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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Levi32

Here is the link, where I saw it.

http://www.almanac.com/weatherforecast/us/11
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Quoting Levi32:
The farmers almanac is predicting a hurricane near the Carolinas August 4th-7th and a possible hurricane to affect New England August 16th-19th.

Last year they predicted the gulf coast to see hurricane threats in mid-July, mid-August, and mid-September. They weren't too far off. We did get 3 bad storms. Dolly in mid-late July, Gustav at the start of September, and Ike in mid-September.

The almanac also predicted 9 named storms last year with 80% confidence in the forecast, and only a 20-40% chance of getting as many as 12-13 storms. Well....we got 16 named storms last year.

That's all I can find for now. You gotta pay to see most of the Almanac stuff.


Doesn't sound like it is worth it to pay for it... Seems just as accurate as any of the "free" models out there.

I think that this is the best place to find out about storms, although it is fun to guess where the next storm will form or where it will hit...
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Quoting TexasHurricane:
Levi32

This is what I found...

"Summer temperatures will be two to three degrees above normal, on average, with the hottest periods in late June, the greater part of July, and early August. Expect a hurricane in late July or early August."


Hmm....this is the one I found....doesn't mention a hurricane.

July 2009
1st-3rd Clear and turning warmer. 4th-7th Monsoon showers and hot for New Mexico. Fair, dry, and very warm elsewhere. 8th-11th Heavy showers and storms lead to localized flooding for New Mexico and Texas Panhandle south. 12th-15th Very warm, with threatening skies. 16th-19th Unsettled and warm. 20th-23rd Unusually heavy monsoon storms for New Mexico, some as far east as southern Texas. 24th-27th Hot and thundery. 28th-31st Continued hot.


August 2009
1st-3rd Heat and humidity prevails. 4th-7th Big thunderstorms, potentially severe. 8th-11th Clear and dry. 12th-15th More clouds than sun. 16th-19th Widely scattered showers and thunderstorms. 20th-23rd Hot and dry. 24th-27th Increasing thunderstorm activity. 28th-31st Showers and thunderstorms, followed by cooler air.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26660
nothing in the EPAC either.....it has been very quiet here so far this season

000
ABPZ20 KNHC 021751
TWOEP
TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
1100 AM PDT THU JUL 2 2009

FOR THE EASTERN NORTH PACIFIC...EAST OF 140 DEGREES WEST LONGITUDE..

TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION IS NOT EXPECTED DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS.

$$
FORECASTER BEVEN
Member Since: June 29, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 5313
Levi32

This is what I found...

"Summer temperatures will be two to three degrees above normal, on average, with the hottest periods in late June, the greater part of July, and early August. Expect a hurricane in late July or early August."
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Gustav first outer band arriving NOLA,last Sept

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128705
Nothing mentioned

000
ABNT20 KNHC 021748
TWOAT
TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
200 PM EDT THU JUL 2 2009

FOR THE NORTH ATLANTIC...CARIBBEAN SEA AND THE GULF OF MEXICO...

TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION IS NOT EXPECTED DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS.

$$
FORECASTER BEVEN
Member Since: June 29, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 5313
Patrap

Wonder how they are closer to Texas...
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Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128705
This year the farmers almanac is predicting a hurricane near the Carolinas August 4th-7th and a possible hurricane to affect New England August 16th-19th.

Last year they predicted the gulf coast to see hurricane threats in mid-July, mid-August, and mid-September. They weren't too far off. We did get 3 bad storms. Dolly in mid-late July, Gustav at the start of September, and Ike in mid-September.

The almanac also predicted 9 named storms last year with 80% confidence in the forecast, and only a 20-40% chance of getting as many as 12-13 storms. Well....we got 16 named storms last year.

That's all I can find for now. You gotta pay to see most of the Almanac stuff.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26660
Louisiana Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Rescue Program

Sea Turtle Rescue



Photo by Jeff Strout

The Louisiana Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Rescue Program is a volunteer organization based out of Audubon Nature Institute's Aquarium of the America in New Orleans. It is committed to the humane care and treatment of injured, ill, or out-of-habitat marine mammals and sea turtles.

LMMSTRP works with several other organizations to respond to stranded marine mammals and sea turtles, to collect data about existing populations of marine animals along the Louisiana coast and waterways, and to help researchers develop new knowledge in support of the conservation of marine species
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128705
New Orleans...

Uptown.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128705
Post 828, Chicklit.
Yeah, interesting. Especially since it has absolutely nothing to feed on, with all that dry air around it.
Maybe we should keep an eye out there. Anything with that much persistance........
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866. Skyepony (Mod)
I was watching the BOC this morning. The TS was getting a little swirl to it in 10-20kts shear. The outflow boundry occured when the shear went to 20+ kts. Knocked the life right out of it.
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Patrap

What area are you in? (for the turtles)

You close to Texas border?
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Quoting TexasHurricane:
Levi32

I am actually wondering about that. Anyone know what the turtles are doing??? Texas/Louisiana

A friend of mine said that the Farmers almanac said that we were suppose to have a bad hurricane this year for this area. Don't know how acurate the farmers almancac is though.
Why all the wasted money on satellites, models, research...we just need to read the farmer's almanac and watch the turtles. Millions of dollars could be saved. Why has the NHC not picked up on this...hell, why do we even need the NHC if they are not going to give us the turtle reports, graphs, models.
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Thanks for the info Levi, I have seen those several times and wondered as well.

On a different note - ouch, my weather toolbar has a thermometer with flames at the top for tomorrows forcast! LOL (I think).
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Thanks Levi32! Pretty neat to see on the satellite loop!
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NexSat GOM,BOC Viz loop
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128705
Those sea turtles are fine,no unusual activity,but them Cajun's Like us snatch up the Loggerheads and Big Snappers for Turtle Soup & Gumbo..


Whoo Boy...!
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128705
Quoting ph34683:
look at this loop...

What is that burst looking feature that happens in the B of C?


That is a very nice example of an outflow boundary. It initiated from a thunderstorm that collapsed in the SE Bay of Campeche. When a thunderstorm collapses the downdraft overcomes the updraft and all the air that was previously being lifted up sinks back to the surface. As it hits the ocean it spreads outwards forming the boundary that you see in satellite imagery. When you see these boundaries within a tropical cyclone it usually means they are either disorganized or are inhaling a lot of dry air.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26660
Really active lightning and thunder early this morning in Grand Cayman. The light show must've gone on for about an hour or more.
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Levi32

I am actually wondering about that. Anyone know what the turtles are doing??? Texas/Louisiana

A friend of mine said that the Farmers almanac said that we were suppose to have a bad hurricane this year for this area. Don't know how acurate the farmers almancac is though.
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Quoting TexasHurricane:
southeast,texas area


same here... i live in orange...

no havent seen any turtles to much
Member Since: August 30, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1857
Thanks Stormfury. I've seen 'waves' like that develop at that place this time of year. Maybe they'll mention it in the 2 p.m. Discussion.
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look at this loop...

What is that burst looking feature that happens in the B of C?
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Quoting Levi32:


It definitely can be....especially when that hot and dry weather warms up the SSTs in the gulf so much. If I lived down there I would be concerned. You should see what your local turtles have been doing :)


Thank goodness our turtles are active here!
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
the area 10n 52w is a tropical wave with a mid level circulation. the environment is very hostile with south westerly shear blowing off the cloud tops to the northeast. also there is also a stable environment with dry sinking air. the syatem may have a chance when it gets into the caribbean,. at the moment tropical cyclogenesis does not seem likely in the near future
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Quoting TexasHurricane:
Can't help but wonder that since Texas has been so HOT and DRY, that this is the calm before the storm......hmmmm


It definitely can be....especially when that hot and dry weather warms up the SSTs in the gulf so much. If I lived down there I would be concerned. You should see what your local turtles have been doing :)
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26660
Can't help but wonder that since Texas has been so HOT and DRY, that this is the calm before the storm......hmmmm
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Does someone know how when using HTML.....when you post a pic on website or blog or even a link, you can make it open a new window rather than leaving the orginal site........please email me if you know .....Thanks!
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Quoting NRAamy:
Canewarning...there is only one as far as I am concerned...


I assume you mean "First" when people make the first comment on the blog.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
845 chichswx

Agreed....
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Post 811 - Those of us who live in hurricane prone areas come here for tropical weather updates and other weather related topics, not Dow updates and political talking points.
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Looking At African Dust
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
Shear to the west for 10N/52W.
Looks more favorable to the northwest.
Link
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Quoting TampaSpin:


NOw your going to get me banned again...LOL
I wouldn't report you Tampa
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Quoting islagal:
It may be quiet here in the North Caribbean, but I can tell you that we have had no turtles laying there eggs on the beaches thus far and last year they started in late May. Fisherman say it is a sign of a big storm this year...will have to see how the turtles and weather play out.


Where do you live Islagal? I have a great interest in the turtle theory.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26660
Quoting SomeRandomTexan:
Levi--

but if the strong troughing continues shouldn't that help protect Texas? wouldn't it recurve the storms towards Florida or out to sea?


The current pattern is troughing near or just east of the US east coast. That puts a ridge over Texas that yes would deflect most storms coming from the Caribbean, but all it takes is a northward or eastward shift in the ridge and you can get a storm that sneaks under and straight west into Texas. There's nothing preventing a storm from developing underneath the ridge in the gulf either. A lot of Texas' worst storms like Alicia and Audrey formed as home brew close to home and then devastated Texas.

The fact is no matter what the long-term pattern is, you can get a storm anytime, anywhere, if the parameters are right.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26660
Quoting islagal:
It may be quiet here in the North Caribbean, but I can tell you that we have had no turtles laying there eggs on the beaches thus far and last year they started in late May. Fisherman say it is a sign of a big storm this year...will have to see how the turtles and weather play out.


Hum....most often the Sea creatures are a great indicator of things to come...
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Any turtles nesting in the Texas area? Southeast TX/Louisiana
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Quoting Weather456:
Interesting feature in the North Atlantic. This is currently a shallow warm-core and non frontal feature





Nice spin 456 but, its to far north to do anything but, give shipping problems.
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southeast,texas area
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Levi--

but if the strong troughing continues shouldn't that help protect Texas? wouldn't it recurve the storms towards Florida or out to sea?
Member Since: August 30, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1857
10N/52W


Link
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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.