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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IKE

It looks like on the map we have a bubble around us
Member Since: September 1, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 315
Quoting SpicyAngel1072:
It seems that all the storms coming from the west coast of Florida are dissipating before they get to my area...sigh..was looking forward to some more rain today.


The rain/thunder storms on the W FL Coast are basically stabilizing the atmosphere on the ECFL, but that should be coming to an end soon as ECFL will be destabilizing soon and we'll get some additional rain... not as heavy as in the W side but some nonetheless.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
231. IKE
Quoting SpicyAngel1072:
bobintampa:


Nope in Seminole county Florida ---north of Orlando.

I have been watching the wundermap and I keep seeing all of the rain just going "POOF" before it comes across...



I see what you mean...it's evaporating before it reaches you. You must have some drier air in Orlando?
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
We got it yesterday really good...no flooding though.

not today though.
Member Since: September 1, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 315
Quoting SpicyAngel1072:
bobintampa:


Nope in Seminole county Florida ---north of Orlando.

I have been watching the wundermap and I keep seeing all of the rain just going "POOF" before it comes across...



Yeah, its raining itself out on the coast before getting all the way over that way.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
IKE - that map is scary! I had fish in my front yard this morning from somewhere! Please turn the rain off!
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
bobintampa:


Nope in Seminole county Florida ---north of Orlando.

I have been watching the wundermap and I keep seeing all of the rain just going "POOF" before it comes across...

Member Since: September 1, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 315
Quoting IKE:
That rain is teasing us like a girl that won't give you a kiss...



LOL
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
225. IKE
Quoting SpicyAngel1072:
I just can't believe that it is not making its way here....baffled


Where are you at?
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting BobinTampa:
I could not get to work this morning. tried three different ways in...all flooded. even tried to park a mile away and walk but I'd have had to walk through knee deep water. It was unreal. Finally gave up and came in after lunch.

Ch. 28 was broadcasting from our parking lot. They broke our curb when they drove over the sidewalk and grass to get here. jerks. should send them an invoice.


I live on Davis Islands. I didn't get into the office until after 9 AM! I drive maybe 2 miles into work!
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
Quoting Levi32:


Orange/red is higher than normal shear, as you can see by the positive values on the color legend. Blues are lower-than-normal shear.


Thank you for the answer.It means that the EPAC will be with tons of shear according to those orange/red/Brown colors if you believe this forecast way out in time.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
where are you spicyangel? if you're in Pittsburgh, then I'm not surprised the rain isn't reaching you. :o)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
221. IKE
Quoting CaneWarning:


Yeah, the last time was around the end of May. This is much worse in my opinion than the first time around.


Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting IKE:


That's why sometimes it doesn't have to be classified to be a huge problem. Too much emphasis on naming a system. This is twice now for central Florida in the last 2-3 months?


Yeah, the last time was around the end of May. This is much worse in my opinion than the first time around.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
I just can't believe that it is not making its way here....baffled
Member Since: September 1, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 315
217. IKE
That rain is teasing us like a girl that won't give you a kiss...

Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting SpicyAngel1072:
West coast of Florida is getting hammered....
I have received 10" in the past 2 days. I'm sure I'll get to 12-15" by tomorrow morning
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
West coast of Florida is getting hammered....from the wundermap...it doesn't appear to be stopping anytime soon
Member Since: September 1, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 315
Quoting atmoaggie:


Behind the razor wire and tire spikes that say do not back up? Yeah. That's the office. Would you believe that building has a basement 18 feet below ground?

Meteorology, defense hardware engineering, and the coroner's office at the same address. Got to be a way to figure out how those are related...somehow.


Yep that's the building! I find it hard to believe there's a basement anywhere in this state! That's pretty cool.

What meteorology office is located there? Are they in affiliation with the NWS near the mall?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I could not get to work this morning. tried three different ways in...all flooded. even tried to park a mile away and walk but I'd have had to walk through knee deep water. It was unreal. Finally gave up and came in after lunch.

Ch. 28 was broadcasting from our parking lot. They broke our curb when they drove over the sidewalk and grass to get here. jerks. should send them an invoice.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
We'll have the area in the GOMEX that's drenching FL in rain.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting IKE:


That's why sometimes it doesn't have to be classified to be a huge problem. Too much emphasis on naming a system. This is twice now for central Florida in the last 2-3 months?


Yep, 90L (which I swear became Ana) and this blob.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
210. IKE
Quoting CaneWarning:


This morning I saw the heaviest rain I think I have ever seen outside of a tropical system.


That's why sometimes it doesn't have to be classified to be a huge problem. Too much emphasis on naming a system. This is twice now for central Florida in the last 2-3 months?
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Desert Florida
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting IKE:


I was just thinking....hey, I remember them asking for some. I see another round moving in.


This morning I saw the heaviest rain I think I have ever seen outside of a tropical system.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
207. IKE
Quoting NRAamy:
IKE....Fl has desert? I didn't know that...I thought it was too tropical...I need an edumacation in geography, please...

:)


Suppose to be....but.....

97.5 and no clouds says otherwise.

Make that 97.7.....97.5.....rapid fire....
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
IKE....Fl has desert? I didn't know that...I thought it was too tropical...I need an edumacation in geography, please...

:)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
205. IKE
Quoting BobinTampa:
Ike did you get rain at all?


I'm up here in the desert Florida panhandle. Had about a tenth of an inch in the last 3+ weeks.

Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Geezum,,

101.1 F now
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Vortex95:
red is the CFS is low or high shear?
Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:


I see orange and blue there.As I am a novice here,what does the orange and the blue mean?


Orange/red is higher than normal shear, as you can see by the positive values on the color legend. Blues are lower-than-normal shear.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
The blue means less shear than usual...red and brown means more shear than usual.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
201. IKE
Quoting CaneWarning:


We did ask for this didn't we? Too much of a good thing.


I was just thinking....hey, I remember them asking for some. I see another round moving in.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Ike did you get rain at all?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
It seems that all the storms coming from the west coast of Florida are dissipating before they get to my area...sigh..was looking forward to some more rain today.
Member Since: September 1, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 315
Quoting IKE:


Nope..although it's playing in my headphones right now.

Central Florida and too much rain.


We did ask for this didn't we? Too much of a good thing.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
Quoting hurricane23:


Ouch...


I see orange and blue there.As I am a novice here,what does the orange and the blue mean?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Fool in the Rain

..Ha,cure My Blues'..
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
194. IKE
Quoting atmoaggie:


Or Goin to California
for that matter.

The Rain Song would be fine by me.
But this is really just a tease...no audio hardware on this server...none.


Another ZEP fan! Alright!

I'll cue up The Rain Song next.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
193. IKE
Quoting Patrap:
..cool,..long as it aint,

..When the Levee Breaks..


Nope..although it's playing in my headphones right now.

Central Florida and too much rain.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting Patrap:
..cool,..long as it aint,

..When the Levee Breaks..


Or Goin to California
for that matter.

The Rain Song would be fine by me.
But this is really just a tease...no audio hardware on this server...none.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
191. IKE
No humidity today here in the Florida panhandle though...that helps.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
..cool,..long as it aint,

..When the Levee Breaks..
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
189. IKE
Make that 97.9. Man, it's hot.

PWS 6 miles from me...

WZEP AM 1460 DeFuniak Springs, FL, DeFuniak Springs, Florida (PWS)
Updated: 17 min 58 sec ago
Clear
97.5 °F
Clear
Humidity: 29%
Dew Point: 60 °F
Wind: Calm
Wind Gust: 1.0 mph
Pressure: 29.75 in (Falling)
Heat Index: 98 °F
Visibility: 10.0 miles
UV: 13 out of 16
Clouds:
Clear -
(Above Ground Level)
Elevation: 174 ft
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting P451:
There is no pipeline of waves however...

(click for actual size)





I saw this looking back...a nearly global plot that says click for actual size. I'm kinda scared to do so, honestly. An actual size plot of the globe would have to be rather huge...actual size ;-)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
187. IKE
I've got 97.3 outside my window...right now.

A little Zep to cool you off:)
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Cha-Ching..again

Current Conditions

Uptown, New Orleans, Louisiana (PWS)
Updated: 23 sec ago
Mostly Cloudy
100.2 F
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
If I didn't know better I'd think this was a TD.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
i live in southern sarasota county in florida weve hade no more than 1/4 inch of rain in the last week it just depends what side of the street you live on
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting robbieNDBC:


Hey, neighbor! Yeah part of the reason I decided to stop lurking was the amount of locals I saw on here so I figured I'd put my two cents in.

Is the place you're talking about the one with the cool Iron Man tank out front? That thing is cool!


Behind the razor wire and tire spikes that say do not back up? Yeah. That's the office. Would you believe that building has a basement 18 feet below ground?

Meteorology, defense hardware engineering, and the coroner's office at the same address. Got to be a way to figure out how those are related...somehow.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

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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.

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