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 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.
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Quoting SomeRandomTexan:


how believable is a forcast past 10 days... no very imho


Indeed... thx God WX changes and is not static. :)
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LSU

NCAA College Baseball Champions 2009
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128348
GEAUX Tigers!

That's my two cwnts.
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La rice acreage down after '08 hurricanes

Associated Press - July 1, 2009 5:34 AM ET

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Louisiana rice farmers are feeling after effects of last summer's hurricanes.

Nathan Crisp, director of Louisiana's branch of the National Agricultural Statistics Service, says farmers weren't able to plant as many acres as they'd wanted because of the effects of salt-water intrusion from hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

The agency estimates acreage in the state at 420,000 acres. That's 50,000 fewer than in 2008 and 60,000 fewer than farmers said in March that they'd hoped to plant this year.

Nationwide, rice acreage is up slightly, to 3 million acres.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128348
As I posted a few weeks ago, recent El Nino years produced several memorable and destructive hurricanes (which includes the Carribean and Central America) and as noted conditions are most favorable from mid-August to mid-September......Too early to speculate on what conditions will be like in that period, or whether El Nino conditions will time lag in the Atlantic basin, so it is a wait and see until then IMHO taking all the factors into consideration....(as Dr. M is probably doing right now in terms of his pending July outlook).
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Quoting hurricane23:


Never said this season will be a bust but if you take the time to analyze whats out there your looking at an average/below average season. Again as is stated last night it is that period from
August 20th thru Sept. 2Oth. that is critical. If a ridge just happens to set up in the Western Atlantic at 500 mb during that period, there will likely be landfalls. If a trough sets up on or just off the east coast, any storms will not make landfall, except in the West Gulf. Just plain luck and chance. The long wave position is always changing, and rarely stays in one place more than 10-14 days.

S. Florida has had a goodly number of major hurricanes in slow years.


Just look at Andrew. The first named storm of the year, and it didn't landfall until late August.
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I'm not sure how the UV index is 12 of 16 when its almost dark outside and we are having heavy rain.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
The Heat Takes its toll here as Fish Kills are occurring.


Current Conditions

Uptown, New Orleans, Louisiana (PWS)
Updated: 27 sec ago
Mostly Cloudy
99.1 F



Fish kill in West Esplanade Avenue Canal in Metairie
by The Times-Picayune
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128348
The University of Tampa, Tampa, Florida (PWS)
Updated: 2 sec ago
77.9 °F
Heavy Rain
Humidity: 97%
Dew Point: 77 °F
Wind: 10.0 mphfrom the WSW
Wind Gust: 16.0 mph
Pressure: 29.88 in (Rising)
Heat Index: 80 °F
Visibility: 5.0 miles
UV: 12 out of 16

Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
Quoting CaneWarning:
Flooding in Florida continues. Some areas are reporting as much as 7 inches of rain today!


If I hear an environmentalist say that Lake Okeechobee needs more rain, I'm going to punch them in the mouth.
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I had my 17 inches of rain in three days already this year.
Here is my totally uneducated prediction for the season,

POOF
its gone, over, aug and sept get a break this year.
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Interesting tidbit from this months Q & A for NHC.

What's on the immediate horizon?

The next step is the dual polarization radar, which if things go according to schedule will just start to become available next year. It will be an add-on feature to the current 88-D, a retrofit. The basic idea is that the dual-pol gives you a measurement of what phase of water you are looking at, in other words, is it water, is it ice? This is being billed as an improvement in precipitation estimates primarily, which it fine, but I also have a suspicion that it might give us a handle on intensification. It's an intriguing possibility.

Anything after that?

After that, there is something called "Nexrad-in-space". There are some technological hurdles, but this would give us essentially a geostationary 88D, with potentially hourly radar snapshots covering the whole Atlantic basin. We could see systems coming off Africa, for example, or in other areas that are beyond the routine reach of the aircraft or other platforms. It would give us a much better idea of what is out there.

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Feels Good


Current Conditions

Uptown, New Orleans, Louisiana (PWS)
Updated: 1:39 PM CDT on July 01, 2009
Mostly Cloudy
97.5 °F
Mostly Cloudy
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128348
Quoting atmoaggie:


Howdy, local.

I know I told you I work at SSC, and I do...sometimes. But, 80% of the time I work at our office on Gause at Robert in Slidell.

I would say small world, but there are lot SE LA folks in here at times.


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!
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Quoting WxLogic:


With shear like that is for most of the HURR Season it will make it quite difficult for things to develop in the S ATL and CARIB Sea, so if anything is to form it should happen in the GOM.


how believable is a forcast past 10 days... no very imho
Member Since: August 30, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1857
Quoting Drakoen:

CFS shear forecast


With shear like that is for most of the HURR Season it will make it quite difficult for things to develop in the S ATL and CARIB Sea, so if anything is to form it should happen in the GOM.
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Quoting CaneAddict:


Every post you make...is saying the season will be a literal bust.


Never said this season will be a bust but if you take the time to analyze whats out there your looking at an average/below average season. Again as is stated last night it is that period from
August 20th thru Sept. 2Oth. that is critical. If a ridge just happens to set up in the Western Atlantic at 500 mb during that period, there will likely be landfalls. If a trough sets up on or just off the east coast, any storms will not make landfall, except in the West Gulf. Just plain luck and chance. The long wave position is always changing, and rarely stays in one place more than 10-14 days.

S. Florida has had a goodly number of major hurricanes in slow years.
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Quoting robbieNDBC:
Patrap,

I'm a geography/oceanography student at LSU. DOCS also now offers an undergrad in Coastal and Environmental Sciences. As well as an oceanography minor, which I'm working on.

Off topic, but are you in Uptown? I live in Slidell.


Howdy, local.

I know I told you I work at SSC, and I do...sometimes. But, 80% of the time I work at our office on Gause at Robert in Slidell.

I would say small world, but there are lot SE LA folks in here at times.
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Latest NexSat, African West Coast and Atlantic,Loop
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128348
Quoting jasoniscoolman09:


some good cyclonic turning, but convection waning, we will have to see if it can get past the dust and into a favorable environment
Member Since: June 29, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 5313
Dr. M and I agree completely on the hurricane research funding. Why not expand efforts at existing successful centers? Adding one would be like having a new climate institute and taking all things climate away from the NCDC.

Additionally, it is common for us to have a dearth of observational info about a strong cane at landfall and I happen to know that the FCMP, Texas Tech, and other teams have no funding this year, or next, so far. These guys are the ones parking mobile towers, radars, and stick net monitors in the path of a landfall that gives us what little information we do have for any given cane at landfall. They could use a little money (not even a blip on the screen out of $300 M).
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Quoting hurricane23:
No need to look into the eastern atlantic (african coast) as cooler then normal sst's/dust are plaguing the area. Dont see much CV action this year in all honesty.

Adrian


Every post you make...is saying the season will be a literal bust.
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Flooding in Florida continues. Some areas are reporting as much as 7 inches of rain today!
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
Quoting hurricane23:
Pretty signifcant dust outbreak (stable air) moving of the afican coast most impressive ive seen in a while. No worries at all during the upcoming 4th.E-pac right now is the place to look for development.


A mid level vort max east of the Cape Verde islands supports the SAL plume.
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Quoting hurricane23:
Pretty signifcant dust outbreak (stable air) moving of the afican coast most impressive ive seen in a while. No worries at all during the upcoming 4th.E-pac right now is the place to look for development.


Agreed. Alot of unsettled weather out there.
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Quoting stillwaiting:
the area offshore west of ft myers about 250 miles needs to be watched in case of a possible surface low forming quickly,waters are deep and warm and shear is a meager 10kts over the area,IMO


Where would it form? It seems like all of the convection is racing east, and over Florida.
Member Since: June 29, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 5313
Quoting Drakoen:

CFS shear forecast


Ouch...
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Pretty signifcant dust outbreak (stable air) moving of the afican coast most impressive ive seen in a while. No worries at all during the upcoming 4th.E-pac right now is the place to look for development.
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Quoting hurricane23:
I personally think this El Nino event will likely exceed the 04 and 06 events and affect the Atlantic basin with shear throughout much of the season.

Hopefully we'll still get a few interesting systems to track though.

CFS shear forecast
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NexSat Latest GOM Viz Loop
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128348
Quoting robbieNDBC:
Quoting SomeRandomTexan:
So let me get this straight... El nino is controlled by the WPAC? is that correct


Like Levi said, we don't know exactly.

Check out the Tropical Atmosphere Ocean Array website (http://tao.noaa.gov/). I'm interning at the National Data Buoy Center where this program is maintained and I'm in the same room as the TAO people! So if you have any questions, I can ask 'em!


That's really cool Robbie!!! I will remeber that! thanks!
Member Since: August 30, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1857
The tropical wave just off the coast of Africa does have impressive cyclonic turning
Member Since: June 29, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 5313
Quoting stillwaiting:
the area offshore west of ft myers about 250 miles needs to be watched in case of a possible surface low forming quickly,waters are deep and warm and shear is a meager 10kts over the area,IMO


Seems like good conditions to me.
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Quoting SomeRandomTexan:
So let me get this straight... El nino is controlled by the WPAC? is that correct

Like Levi said, we don't know exactly.

Check out the Tropical Atmosphere Ocean Array website (http://tao.noaa.gov/). I'm interning at the National Data Buoy Center where this program is maintained and I'm in the same room as the TAO people! So if you have any questions, I can ask 'em!
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Quoting hurricane23:
I personally think this El Nino event will likely exceed the 04 and 06 events and affect the Atlantic basin with shear throughout much of the season.

Hopefully we'll still get a few interesting systems to track though.


1992 was a strong El Nino..
As in your immortal words 23, it only takes one.
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Quoting dayton:
What does the July outlook look like? Will there be a named storm this month? Will the U.S. be threatened?


We'll probably see a named storm in late July. Will the U.S. be threatened? All depends where it forms.
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the area offshore west of ft myers about 250 miles needs to be watched in case of a possible surface low forming quickly,waters are deep and warm and shear is a meager 10kts over the area,IMO
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Quoting Levi32:


El Nino is a climatic state of the atmosphere and the ocean. It isn't "controlled" by anything, and we still don't fully understand everything that causes the ENSO to fluctuate.


eeeek! way to complicated...haha! i like things that are set in stone!
Member Since: August 30, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1857
Quoting SomeRandomTexan:
So let me get this straight... El nino is controlled by the WPAC? is that correct


El Nino is a climatic state of the atmosphere and the ocean. It isn't "controlled" by anything, and we still don't fully understand everything that causes the ENSO to fluctuate.
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I personally think this El Nino event will likely exceed the 04 and 06 events and affect the Atlantic basin with shear throughout much of the season.

Hopefully we'll still get a few interesting systems to track though.
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Quoting Seastep:


Nice link. Thanks.


Also take a look at the visible satellite imagery. It looks very genuine and clear, when animated.

Link

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What does the July outlook look like? Will there be a named storm this month? Will the U.S. be threatened?
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Thanks Levi.
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My wundermap keeps going haywire....
Member Since: September 1, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 315
So let me get this straight... El nino is controlled by the WPAC? is that correct
Member Since: August 30, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1857
Quoting tornadofan:


Are my eyes fooling me, or is the blue below the equator expanding westward?
Quoting RitaEvac:


Waters are cooling in the eastern Pacific


That's just the tongue of cool water along the coast of South America....SSTs are way above normal in the eastern equatorial Pacific. Here's the depth charts...there's even warmer water just below the surface.

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133. JRRP
Quoting tornadofan:


Are my eyes fooling me, or is the blue below the equator expanding westward?
Quoting RitaEvac:


Waters are cooling in the eastern Pacific

mmmm i think EL NIO is developing very slowly
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 5847

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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.