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 nrtiwlnvragn:
I think too much is placed on El Nino, particularly with a developing one.

El Nino & La Nina
Scoundrels or Scapegoats?


I viewed that whole presentation and I have to say it's probably the best one I've seen. It is very true that some forecasters put way too much stock in the ENSO alone. There are many other factors at work. This year since it's a reactive El Nino there has been more correlation with the changing ENSO than there usually is with a weak event. It's really quite nice, it almost makes the forecasting easier.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26658
I'm happy to say the rain is starting to taper off in Tampa. I don't see too much left to come at us from the gulf either. It's all sinking slowly to the south.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
Quoting plywoodstatenative:
Okay since you are on the up and up so to speak, what is the information on when or if QuickSat is going to be replaced?


A year or 2 after it falls on capitol hill. I don't everything, now, I just happen to know the guys at NGI (Stennis), FCMP, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Colorado.
And whatever gets put in BAMS or in press releases.
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WPB, its been happening all day. Spurts here and there.
Member Since: November 15, 2005 Posts: 16 Comments: 4189
post 523, Plywood.
see the shepperd's blog.
Portlight charity stuff.
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I don't think we need to see anymore photo's of Press in a Dress. The thought of him in anything else is enough to make him faint.
Member Since: November 15, 2005 Posts: 16 Comments: 4189
Quoting plywoodstatenative:
Levi, its odd that a trough would sit up in one spot like this one did. Normally we see them move north at a rapid pace. what kept this one in place?


Well this one isn't being kept in place. It's moving right along. The illusion of moving slow was caused by all the rain you guys are getting. A shortwave trough came through a couple days ago that brought the front down that started all the rain. The shortwave quickly left but the front remained, as they usually do down in the gulf. The result was continued rain and now the big longwave trough is digging down for its turn at a couple days of bringing wet weather. So it's really a 2-trough deal but no break in the rain.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26658
Here it comes fellow Lake Worth and West Palm bloggers.

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Okay since you are on the up and up so to speak, what is the information on when or if QuickSat is going to be replaced?
Member Since: November 15, 2005 Posts: 16 Comments: 4189
Quoting presslord:


Aaaarrrggghhh!!!!!


lol...no really, laughed out loud. (Wifey looking at me oddly)
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Press, anymore fundraisers coming up?
Member Since: November 15, 2005 Posts: 16 Comments: 4189
Quoting plywoodstatenative:
no and thats odd.

What impact will this new satellite that NASA put up last week have on hurricane forecasting?


The most recent was simply a follow on (read: spare) to ones we already have. I don't think it has any special capabilities beyond what is up there now.

GOES-R, however, is supposed to be different.
http://www.goes-r.gov/
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Good Evening all.
The wave we were looking at this morning at 35 W has been badly erroded by the SAL.
Yes, there was a forecast earlier this year, that SAL would not be as heavy this year, as in some previous. But it was a forecast for the season, and may still prove right. Bear in mind it is a forecast, and was based on recent studdies, ongoing.
If in fact, there has been more rain in parts of Africa than recently, and this is supposed to reduce the dust, and it does not, then we have a problem with the data.
Or with the interpretation of the data.

None of this is exact science. It will be interesting to see how it all works out.
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Quoting atmoaggie:


That would be the Pressolinas. And the mischief might be coming from inland. Does it look like a drunken pirate in a dress?


Aaaarrrggghhh!!!!!
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I think Dr. Masters posted a blog on the dust forecast for 2009 indicating below normal dust for 2009. We should not look at the intensity of any single dust event but the frequency of such.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
UAV post from the 28th Conference on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology by Dr. M last year.

http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/archive.html?year=2008&month=04

And news release from Nov 2006:
http://www.foxnews.com/wires/2006Nov09/0,4670,HurricaneResearchers,00.html
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no and thats odd.

What impact will this new satellite that NASA put up last week have on hurricane forecasting?
Member Since: November 15, 2005 Posts: 16 Comments: 4189
Quoting plywoodstatenative:
456, then whats the deal with the forecast earlier this year about a less than active season for Saharan Dust?


From my May 16 outlook and my blog on SAL on May 31 I hinted that weaker waves over Africa will continute to less occurance of dust events but when they occur they will be strong. June 2009 saw 2-3 dust events, which is below normal.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
Image of the day



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Quoting plywoodstatenative:
atmo, I know that if we could figure out a way to put the buoy-like radar stations that have been employed beta wise in the atlantic along the area of the Yucatan Channel and possibly near the Herbert boxes then we might get some very useful information.

What ever happened to the idea of using the Predator drones to look into the main part of the storms?


The UAVs are happening as far as I know. NGI (northern gulf institute) at Stennis Space Center is involved in that. I'll see what I can find out tomorrow.

Haven't heard much since Ophelia-2005, have we?

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Levi, its odd that a trough would sit up in one spot like this one did. Normally we see them move north at a rapid pace. what kept this one in place?
Member Since: November 15, 2005 Posts: 16 Comments: 4189
From TCR for 90L;
There were several data, which suggest that Tropical Invest 90L was probably a
tropical depression or tropical storm at landfall. First, satellite presentations greatly
improved as the system near the coast with organize deep convection found near the
center of circulation.

So I am pretty confident in saying we've had Ana and that should be declared in PSA.
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Quoting CaneWarning:


I don't know anybody who could care less about either of those things.
You have mail.
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Quoting Weather456:
dust so intense, it can be picked up on infrared.



I remember once we had someone in here saying that they could see the CO2 when looking something like that. LOL.
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456, then whats the deal with the forecast earlier this year about a less than active season for Saharan Dust?
Member Since: November 15, 2005 Posts: 16 Comments: 4189
I think too much is placed on El Nino, particularly with a developing one.

El Nino & La Nina
Scoundrels or Scapegoats?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
atmo, I know that if we could figure out a way to put the buoy-like radar stations that have been employed beta wise in the atlantic along the area of the Yucatan Channel and possibly near the Herbert boxes then we might get some very useful information.

What ever happened to the idea of using the Predator drones to look into the main part of the storms?
Member Since: November 15, 2005 Posts: 16 Comments: 4189
Quoting Levi32:


And notice the mischief off the Carolinas.


That would be the Pressolinas. And the mischief might be coming from inland. Does it look like a drunken pirate in a dress?
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dust so intense, it can be picked up on infrared.

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
Quoting IKE:


Another ZEP fan! Alright!

I'll cue up The Rain Song next.


Would you believe that I went to see Page and Plant in 1995 and got in big trouble with my 75 year old granny for taking some hussy I had only known for 6 months instead of her? Grandma didn't speak to me for a year.

Was cool, though, with the NOLA symphony orchestra playing along for Kashmir, and others.
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Quoting hurricane2009:
12Z ECMWF is forecasting a monster storm in about 9-10 days still in the EPAC


And notice the mischief off the Carolinas.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26658
Quoting plywoodstatenative:
Levi, I was hoping it would leave sooner than that. We have been getting pounded on because of the rain that it is funneling into our area.


Well after tomorrow it should be tapering off a bit as the low moves away and pressures rise across the area, but lingering showers/t-storms along the old frontal boundary will probably remain for a while after that.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26658
Baha, we have had our share of rain period.
Member Since: November 15, 2005 Posts: 16 Comments: 4189
Plywood:

Repost from earlier:
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).


I know a bunch of these guys. Many are participating in VORTEX2 (the mobile radar and sticknet guys) and really do not have the funding to go out in front of canes. Many will find a way to do it anyway, but they could sure use some funds and a stable source for a few years. Then they could possibly expand their capabilities in the off seasons.
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Evening everybody.

Well, it's July 1, and for the first time in a month (so far!) we've had a 24-hour period without rain over New Providence. I need to look at that MJO forecast to see when it was forecast to shift.....

How're the waves today???
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Levi, I was hoping it would leave sooner than that. We have been getting pounded on because of the rain that it is funneling into our area.
Member Since: November 15, 2005 Posts: 16 Comments: 4189
What is sad is that people who rely on us for tropical information are instead leaving for other sites because of the fact of all the nonsense that happens in here. Good respected bloggers have left because of it, and their information goes with them.
Member Since: November 15, 2005 Posts: 16 Comments: 4189
Quoting plywoodstatenative:
So basically its the old watch and wait.

The trough that is sitting up north of me, in northern Florida. When will that move out of here?


That particular trough is forecast to pull out in 3-4 days. It's looking like most of the troughs after it will be further east after that, with the mean position just off the eastern seaboard as the big upper high over Texas shifts eastward.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26658
Quoting plywoodstatenative:
So basically its the old watch and wait.

The trough that is sitting up north of me, in northern Florida. When will that move out of here?

Should be out by the weekend but I believe another may be setting up for early next week.
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Quoting hunkerdown:

To people in the real world, a lot. To this blog, nothing...but with all of the crap that is flying around here this year it truly fits.


I don't know anybody who could care less about either of those things.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
So basically its the old watch and wait.

The trough that is sitting up north of me, in northern Florida. When will that move out of here?
Member Since: November 15, 2005 Posts: 16 Comments: 4189
Quoting CaneWarning:


What on earth does this have to do with anything?

To people in the real world, a lot. To this blog, nothing...but with all of the crap that is flying around here this year it truly fits.
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Quoting plywoodstatenative:
Levi, what about the low level item that was mentioned in here recently. Depending on the trough, is there any chance of moving it away from the Colombian heat setup?


Yeah into the east Pacific lol. Areas of thunderstorms near and north of Panama are common, and in this case are being enhanced by upper divergence. This energy looks to be heading west into the east Pacific along with the rest of the convection. To top it off a bunch of upper lows are going to be dancing around in the Caribbean for a while which will make upper-level conditions unfavorable for development in the short term.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26658
Quoting hunkerdown:
Any chance pork bellies will hit $70.00 by Friday ? And just how high will soybeans go ?


What on earth does this have to do with anything?
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
Okay so a bigger research center is truthfully out of the question. Then the question is this: Would buoy-like radar/barometric pressure readers be worth placing in areas where we see the most activity. Something along the line of what we saw Vortex2 doing with their stick nets?
Member Since: November 15, 2005 Posts: 16 Comments: 4189
Quoting Levi32:


Well again hard to prove in a certain area....but in general El Nino statistically lowers the average number of storms that form in the season. There is one fairly common theme among El Nino year tracks where they tend to form further north...north of 20N, and less south of 20N in the deep tropics due to lower SSTs and higher wind shear that usually accompanies an El Nino episode.
Great Thanks I was mis-informed then. Learned something new today
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the last low we had, was that as I said before, part of what was left of Andres?
Member Since: November 15, 2005 Posts: 16 Comments: 4189
Quoting ALCoastGambler:
Thank you for the response. You answered the question I asked...lol
I think I meant the more amount instead of intensity of hurricanes. But Thank you


Well again hard to prove in a certain area....but in general El Nino statistically lowers the average number of storms that form in the season. There is one fairly common theme among El Nino year tracks where they tend to form further north...north of 20N, and less south of 20N in the deep tropics due to lower SSTs and higher wind shear that usually accompanies an El Nino episode.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26658
Levi, what about the low level item that was mentioned in here recently. Depending on the trough, is there any chance of moving it away from the Colombian heat setup?
Member Since: November 15, 2005 Posts: 16 Comments: 4189

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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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