become more favorable will there be this many waves?? That is the question really.
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Quoting Weather456:
Not releated to the area near Panama but

At one point 93L's convection was being helped by the upper low over the Yucatan. It eventually became self sustaining as the wave got introduced.


Yeah, it was ironic that the upper low which was supposed to set up the perfect environment as it backed away, ended up being one of the main features that killed 93L.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26547
Quoting AllStar17:


I meant 93L formed in a similar area


"developed in a similar fashion" is not refering to its location =P but I'll take your word for it :) I don't think that area is a threat.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26547
Quoting txalwaysprepared:
Just got the call from the city... mandatory water rationing. Only two days a week and only btwn the hours of 11pm-4am. Beautiful.



wow hope you guys get some decent rain soon!! Wish we could send you some of this.
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Quoting tennisgirl08:
Thanks guys! I am wondering about these well-defined waves already coming off the coast of Africa. I know the conditions are not there now for development, but what if they were? Also, is it normal to have this many defined waves coming off the coast this early in the season?


It's a wave-train burst right now due to the MJO upward pulse over Africa and stronger African Easterly Jet, but it's not unusual to see them start to come off with greater frequency at this time of year. They just usually don't have warm enough SSTs or favorable upper-level conditions to develop yet. They get that as we move into August.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26547
Not releated to the area near Panama but

At one point 93L's convection was being helped by the upper low over the Yucatan. It eventually became self sustaining as the wave got introduced.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
Quoting Levi32:


The thunderstorms are being caused by a upper divergence on the south side of the upper low in the western Caribbean coupled with instability associated with the Columbian Heat Low. And sorry but no 93L did not develop from anything like this.


I meant 93L formed in a similar area
Member Since: June 29, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 5300
347. IKE
Quoting hurricaneseason2006:


Yep, something a wishcasting baby would say. Let me ask you, are we suppose to have a named storm by now or you think we should have a named storm by now?

Honey, what we think and what is actual are totally different.


I think 90L that made landfall near Mobile deserved a recon.

I'll take the NHC's word on the totals.
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Just got the call from the city... mandatory water rationing. Only two days a week and only btwn the hours of 11pm-4am. Beautiful.

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Quoting Levi32:


It was 456...I did not feel it was worth mentioning as an area of interest. I let 456 do the wave analysis maps since he loves to do it so much.


lol I had no choice growing up. Tropical waves are mandatory knowledge here in the Caribbean becuz they are one of the predominant features that affect us. The others are SAL, the tradewind inversion, trades, ITCZ and TUTT.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
Thanks guys! I am wondering about these well-defined waves already coming off the coast of Africa. I know the conditions are not there now for development, but what if they were? Also, is it normal to have this many defined waves coming off the coast this early in the season?
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343. IKE
Quoting Levi32:


And 0-0-0 looks awesome doesn't it =)

It's too bad we see those numbers 60% of the time by this date....and yet we still get hurricanes....the fact is we shouldn't have a named storm yet, and therefore the season is NOT a slow start...yet.


LOL....yes it does look awesome.
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Quoting hurricaneseason2006:


I think Levi32 or W456 had analysed that wave when I was off to work this morning. Let me check.


It was 456...I did not feel it was worth mentioning as an area of interest. I usually let 456 do the wave analysis maps since he loves to do it so much, and is so good at it.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26547
Quoting tennisgirl08:
Per NHC 2pm discussion:

Any thoughts on possible development of this wave?

A NEW TROPICAL WAVE HAS MOVED OFF THE W AFRICAN COAST AND IS
APPROXIMATELY ALONG 20W S OF 13N. RECENT VISIBLE SATELLITE
IMAGERY IN THIS AREA SHOWS THIS WELL-DEFINED FEATURE MOVING W
NEAR 15 KT IN THE WAKE OF A LARGE MESOSCALE CONVECTIVE SYSTEM
THAT RECENTLY MOVED OFF THE W AFRICAN COAST. ALSO...CYCLONIC
MOTION OF LOW LEVEL CLOUDS IS EVIDENT NEAR THIS FEATURE.
TIME-HEIGHT ANALYSES FROM DAKAR SENEGAL INDICATE AN ABRUPT SHIFT
OF ANOMALOUS FLOW BELOW THE 600 MB LEVEL FROM NORTHEASTERLY TO
SOUTHEASTERLY AROUND 01/0900 UTC...INDICATING THAT WAVE PASSAGE
LIKELY OCCURRED AT DAKAR AROUND THAT TIME. THIS FEATURE
COINCIDES WITH A DISTINCT MAXIMUM IN DEEP LAYER MOISTURE BASED
ON THE TOTAL PRECIPITABLE WATER PRODUCT FROM CIMSS. THUS...A
TROPICAL WAVE WILL BE ADDED TO THE 01/1800 UTC SURFACE ANALYSIS
OVER THE TROPICAL E ATLC. CONSIDERABLE LOW/MID-LEVEL DRY SAHARAN
AIR IS LIMITING THE AREAL COVERAGE OF DEEP CONVECTION NEAR THIS
WAVE...HOWEVER SCATTERED MODERATE CONVECTION IS FROM 6N-10N
BETWEEN 13W-22W.


Too much dust. Even if it makes it into the Caribbean, the Colombian Heat Low will likely inhibit development until it gets to the EPAC.
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It.. will.. not.. stop.. raining.
This is just as bad as Fay!
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23566
Quoting tennisgirl08:
Per NHC 2pm discussion:

Any thoughts on possible development of this wave?

A NEW TROPICAL WAVE HAS MOVED OFF THE W AFRICAN COAST AND IS
APPROXIMATELY ALONG 20W S OF 13N. RECENT VISIBLE SATELLITE
IMAGERY IN THIS AREA SHOWS THIS WELL-DEFINED FEATURE MOVING W
NEAR 15 KT IN THE WAKE OF A LARGE MESOSCALE CONVECTIVE SYSTEM
THAT RECENTLY MOVED OFF THE W AFRICAN COAST. ALSO...CYCLONIC
MOTION OF LOW LEVEL CLOUDS IS EVIDENT NEAR THIS FEATURE.
TIME-HEIGHT ANALYSES FROM DAKAR SENEGAL INDICATE AN ABRUPT SHIFT
OF ANOMALOUS FLOW BELOW THE 600 MB LEVEL FROM NORTHEASTERLY TO
SOUTHEASTERLY AROUND 01/0900 UTC...INDICATING THAT WAVE PASSAGE
LIKELY OCCURRED AT DAKAR AROUND THAT TIME. THIS FEATURE
COINCIDES WITH A DISTINCT MAXIMUM IN DEEP LAYER MOISTURE BASED
ON THE TOTAL PRECIPITABLE WATER PRODUCT FROM CIMSS. THUS...A
TROPICAL WAVE WILL BE ADDED TO THE 01/1800 UTC SURFACE ANALYSIS
OVER THE TROPICAL E ATLC. CONSIDERABLE LOW/MID-LEVEL DRY SAHARAN
AIR IS LIMITING THE AREAL COVERAGE OF DEEP CONVECTION NEAR THIS
WAVE...HOWEVER SCATTERED MODERATE CONVECTION IS FROM 6N-10N
BETWEEN 13W-22W.


A well-defined wave, but very slim chances of doing anything with the amazing amount of dust and dry air currently in the eastern Atlantic.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26547
Per NHC 2pm discussion:

Any thoughts on possible development of this wave?

A NEW TROPICAL WAVE HAS MOVED OFF THE W AFRICAN COAST AND IS
APPROXIMATELY ALONG 20W S OF 13N. RECENT VISIBLE SATELLITE
IMAGERY IN THIS AREA SHOWS THIS WELL-DEFINED FEATURE MOVING W
NEAR 15 KT IN THE WAKE OF A LARGE MESOSCALE CONVECTIVE SYSTEM
THAT RECENTLY MOVED OFF THE W AFRICAN COAST. ALSO...CYCLONIC
MOTION OF LOW LEVEL CLOUDS IS EVIDENT NEAR THIS FEATURE.
TIME-HEIGHT ANALYSES FROM DAKAR SENEGAL INDICATE AN ABRUPT SHIFT
OF ANOMALOUS FLOW BELOW THE 600 MB LEVEL FROM NORTHEASTERLY TO
SOUTHEASTERLY AROUND 01/0900 UTC...INDICATING THAT WAVE PASSAGE
LIKELY OCCURRED AT DAKAR AROUND THAT TIME. THIS FEATURE
COINCIDES WITH A DISTINCT MAXIMUM IN DEEP LAYER MOISTURE BASED
ON THE TOTAL PRECIPITABLE WATER PRODUCT FROM CIMSS. THUS...A
TROPICAL WAVE WILL BE ADDED TO THE 01/1800 UTC SURFACE ANALYSIS
OVER THE TROPICAL E ATLC. CONSIDERABLE LOW/MID-LEVEL DRY SAHARAN
AIR IS LIMITING THE AREAL COVERAGE OF DEEP CONVECTION NEAR THIS
WAVE...HOWEVER SCATTERED MODERATE CONVECTION IS FROM 6N-10N
BETWEEN 13W-22W.
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Quoting IKE:
Levi32....the facts are...there hasn't been a named system in the Atlantic. I know what you're saying but, the totals so far are.....0-0-0.

I agree, 90L looked like a TS and I wish a recon had flown in before it landed.

So far.....

0
0
0.


And 0-0-0 looks awesome doesn't it =)

It's too bad we see those numbers 60% of the time by this date....and yet we still get hurricanes....the fact is we shouldn't have a named storm yet, and therefore the season is NOT a slow start...yet.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26547
333. IKE
Levi32....the facts are...there hasn't been a named system in the Atlantic. I know what you're saying but, the totals so far are.....0-0-0.

I agree, 90L looked like a TS and I wish a recon had flown in before it landed.

So far.....

0
0
0.
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.