NHC increases hurricane forecast lead times

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 7:27 PM GMT on January 05, 2010

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The National Hurricane Center (NHC) announced today that beginning with the 2010 hurricane season, their hurricane and tropical storm watches and warnings for the U.S. coast will be extended in time by an additional 12 hours. Warnings will now be issued 36 hours in advance instead of 24 hours, and watches will be issued 48 hours in advance, instead of 36 hours. The increase in lead time for watches and warnings has been made possible by the tremendous improvement in hurricane track forecasts, which have improved by over 50% in the past twenty years (Figure 1). "With increases in population and infrastructure along vulnerable U.S. coastlines, emergency managers need more lead time in order to make life-saving decisions regarding evacuations", said Bill Read, director of NOAA's National Hurricane Center, in today's press release.


Figure 1. Average track errors for NHC Atlantic tropical storm and hurricane forecasts issued between 1990 - 2008. Track errors have improved by over 50% in the past 20 years. Image credit: National Hurricane Center.

Commentary
NHC has been debating for a number of years how best to "invest" the gains accrued from the steady improvement in hurricane track forecasts. One obvious savings from these better hurricane forecasts has come from the reduced evacuation costs. When a hurricane warning is issued 24 hours before the expected arrival of hurricane-force winds at the coast, it costs approximately $1 million to evacuate each mile of U.S. coast warned (Aberson et al., 2006). This number will be higher for more densely populated areas of the coast, such as Miami, and may be a factor of six lower for the North Carolina coast (Whitehead, 2003). According to a 2007 presentation at the 61st Interdepartmental Hurricane Conference, the length of coast warned decreased significantly in the past decade. During the decade of the 1990s, the average length of a hurricane warning was 455 miles, but that fell to just 335 miles between 2000 - 2006. Thus, an average of 120 fewer miles of coast were warned, at an average savings of $120 million per hurricane warning issuance. During this period, 17 storms requiring 25 hurricane warnings occurred. If the costs of coastal evacuations are indeed $1 million per mile, the improved hurricane forecasts between 2000 - 2006 resulted in savings of $3 billion compared to what the forecasts of the 1990s would have cost.

However, the new increased lead times for hurricane watches and warnings will lead to an increase in the length of coast warned, due to the higher uncertainties in hurricane tracks at longer forecast lead times. Between 2004 - 2008, approximately 25% of the coast that was placed under a hurricane warning actually received hurricane force winds; this percentage was 20% for areas placed under a hurricane watch. These percentages will decline with the new increased watch and warning lead times, costing money in unnecessary evacuations, and leading to increased complacency in the warned population due to too much "crying wolf".

Balanced against these increased costs is the potential disastrous loss of life should a hurricane hit an unprepared, heavily populated shoreline. With the U.S. population continuing to increase rapidly in coastal regions, the time needed to evacuate vulnerable populated regions is increasing. For example, evacuation times for the major urban areas of Texas are 28 - 34 hours for a major hurricane. Though the costs of overwarning the coast is significant, the savings in both human lives and dollars from increased warning times should outweigh these costs. In the 2002 book, Hurricane: Coping With Disaster, Dr. Hugh Willoughby, former director of the Hurricane Research Division of NOAA's Atlantic Oceanographic and Marine Laboratory, analyzed hurricane death statistics. In 1950, about 70 U.S. residents died per year in hurricanes. In the 50 years since, the coastal population expanded by a factor of 3.2, so if we were managing the hurricane problem the way we did in 1950, we would be losing about 220 people a year. The long-term average is still about twenty per year, not including the deaths due to the levee failures during Katrina. That means we're preventing about 200 deaths per year compared with 1950. How much are these saved lives worth? A life, is, of course, priceless, but in the cold world of economics, the value of life-saving scientific research and government regulations is estimated using statistics of what people are willing to pay to avoid certain risks, and what extra money employers pay their workers to take on additional risks. This data comes primarily from payroll statistics, but opinion surveys also play a role. In 2004, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) valued an American life at $8 million. EPA cut the value of a life by 8% that year, and a further 3% in May 2008, making the economic value of a life $6.9 million in today's dollars. The Department of Transportation gives a lower figure of a life as being worth $5.8 million. Using this number implies a savings of about $1.2 billion per year for the 200 lives saved per year by better hurricane warnings and evacuations. Today's decision by NHC to increase warning times should continue this trend of saving lives, which will also provide considerable monetary benefit. Despite the increased costs and dangers of "crying wolf" too often due to overwarning the coast, I believe that the double value of saving lives--for both the intrinsic and monetary value of a human life--makes NHC's move of increasing warning and watch times the right call.

References
Whitehead, J.C., 2003: "One million dollars per mile? The opportunity costs of Hurricane evacuation", Ocean and Coastal Management 46, 1069.

I'll have a new post on Thursday or Friday.

Jeff Masters

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We all was wondering about the GOM not having a CANE in it last year if the heat that was not released would be bad for next year. I can see the heat has been released.
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Quoting IKE:


I don't see any listed on any reporting station in Texas.


Ike, just noticed your new Avatar... who is the pretty lady holding you?
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Quoting TheMom:

Well I personally am demanding the snow cause if I have had to be this cold for this long I want some pretty pretty pictures of snow and icicles on the trees. I just hope people are smnart enough to stay off the roads cause we don't have those fun salt truck thingys. I think for us it all depends on what happens this afternoon if we don't hit the 59-60 range we should be good for snow. *SNOW DAY!!!***


Safe to assume a lot of people don't have snow tires either :)
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1335. TheMom
Quoting Jeff9641:
Alright just to clear the air the probability of snow in C FL is real good. I do believe a nice band of light to moderate snow will cut across C FL with this disturbance but once this energy hits the Atlantic waters then a potential for heavy snow to occur from Flagler beach down to Melbourne. I am also sticking with my forecast of a potential for up to 4" of snow in those coastal areas. Futher inland maybe a 1 to 2" event is likely. P451 has a snow map up but it is cut off toward Daytona and it is there south where an area of heavy snow could occur.

Well I personally am demanding the snow cause if I have had to be this cold for this long I want some pretty pretty pictures of snow and icicles on the trees. I just hope people are smnart enough to stay off the roads cause we don't have those fun salt truck thingys. I think for us it all depends on what happens this afternoon if we don't hit the 59-60 range we should be good for snow. *SNOW DAY!!!***
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I will be the first to ask without being bashfull....i will take handouts on old cold weather gear....only if you pay for the shipping......LMAO
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Quoting Jeff9641:


I just mentioned an event that happened there in 2004 and how it was similiar to this event upcoming for FL but as far as I now they are not getting snow.


You just need to calm down. Your getting way overly excited. Your dancing is ugly and its not going to help!...LOL
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Quoting IKE:


I don't see any listed on any reporting station in Texas.


I will have to see if I can find it again.. it was in northern texas... showing a webcam... Mall Parking lot... snowing..
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1331. IKE
Quoting Orcasystems:
Surfing around...I saw some posts mentioning its snowing in some parts of Texas... any truth to that?


I don't see any listed on any reporting station in Texas.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858


AOI

AOI

AOI

AOI
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Surfing around...I saw some posts mentioning its snowing in some parts of Texas... any truth to that?
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1326. IKE
Water temp at Panama City....

Wind Direction (WDIR): ENE ( 70 deg true )
5-day plot - Wind Speed Wind Speed (WSPD): 1.9 kts
5-day plot - Wind Gust Wind Gust (GST): 4.1 kts
5-day plot - Atmospheric Pressure Atmospheric Pressure (PRES): 30.24 in
5-day plot - Air Temperature Air Temperature (ATMP): 28.8 °F
5-day plot - Water Temperature Water Temperature (WTMP): 50.0 °F
5-day plot - Wind Chill Wind Chill (CHILL): 24.3 °F
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
1322. dsauder
Quoting twhcracker:

all our pipes are busted, (fla panhandle) my husband was out til 10 pm getting it all fixed, left water running at a low stream in every outlet and now this morning froze up again :( then he stepped on a water hose leading to a livestock waterer and the hose snapped like a twig :( i just hope it snows, that would make it exciting again at least. now it is just work work work and two days with no water!


Al Gore could afford to help you fix everything back up. Remember, he says the globe is warming! ! ! Ha! Ha! Ha!
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1321. IKE
Heading for the gulf-coast...modified...thankfully....

Omaha, Nebraska (Airport)
Updated: 42 min 27 sec ago
Light Snow
4 °F
Light Snow Blowing Snow

Windchill: -19 °F
Humidity: 80%
Dew Point: -1 °F
Wind: 25 mph from the NNW
Wind Gust: 36 mph

Pressure: 30.35 in (Rising)
Visibility: 4.0 miles
UV: 0 out of 16
Clouds:
Scattered Clouds 2100 ft
Mostly Cloudy 3300 ft
Overcast 4300 ft
(Above Ground Level)
Snow Depth: 21.0 in
Elevation: 984 ft
Rapid Fire Updates:
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
1320. fredmc
This global warming is terrible! The last time I remember it being this cold on the Mississippi gulfcoast was back in 1972. The temp will be dropping into the 20's starting today. For this area, that is beyond cold! Someone please turn up the global warming heat for me!
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1316. IKE
Quoting twhcracker:


all our pipes are busted, (fla panhandle) my husband was out til 10 pm getting it all fixed, left water running at a low stream in every outlet and now this morning froze up again :( then he stepped on a water hose leading to a livestock waterer and the hose snapped like a twig :( i just hope it snows, that would make it exciting again at least. now it is just work work work and two days with no water!


Jeez...sorry you're going through tough times.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting TampaSpin:
I still think and believe the Florida Panhandle and North Florida will see winter white stuff in some form.


all our pipes are busted, (fla panhandle) my husband was out til 10 pm getting it all fixed, left water running at a low stream in every outlet and now this morning froze up again :( then he stepped on a water hose leading to a livestock waterer and the hose snapped like a twig :( i just hope it snows, that would make it exciting again at least. now it is just work work work and two days with no water!
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Quoting Jeff9641:
Alright just to clear the air the probability of snow in C FL is real good. I do believe a nice band of light to moderate snow will cut across C FL with this disturbance but once this energy hits the Atlantic waters then a potential for heavy snow to occur from Flagler beach down to Melbourne. I am also sticking with my forecast of a potential for up to 4" of snow in those coastal areas. Futher inland maybe a 1 to 2" event is likely. P451 has a snow map up but it is cut of toward Daytona it there south where an area of heavy snow could occur.

That much snow sticking is almost impossible with the radiant ground heat alone.....
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Quoting IKE:
Almost hate to say it, but this blog flows so much better when ** isn't being b*tched about on here.

Still say the doc should have two separate blogs. One constantly about the weather. Another one about **.

IKE, sometimes the weather blog can get boring so people talk about non weather related stuff.
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Quoting charlottefl:
Wanna talk about absolutely brutal:



Wanna talk about beautiful......
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1309. IKE
Almost hate to say it, but this blog flows so much better when ** isn't being b*tched about on here.

Still say the doc should have two separate blogs. One constantly about the weather. Another one about **.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
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Near St Augustine Fl

Friday Night: A slight chance of rain and snow showers after 1am. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 33. Wind chill values as low as 25. North wind around 14 mph. Chance of precipitation is 10%.

Saturday: A slight chance of rain and snow showers before 1pm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 46. Northwest wind around 14 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

Link
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Quoting charlottefl:
Wanna talk about absolutely brutal:


Would you believe colder at my mom's? (Not trying to start a contest, here)
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
Wanna talk about absolutely brutal:

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1303. IKE
From Mobile,AL...

** PREVIOUS DISCUSSION **

.SHORT TERM (TODAY AND TONIGHT)...A LOOK AT THE HIGH LEVELS OF THE
ATMOSPHERE...FORECASTERS SEE NEXT MID LEVEL DISTURBANCE DIVING
SOUTHEAST OUT OF THE CENTRAL PLAINS. THIS FEATURE WILL DRIVE THROUGH
THE MID MISSISSIPPI RIVER VALLEY TODAY...SUPPORTING THE PASSAGE OF
NEXT ARCTIC FRONT THROUGH THE REGION. TEMPERATURES OF COURSE...ARE
THE FIRST OF MANY CHALLENGES ON THIS PACKAGE. AHEAD OF THE FRONT AND
WITH SYNOPTIC SCALE SURFACE HIGH TO BECOME POSITIONED OVER THE
FLORIDA PENINSULA...THERE IS AGREEMENT FROM VARIOUS SHORT RANGE
GUIDANCE AND ENSEMBLES THAT A LOW LEVEL SOUTH TO SOUTHWESTERLY JET
INTO THE GULF COAST...COULD ALLOW TEMPERATURES TO WARM BRIEFLY INTO
THE LOWER TO MID 50S BY EARLY AFTERNOON ALONG THE COAST DESPITE CLOUD
COVER OVERSPREADING THE REGION FROM WEST TO EAST.
THEN...TEMPERATURES FALLING THROUGH THE 40S BY LATE AFTERNOON. GIVEN
THE WARMER LOW LEVEL THERMAL PROFILES ALONG THE COAST...LIQUID
PRECIPITATION LOOKS TO BE THE DOMINANT WEATHER CHARACTER TODAY AS
FRONTAL LIFT INCREASES. OVER THE NORTHERN ZONES THE AIRMASS LOOKS TO
SUPPORT A MIXTURE OF WINTRY PRECIPITATION. THE LATEST FORECAST CALLS
FOR ENOUGH POTENTIAL OF ACCUMULATION TO MEET WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY
CRITERIA AND WILL BEGIN THIS FOR THE EXTREME NORTHERN ZONES AT NOON
AND CONTINUE IT THROUGH MIDNIGHT TONIGHT. THIS LINES UP WELL WITH
NEIGHBORS TO THE NORTH THAT ALSO HAVE ADVISORIES GOING JUST NORTH OF
OUR NORTHERN COUNTY BORDERS.

A CHANGEOVER TO LIGHT SNOW OVER THE INTERIOR AND POSSIBLE LIGHT
SLEET/LIGHT SNOW OVER THE COASTAL ZONES IS POSSIBLE TONIGHT AS
LINGERING MOISTURE MINGLES WITH DEEPER COLDER AIR COMING IN ALONG THE
BACK SIDE OF DEPARTING ARCTIC FRONT.
PRECIPITATION PROGGED TO END
AFTER MIDNIGHT OVER THE REGION WITH STRONG COLD AIR ADVECTION
CAUSING MINS TO SINK INTO THE TEENS AND 20S. HARD FREEZE WILL LIKELY
CAUSE DANGEROUS DRIVING CONDITIONS LATE TONIGHT AS MOISTURE ON AREA
ROADS WILL TRANSITION TO BLACK ICE.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
1302. WxLogic
Good morning...

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1301. IKE
Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


Up top under "My Quick Menus" select "My Photos". On the right hand side of page is "Upload a Portrait"


I knew if you were around and read my question I could find out. You helped me get the moonrise and now how to change my avatar.

LOL...thanks...and thanks Baha.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858

Good Morning all yeah lots of frost up here too Tim
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Have you all looked at post 1267 latest run.....LOL
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Anyway, I'm out for now, guys. I'll try to check in later for the newest blog. I'm hoping the doc will have something to say about this cold blast....
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 21923
Ike, I think you have to select "modify my profile". Or "upload a portrait".... on the right hand side of the avatar page.
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 21923
Quoting IKE:
I looked and looked last night and couldn't find it, but how does one change their avatar?


Up top under "My Quick Menus" select "My Photos". On the right hand side of page is "Upload a Portrait"
Member Since: September 23, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 11096
Very heavy frost on this morning.....first one really during this cold outbreak!
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1293. unf97
Good morning

So far, the low temp here this morning reached 23.4 degrees.

Currently 24.2.




Member Since: September 25, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1193
Quoting IKE:
I looked and looked last night and couldn't find it, but how does one change their avatar?
Ike, I think u just click on it, and there should be a button either just below or to the right saying "Change". Otherwise it's likely to be in the "settings" at the top of the page.
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 21923
Morning all.

Still quite chilly this a.m. with the NAS airport reporting overnight low of 58 and current temp of 61.

The only good thing about this cold wx so far is no rain in sight. I don't want to imagine it being this cold, and then having to deal with the possibility of getting wet.... yuck.
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 21923
1290. IKE
I looked and looked last night and couldn't find it, but how does one change their avatar?
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
24F here along the ICW on Johns Island
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10484

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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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