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 GeoffreyWPB:


Ernesto was nada here in South Fla. We even got off work that day...and it wound up to be a sunny and beautiful.


I remember the office closing for Fay. We didn't even get more than a shower and a 10 mph wind gust!
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Hey y'all and Canewarning :) 17% of the way through hurricane season and all is well :)


Hey! You are trying to start something with that percentage thing again! Every time you say it someone gets all excited.
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Quoting CybrTeddy:


Ernesto in 2006 scared the crap out of me.
When it was gonna hit New Orleans area as a Category 3 and when it was suppose to hit Tampa as a Category 1.


Ernesto was nada here in South Fla. We even got off work that day...and it wound up to be a sunny and beautiful.
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my point exactly
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:


I don't think anyone on here has ever mentioned that the first named storm in 1992 was Andrew which formed in August. (Apply directly to the forehead)


That's never been discussed.
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Quoting pcbdragon:
Does antone remember 1992 when the 1st named storm hit in August and the rest of the season couldn't measure up?


I don't think anyone on here has ever mentioned that the first named storm in 1992 was Andrew which formed in August. (Apply directly to the forehead)
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Quoting pcbdragon:
Does antone remember 1992 when the 1st named storm hit in August and the rest of the season couldn't measure up?
rest of the season, it will be a long time till any storm can measure up to Andrew.
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Every year, try every august and september. (well, except maybe the infamous 1914....
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616 to 619

Good evening to you all.

If we can get to the end of July with no named systems then great, especially since I am off to Alaska on a cruise with the family from the 15th July until the 27th !. LOL
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Does antone remember 1992 when the 1st named storm hit in August and the rest of the season couldn't measure up?
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Quoting kmanislander:
Hi there Hurricane 2009

I keep reading all the " impatient posts " about nothing happening.

Eventually that will change. Every year has at least one !


Ernesto in 2006 scared the crap out of me.
When it was gonna hit New Orleans area as a Category 3 and when it was suppose to hit Tampa as a Category 1.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24484
Hi there Hurricane 2009

I keep reading all the " impatient posts " about nothing happening.

Eventually that will change. Every year has at least one !
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Thank goodness for Kman
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kman, great post.
Member Since: August 12, 2007 Posts: 2 Comments: 2838
post # 613...At last!!! A voice of reason...
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Quoting kmanislander:
Good evening all

The previous active years have created an expectation that every year will be above average. There are a few fundamental factors to bear in mind :

1. We are in a period of overall heightened activity and as such the odds are more in favour of above average seasons than below average.

2. Quick starts to a season do not necessarily indicate that an active season is on tap. Similarly, a slow start is not necessarily a sign of a slow season : 2004 did not have the first system until 31st July and went on to a total of 15 overall, including the infamous Ivan.

3. You can look at all the analog years you want but in the end no two years are ever the same. Mother nature rules.

4. Some seasons can do a flip flop with activity. Again, 2004 is the classic illustration of this. Nothing until the end of July and then 8 weeks of one after the other.

5. Finally, if you look at climatology , June and July are slow. Period.


The moral of the story is enjoy the quiet times. Who knows when you will be looking down the barrel of something really nasty.

As usual, a man of good advice. Head kman's words.
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599. Levi, thanks for the link!
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Good evening all

The previous active years have created an expectation that every year will be above average. There are a few fundamental factors to bear in mind :

1. We are in a period of overall heightened activity and as such the odds are more in favour of above average seasons than below average.

2. Quick starts to a season do not necessarily indicate that an active season is on tap. Similarly, a slow start is not necessarily a sign of a slow season : 2004 did not have the first system until 31st July and went on to a total of 15 overall, including the infamous Ivan.

3. You can look at all the analog years you want but in the end no two years are ever the same. Mother nature rules.

4. Some seasons can do a flip flop with activity. Again, 2004 is the classic illustration of this. Nothing until the end of July and then 8 weeks of one after the other.

5. Finally, if you look at climatology , June and July are slow. Period.


The moral of the story is enjoy the quiet times. Who knows when you will be looking down the barrel of something really nasty.

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Quoting BahaHurican:
The child's last name was Hare???? Wow. Talk about irony.
Maybe the intelligence level of the pythong went beyond that. A hare is a rabbit, rabbits are the staple for pythons of that size...
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
The bottom line Ladies and Gentlemen is that we do not know how this season will turn out. It may be busy...it may be statistic-wise average as predicted...or it may be below normal.
Short and to the point, one of the best statements I have read on here in a long, long time.
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Quoting hunkerdown:
The child was dead when emergency crews arrived at 10 a.m. She had a bite mark on her head, authorities said."
The child's last name was Hare???? Wow. Talk about irony.
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The bottom line Ladies and Gentlemen is that we do not know how this season will turn out. It may be busy...it may be statistic-wise average as predicted...or it may be below normal.
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Whether you like them or not, whether you listen/watch them or not, but there was a good story in the weather channel a few minutes ago with Steve Lyons and Jim Cantore. They were talking about the models and in particular what certain models did with 93L. As fortunate as we are to be able to see the models, it is unfortunate when the models are viewed by indiviuals who have no weather knowledge or understanding and believe what they see just because it came from a "well known" model.
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Thanks Hunkerdown. Obviously, the environment the python was in was not a good one. That guy needs to go to jail.
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Quoting Chicklit:
You're a good writer Baha...I appreciate hearing your well-articulated thoughts!

Eight and a half foot Burmese Python strangled a little 2 1/2 year old girl in Sumpter County, Florida today. Owner said he had left the snake in a plastic bag.
Owner did not leave snake in a plastic bag:

"Sumter County Sheriff and state wildlife officials captured the python inside the home and placed it inside a bag. It's not known whether the snake will be euthanized. The python had a bloody gouge about a foot from the tip of its nose, where it was stabbed by its owner Charles Darnell.

Lt. Bobby Caruthers of Sumter County Sheriff's Office said the python was a family pet that apparently broke free from inside a glass aquarium in the home's living room. The snake then made its way into the girl's bedroom and apparently strangled her in the middle of the night, according to authorities. The girl was identified as Shaiunna Hare. The home is off County Road 466, tucked in the middle of pastureland.

Darnell, 32, found the snake - about 8.5 feet long - on top of the 2-year-old this morning after he noticed the snake was missing from the aquarium. He then started stabbing the reptile. Family members called 911 at 9:43 a.m. The child was dead when emergency crews arrived at 10 a.m. She had a bite mark on her head, authorities said."
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Quoting Chicklit:
You're a good writer Baha...I appreciate hearing your well-articulated thoughts!

Eight and a half foot Burmese Python strangled a little 2 1/2 year old girl in Sumpter County, Florida today. Owner said he had left the snake in a plastic bag.
Thanks for the compliment. I am glad I don't have to write about the python! and I wish I could be eloquent with the TC things I understand, not just blog netiquette....
Quoting KoritheMan:


Wow, how could I forget Katrina? Dennis could also be considered one, I suppose.

It's important that people don't let their guard down, simply because of increased shearing in the deep tropics.
I can't forget Katrina, given the run from just barely a TS to almost cat 2...... right over my head! LOL

I agree that we need to be careful not to assume no development when it's really business as usual.
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Awww...nice pics of the turtles and their tracks. We have them nesting in New Smyrna Beach, too. Also oceanfront lights MUST STAY OFF during nesting. You want the hatchlings to head toward the moonlight reflected off the water not the dead zone under the streetlight or patio flood light!
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Quoting atmoaggie:


Cool page, nrt. (May I call ya nrt?)


No problem, most do.
Member Since: September 23, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 11274
By the way, the 1962 season only had 5 named storms, but it was a neutral ENSO year with a La Nina bias with -0.5C SST anomalies all year in the equatorial Pacific. Another example of why the ENSO is not the magic wand for hurricane seasons.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26684
601. SLU
The best indicator of an active hurricane season is named storm days east of 60W south of 20N before August 1st. 1887, 1916, 1933, 1966, 1969, 1979, 1980, 1989, 1990, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2005 and 2008 all had named storm days in that period and they were all seasons which have been at least above average and most of them were hyperactive.
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600. JRRP
Quoting CybrTeddy:
2002 had a late start too. And so did 1998. And so Did 1990, 1985, 1980, 1977, 1961, 1955, 1950 and so on.
Actually looking at it seasons that don't feature a named system in June actually tend to be more active than seasons that do. With a couple of exceptions.

1969 too
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Quoting CaneWarning:


I don't know, Dr. Masters had a blog about it last year. I think there is some truth to it.


Here's Dr. Masters' blog on it
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26684
Quoting KoritheMan:


If by "somewhere", you mean areas outside the United States, then I don't think there has been such a year. As I said earlier, there has been at least one year (1990) when a tropical storm did not make landfall in the United States, but even during that year, a tropical depression hit Florida.

Also, for areas outside the United States, the only year that comes to mind in which other areas did not see a landfalling tropical cyclone is 1914.


We posted our comments at the same time KoritheMan. You really are a hurricane historian. I will refer to you when it comes to cyclonic history!
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Quoting KoritheMan:


If by "somewhere", you mean areas outside the United States, then I don't think there has been such a year. As I said earlier, there has been at least one year (1990) when a tropical storm did not make landfall in the United States, but even during that year, a tropical depression hit Florida.

Also, for areas outside the United States, the only year that comes to mind in which other areas did not see a landfalling tropical cyclone, is 1914.


Ah that depression was a TS all the way up the west coast of Florida very close to the coast and weakened to a TD just before landfall. It almost doesn't count lol. 1962 came very close with the only system getting close being Hurricane Alma that brushed the outer banks, and the WU page says it made landfall but it doesn't really appear to have hit land.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26684
Quoting AllStar17:


And some could argue that this year we have already had Ana and Bill

You have to have an LLC to get a name...
A little off-topic but a good time to post before the 4th of July Beach Weekend.
Info about rip currents!
Link
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2002 had a late start too. And so did 1998. And so Did 1990, 1985, 1980, 1977, 1961, 1955, 1950 and so on.
Actually looking at it seasons that don't feature a named system in June actually tend to be more active than seasons that do. With a couple of exceptions.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24484
Quoting Chicklit:

By this time last year, we had Arthur and Bertha.
Its not when and how many. Not that I need to remind anybody, first named storm in 1992 wasn't till August 24...
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Quoting stillwaiting:



turtle's won't nest where a hurricane w/make landfall is the legend,lol:)


I don't know, Dr. Masters had a blog about it last year. I think there is some truth to it.
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Quoting BahaHurican:
Also Katrina, which, like Rita, formed in Bahamian waters. Several of the other "blockbuster" storms of the high part of the season formed just east or just west of the Lesser Antilles.


Wow, how could I forget Katrina? Dennis could also be considered one, I suppose.

It's important that people don't let their guard down, simply because of increased shearing in the deep tropics.
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Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


Lots of info on Scatterometry on this website. Current plan is to place an instrument on a Japanese satellite with launch in late 2015/early 2016.


Cool page, nrt. (May I call ya nrt?)
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Quoting KoritheMan:



In 2005, some of the more powerful storms developed close to home (Rita immediately comes to mind).
Also Katrina, which, like Rita, formed in Bahamian waters. Several of the other "blockbuster" storms of the high part of the season formed just east or just west of the Lesser Antilles.
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Patience people...sometimes when there is activity in May (although alot dont make it classified) and June... there is a slow mid-Sept thru Oct. This year is different. El Nino is there but weak this year. Some Sheering in the carribean this year (but usually expected).

July usually sees the Atlantic ridge build down to 20N causing a pressure gradient with lower pressure on the ITCZ causing fast 25-35kt winds in the lower and midlevels. This year it shows it also for the next 15 days @ least. Until this ridge moves to around 30N..the ITCZ will remain south of 8N and the easterlys will be really strong. Best chance for tropical development will be in the SW Gulf or BOC, Bahamas and NW Carribean....unfortunatley the SW Carribean will see systems move into the Pacific with the extentsion of the Atlantic ridge.

Outlook from July 15-Aug 15 will probably push the ridge back up to 25-30N giving a more promising look for the ITCZ to move back up to near 10N and the Cape Verde season to start. Also the carribean will be prime from 50W and south of 15N of the windard islands and westward into the carribean!
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
When was the last season not a single named storm made landfall somewhere?


If by "somewhere", you mean areas outside the United States, then I don't think there has been such a year. As I said earlier, there has been at least one year (1990) when a tropical storm did not make landfall in the United States, but even during that year, a tropical depression hit Florida.

Also, for areas outside the United States, the only year that comes to mind in which other areas did not see a landfalling tropical cyclone is 1914.

EDIT: Oh wait, it appears that in 1914, the only storm of that year landfalled in the Bahamas before it came ashore over Florida.
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Thank you guys! I appreciate your knowledge and information! You put it in terms even I can understand!
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Quoting Chicklit:

By this time last year, we had Arthur and Bertha.


And some could argue that this year we have already had Ana and Bill
Member Since: June 29, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 5315
....and there's a turtle nest right on my beach no more than 1000ft from my apartment!!!,so I'm more than protected this year!!!!!(sarasota county has never had a major landfalling hurricane since records have been kept)....
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Quoting CaneWarning:


I thought it was more turtles less hurricanes for that particular area at least.

Beach erosion after tropical storms and hurricanes reduces turtle nesting areas.
Evidently, they return to the same beaches every year. Link
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When was the last season not a single named storm made landfall somewhere?
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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.