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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Quoting tornadodude:
this is from my new phone(:

hey i had the same problem by sending the same comment from my phone everytime i refresh.. so u cant refresh or it will send the same message.. just to let u know ..
Member Since: August 15, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2133
wow...WV def doesn't need more snow...looks like they will get pounded again...
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Hah! I knew he would have the same refresh issue everyone does when posting by mobile device...thought about putting up a wager with that prognostication. Should have.
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38.4 degrees in Oakland Park, FL @ 10:52. Its dropping like a rock
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Remember tracking Santa's sleigh on Christmas Eve? We're tracking the Siberian Express:


AREA FORECAST DISCUSSION
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE FORT WORTH TX
920 PM CST TUE JAN 5 2010

.UPDATE...
THOUGH RETURN FLOW IS OCCURRING AHEAD OF OUR IMPENDING ARCTIC FRONT/
AIRMASS NOW ENTERING WASHINGTON STATE OVER TO MONTANA/NRN WYOMING...

Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
Watch the blue in Central florida......its only one little dot but the model is now showing snow in the Orlando area.

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Quoting tiggeriffic:
yeah...panhandle...ppl tend to hide behing the artificial folliage when i get here...rofl


ya it happen to me around 2:30ish and i was posting up models and maps and ect.. lol so I left and now alot of us r on .. ;)
Member Since: August 15, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2133
Quoting BahaHurican:
thought u guys got a dusting b4 Christmas.... def. saw some @ Myrtle Beach Amtrak station...


MB is 100 mile north of us...we got rain...no snow...last snow was in 2006-2007...last time it stuck was in 2000
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:P
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here u go chicklit.. burrr
Member Since: August 15, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2133
Interesting academic take from 2003 and related to Doc's post on the Arctic Dipole and AstroHurricane001's posts tonight on ocean currents.

This jumped out at me and what the scientific community will hopefully be observing very closely:

"Our limited knowledge of ocean climate on long time scales, extracted from the analysis of sediment cores taken around the world ocean, has generally implicated the North Atlantic as the most unstable member of the conveyor: During millennial periods of cold climate, North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW) formation either stopped or was seriously reduced. And this has generally followed periods of large freshwater discharge into the northern N. Atlantic caused by rapid melting of glacial or multi-year ice in the Arctic Basin. It is thought that these fresh waters, which have been transported into the regions of deep water formation, have interrupted the conveyor by overcoming the high latitude cooling effect with excessive freshening."

Emphasis added.
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i still get on here the old fashioned way... on my puter in my living room....not gonna pay that much for a blackberry and then extra for the internet to be able to use the phone... if i am gonna spend $500 on an electronic device... it will be a new puter...not a phone...but then again...my puter is 7 years old...if it ain't broke...don't attempt to fix it...if it is broke...try duct tape first! roflmao
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Quoting listenerVT:
...hurricane track forecasts, which have improved by over 50% in the past twenty years...

Awesome! Thanks, Dr. Masters!
I'm looking forward to the season.

The Blog Master.
I for one am very grateful he feels like talking to us.

Weather to the People.

Before the Internet we read, though.
I think constant experiencial dialogue can lead to dullness of the brain and sharpness of the tongue. The combination is really horrific.

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Quoting tiggeriffic:
expecting snow in Charleston, SC as well...been a few years since our last one
thought u guys got a dusting b4 Christmas.... def. saw some @ Myrtle Beach Amtrak station...
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 21485
:P
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this is from my new phone(:
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yeah...panhandle...ppl tend to hide behing the artificial folliage when i get here...rofl
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Quoting WaterWitch11:
KOG‎ - Kodiak Oil & Gas Corp

KOG - Kudoz Open Glossary

ok so which one is it?

i really don't know what KOG means!

keeperofthegate
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KEEPER! I thought they'd have locked you back behind the gate after hurricane season ended...lol...glad to see you still roaming!
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Quoting FLPandhandleJG:


Thanks Chicklit.. how u doing?? and what do u want me to call u by?


Chicklit is fine. What's the temp there now?
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Quoting tiggeriffic:
anyone still here?

No!!! r u still here, thats the question..? just kidding lol
Member Since: August 15, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2133
KOG‎ - Kodiak Oil & Gas Corp

KOG - Kudoz Open Glossary

ok so which one is it?

i really don't know what KOG means!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
my family in WV went 8 days with no power... started the friday before Christmas...didn't get power back untill Dec 26th... no way to get the trucks in to many places...too many trees down...it was bad
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Member Since: July 25, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 551
Quoting Jeff9641:


Man I hope not but then again I can see how we would get a nice snow. A strong disturbance will move through with cold air in place on Sat. so the Canadian could be on to something.


Hmm does that mean the "surf" might be up for SM on Saturday :)

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Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
Quoting Orcasystems:


Hmm I wonder if the CMC is biased towards snow :)
dance orca dance
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expecting snow in Charleston, SC as well...been a few years since our last one
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Quoting weatherman874:

Snow please



Wow! And I thought you had to come up here for that.
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evening aussie
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Quoting TampaSpin:


I don't agree.......did you see when the current timing of the front passes through central Florida during the middle of the nite....when cooling is much easier...i see no reason if it is at 36degs or colder that snow in the Orlando area Northward will not get snow.


Currently in Tampa,Fla
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Quoting TampaSpin:
That Low moving East thru Mexico could just be the extra energy needed to really make things very strange.....it could really bring in some much colder air....thus SNOW


Thats what i am wondering if it stays together.. it has so far..
Member Since: August 15, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2133
...hurricane track forecasts, which have improved by over 50% in the past twenty years...

Awesome! Thanks, Dr. Masters!
I'm looking forward to the season.
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Quoting TampaSpin:
That Low moving East thru Mexico could just be the extra energy needed to really make things very strange.....it could really bring in some much colder air....thus SNOW

Snow please
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Quoting AussieStorm:


http://m.wund.com/tropical/


thanks!
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Quoting tornadodude:
question,

for those of you who check the blog via phone, how do you?


http://m.wund.com/tropical/
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anyone still here?
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Quoting Chicklit:
Nice MAP Florida PanhandleJG.


Thanks Chicklit.. how u doing?? and what do u want me to call u by?
Member Since: August 15, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2133
That Low moving East thru Mexico could just be the extra energy needed to really make things very strange.....it could really bring in some much colder air....thus SNOW
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Quoting HTV:
Can I step in here and comment on the weather and the chili discussion? First I think we can all agree it's cold. Now for more important matters, chili ain't chili if it's got chicken in it. As a native Texan who grew up in New Mexico and then again in Texas real chili contains beef, venison or road kill. I guarantee there ain't been anybody go out of their way to run over a chicken to add to a pot of chili.


gotta love it!
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question,

for those of you who check the blog via phone, how do you?
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Quoting FLPandhandleJG:


I thought that the lake was dry or something.. b/c i heard a year or 2 ago with the drought that florida had with all the brush and wild fires that it was drying up.. did mother nature saved it.. LOL

Tropical Storm Faye of '08 put a lot of water back in it, and I guess so did '09 Claudette.
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Brrr. And more brrr on the way.

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How deep is that short wave supposed to dig?
Member Since: July 25, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 551
Quoting FLPandhandleJG:


hmmm.. look at that little bugger staying alive the SW near the jet stream or already in.. thats heading towards the gulf right or ?


Damn this thing means business, it doesnt want to die and its aiming for the gulf coast states baby!
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I just read back three pages. I'm seeing references to forecast for SNOW in Tampa on Saturday. Can anyone provide a link for that?? TIA
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Nice MAP Florida PanhandleJG.
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Quoting Jeff9641:


I agree all rain but the TWC is running wild with this one.


I don't agree.......did you see when the current timing of the front passes through central Florida during the middle of the nite....when cooling is much easier...i see no reason if it is at 36degs or colder that snow in the Orlando area Northward will not get snow.
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Quoting Jeff9641:


I know they said Key West 62 and I thought they said you 63 maybe at the airport because the airport is just a mile or 2 away from the sea. by the way I love Nassua. I go there several times a year for vacation.
I think it was colder in Key West than here all day. Amazing! As for the airport location, it's impossible to be more than 4 miles away from the sea anywhere on New Providence; the island is only 7 miles wide at its widest point .... lol. But the ocean is only about a mile north at the most. Almost as important, the island's largest lake, Killarney, is immediately adjacent to the airport, which is actually built on the lake's western floodplain.

Glad to know u enjoy your visits here. It's expensive to live here, but I wouldn't trade it for most other places in the world.
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 21485

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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.