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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This is very unusual for me to say...and not particularly easy....but...

GO JACKETS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Orcasystems:


Thank you :)

I have been looking at the Drudge Report... the weather is the headlines almost everywhere.

Winter Could Be Worst in 25 Years for USA...
CHILL MAP...
Britain braced for heaviest snowfall in 50-years...
GAS SUPPLIES RUNNING OUT IN UK...
Elderly burn books for warmth?
Vermont sets 'all-time record for one snowstorm'...
Iowa temps 'a solid 30 degrees below normal'...
Seoul buried in heaviest snowfall in 70 years...
3 die in fire at Detroit home; power was cut...
Midwest Sees Near-Record Lows, Snow By The Foot...
Miami shivers from coldest weather in decade...


Yep...This weekends cold spell should be twice as powerful-Comparable to 1983, 85, and 89'.

A few models want to briefly moderate temps by middle week(ahead of another southern streamer: another chance for snow). Only to be shot right back down by yet another arctic airmass. I don't expect a sustained thaw(back to normal) for at least three weeks.
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Quoting TampaSpin:


The wife and i made some White Chili yesterday and i am sitting here eating the leftovers as we speak so i am already aiding in that respect.......LMAO


WTH is White Chili??
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
I prefer Global Climate change, as the climate is changing, but in what way still needs to be definitively answered.
Member Since: September 6, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 3712
Quoting NRAamy:
It is known for its affluence and political conservatism

hahahahahahaha!!! "affluence"....yeah...sure.....

and we've got more tree huggers than San Francisco!


Trade you.. we have tons of them...and the Raging Grannies to boot. They started here ..


The First Group to call themselves "Raging Grannies" sprouted in the winter of 1986-87 in Victoria, British Columbia. Several peace activists who had been doing street theater began dressing up in outrageous hats and singing satricial songs to protest against nuclear submarines, uranium mining, nuclear power, militarism, racism, clear-cut logging, and corporate greed. They were sometimes arrested but never taken to court.

Raging Grannies groups quickly sprang up clear across Canada, all the way to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and in the United States. Each group changes the words of familiar tunes to suit their particular circumstances.
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
Quoting Orcasystems:


I am not sure... but I think a couple cans of beans...and maybe some chili might help.


The wife and i made some White Chili yesterday and i am sitting here eating the leftovers as we speak so i am already aiding in that respect.......LMAO
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20439

Quoting WPBHurricane05:
31 degrees in Gainesville.

It will be in the 20's by 10 pm. Ouch.


Its about to dip into the upper 20's here already. Did hit that lat night until around 2:30am
Member Since: September 6, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 3712
179...Is that you, Joe Bastardi?!?!?!?
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Quoting TampaSpin:
Sorry everyone but, i am going to do everything i can to add some global warming into the air......LOL....is burning firewood causing GW


I am not sure... but I think a couple cans of beans...and maybe some chili might help.
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
It is known for its affluence and political conservatism

hahahahahahaha!!! "affluence"....yeah...sure.....

and we've got more tree huggers than San Francisco!
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No mention at all in the "Weather God"'s current post concerning the coldest weather in decades all around the world. Guess it must not be that cold in Ann Arbor. Where's that global warming?
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Thanks, Tampa!
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Sorry everyone but, i am going to do everything i can to add some global warming into the air......LOL....is burning firewood causing GW
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20439
Quoting Orcasystems:


Yup, which soon.. lots of you will have :)


Crunch!!! LOL You do have some good comebacks.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I would also agree that miami is fairing the coldest weather since 1999 or 2000. While it has been slightly colder in a single night. Over a collective few days I have not seen such cool temps in mia, and florida in general, in a while.
Member Since: September 6, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 3712
Quoting Orcasystems:


Thank you :)

I have been looking at the Drudge Report... the weather is the headlines almost everywhere.

Winter Could Be Worst in 25 Years for USA...
CHILL MAP...
Britain braced for heaviest snowfall in 50-years...
GAS SUPPLIES RUNNING OUT IN UK...
Elderly burn books for warmth?
Vermont sets 'all-time record for one snowstorm'...
Iowa temps 'a solid 30 degrees below normal'...
Seoul buried in heaviest snowfall in 70 years...
3 die in fire at Detroit home; power was cut...
Midwest Sees Near-Record Lows, Snow By The Foot...
Miami shivers from coldest weather in decade...


Well more reliable sources had a 45% chance of below average Jan-March temps. But worst winter in 25 years? We shall see.

edit: The below average percentage is for Tallahassee.
Member Since: September 6, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 3712
Amy I see why with you decided on living in orange county, California with your views. From Wikipedia)It is known for its affluence and political conservatism. I think that about covers it :P.
Member Since: September 6, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 3712
Quoting CatastrophicDL:
Hi guys! We have had some pretty intense high pressure systems over us for a while and the few storms we've had have not cleared out the massive amounts of polution we've got. The air is the worst I've seen it in 5 years. Does anyone know when something will come through strong enough to blow all this smog out of here?


High pressure and cold air is sinking air....until the Blocking Low moves out of the NorthEast......this will continue....Nothing very soon is forecast to change until about 10 days....never seen anything like this.
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20439
Quoting Grothar:


Don't they play that game on ice?


Yup, which soon.. lots of you will have :)
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
Quoting Orcasystems:


Orange Bowl???
THE Hockey Game is on... numerous Hockey games are on... including the Canada vs USA gold medal Game.


Don't they play that game on ice?
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31 degrees in Gainesville.

It will be in the 20's by 10 pm. Ouch.
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Quoting NRAamy:
My Local Weather:

John Wayne-Orange County, California

70 °F


hahahahahahahaha!



Even if I was still in Miami right now i'd groan.
Member Since: September 6, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 3712
Orca added somthing nice to your comments.

Just another below freezing night in Frostbitten Tallahassee. lol
Member Since: September 6, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 3712
My Local Weather:

John Wayne-Orange County, California

70 °F


hahahahahahahaha!

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Tampa, Orca or Storm, can one of you guys anwers my question in #158? Thanks! Good to see you all!
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Quoting ElConando:


On Sunday the day before I left to comeback up to FSU. I saw a couple dozen Iowa fans on Hollywood beach. Not that GT fans were not there either.


What were they wearing???? It was cold Sunday. I am in Lauderdale.
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I just came in from the outside......dam its cold as hell.....39deg with a 15mph wind at least.....OUCH
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20439
Quoting ElConando:


On Sunday the day before I left to comeback up to FSU. I saw a couple dozen Iowa fans on Hollywood beach. Not that GT fans were not there either.


Orange Bowl???
THE Hockey Game is on... numerous Hockey games are on... including the Canada vs USA gold medal Game.
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
Quoting Grothar:
Hey, I heard Iowa is going to wear t-shirts for tonights game in the Orange bowl to show them that cold doesn't bother them. JKJKJKJK


On Sunday the day before I left to comeback up to FSU. I saw a couple dozen Iowa fans on Hollywood beach. Not that GT fans were not there either.
Member Since: September 6, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 3712
Hi guys! We have had some pretty intense high pressure systems over us for a while and the few storms we've had have not cleared out the massive amounts of polution we've got. The air is the worst I've seen it in 5 years. Does anyone know when something will come through strong enough to blow all this smog out of here?
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Hey, I heard Iowa is going to wear t-shirts for tonights game in the Orange bowl to show them that cold doesn't bother them. JKJKJKJK
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Right now i would go with the trough staying north and just giving rain to Florida in general. But who knows.
Member Since: September 6, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 3712
Quoting Orcasystems:
There is something seriously wrong with these pics and temperatures..... we are still warmer then the ummm "Far South"




AOI

AOI

AOI

AOI

Humor in Comments


You got comp nice temps for a place that far north. I would still feel cold there but I'd prefer that then 31 degrees atm.
Member Since: September 6, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 3712
154. unf97
Quoting Bordonaro:


You have plenty of warm Gulf air/water, a "BAD" Arctic cold front and a short-wave (mid-level instabilty) adding lift. You have the recipe for a bit of sleet/snow/freezing rain.

It depends how far south the trough digs in as it passes. Too far south, clouds, wind, cold, no precip. Just right, snow and wintery precip. Too far north, warm air invades the lower atmosphere, rain.

Watch the GFS/NAM model runs through 00z and 6z tomorrow. Then we'll have a real good idea. Too close to call right now!


That's perfectly explained. Thanks Bordanaro. That vort max would serve to "boost" the lift for the GOM Low, which would help in its formulative stage.
Member Since: September 25, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1193
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
There is something seriously wrong with these pics and temperatures..... we are still warmer then the ummm "Far South"




AOI

AOI

AOI

AOI

Humor in Comments
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
Hot off the NWS DFW, TX

SPECIAL WEATHER STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE FORT WORTH TX
600 PM CST TUE JAN 5 2010

TXZ091>095-100>107-115>123-129>135-141>148-156>162-174-175-061200-
MONTAGUE-COOKE-GRAYSON-FANNIN-LAMAR-YOUNG-JACK-WISE-DENTON-COLLIN-
HUNT-DELTA-HOPKINS-STEPHENS-PALO PINTO-PARKER-TARRANT-DALLAS-
ROCKWALL-KAUFMAN-VAN ZANDT-RAINS-EASTLAND-ERATH-HOOD-SOMERVELL-
JOHNSON-ELLIS-HENDERSON-COMANCHE-MILLS-HAMILTON-BOSQUE-HILL-
NAVARRO-FREESTONE-ANDERSON-LAMPASAS-CORYELL-BELL-MCLENNAN-FALLS-
LIMESTONE-LEON-MILAM-ROBERTSON-
600 PM CST TUE JAN 5 2010

...AN ARCTIC AIRMASS TO BRING FRIGID TEMPERATURES TO NORTH TEXAS
THURSDAY THROUGH SATURDAY...

AN ARCTIC COLD FRONT WILL ARRIVE INTO NORTH TEXAS WEDNESDAY NIGHT
AND BRING AN EXTENDED PERIOD OF FREEZING TEMPERATURES TO THE REGION.
GUSTY NORTH WINDS 20 TO 30 MPH WILL ACCOMPANY THE ARCTIC FRONT...
WHICH WILL RESULT IN FRIGID WIND CHILLS INTO THE TEENS AND SINGLE
DIGITS BY THURSDAY MORNING ACROSS MOST OF NORTH TEXAS. TEMPERATURES
WILL REMAIN BELOW FREEZING THURSDAY MORNING THROUGH EARLY AFTERNOON
SATURDAY FOR MOST LOCATIONS ACROSS NORTH TEXAS.

IN ADDITION TO THE ARCTIC AIR...A CHANCE OF LIGHT RAIN WILL BE
POSSIBLE WEDNESDAY EVENING...BEFORE CHANGING OVER TO PATCHY LIGHT
FREEZING RAIN OR DRIZZLE BEFORE DAYBREAK THURSDAY MORNING...AS THE
ATMOSPHERE SLOWLY DRIES OUT. SNOW FLURRIES COULD OCCUR AS WELL. NO
SIGNIFICANT ACCUMULATION OF ICE IS EXPECTED AT THIS TIME. HOWEVER...
SOME PATCHY LIGHT ICING IS POSSIBLE BETWEEN MIDNIGHT AND DAYBREAK
THURSDAY MORNING...MAINLY ON ELEVATED BRIDGES AND OVERPASSES
THAT REMAIN WET AS THE ARCTIC AIR MOVES IN. THIS COULD RESULT IN
SOME SLICK SPOTS FOR THE THURSDAY MORNING COMMUTE.

RESIDENTS ARE ENCOURAGED TO MAKE PREPARATIONS NOW. A HARD FREEZE CAN
CAUSE DAMAGE TO EXPOSED WATER PIPES AND CAN DAMAGE SENSITIVE
VEGETATION. OUTDOOR PETS WILL ALSO REQUIRE PLENTY OF SHELTER AND
PROTECTION FROM FRIGID TEMPERATURES AND WIND CHILLS THAT ARE EXPECTED
THURSDAY INTO FRIDAY MORNING. EXTRA PROTECTIVE CLOTHING WILL BE
NEEDED FOR ANYONE EXPECTED TO BE OUTDOORS AT THESE TIMES...
ESPECIALLY CHILDREN GOING TO AND FROM SCHOOL. LAYERS OF CLOTHING AND
AN INSULATED WINTER COAT AND HAT WORK BEST TO INSULATE THE BODY FROM
THE EXTREME COLD.

FURTHER DETAILS ON ANY POTENTIAL FREEZING PRECIPITATION AND THE
DURATION OF THE FREEZING TEMPERATURES WILL BE PROVIDED AS THE EVENT
NEARS. STAY TUNED TO NOAA WEATHER RADIO...LOCAL MEDIA OUTLETS...OR
VISIT US ON THE WEB AT WEATHER.GOV/FORTWORTH FOR THE LATEST FORECAST
DETAILS.
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
149. unf97
Quoting 1900hurricane:

If this shortwave were to hold up, what does this mean for SETX?


In SETX, it looks as if the Arctic frontal boundry will move through that region Thursday morning. The bitter, cold dry air will infiltrate TX during the day Thursday. It is a race in regards to the arctic air arriving and how long the moisture will stay in that region. There may be a small window where moisture may be in place where ice pellets/wintry mix may fall before the moisture moves out of SE TX area as the GOM Low pulls eastward Thursday.
Member Since: September 25, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1193
Snowing yet (fingers crossed)
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
Quoting NRAamy:
My Local Weather:

John Wayne-Orange County, California

70 °F

;)


NRA, well all love you. Next week we'll be picking on you :0)!
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
Quoting GBguy88:


Is this the only 'trigger', or will the system blossom regardless?


You have plenty of warm Gulf air/water, a "BAD" Arctic cold front and a short-wave (mid-level instabilty) adding lift. You have the recipe for a bit of sleet/snow/freezing rain.

It depends how far south the trough digs in as it passes. Too far south, clouds, wind, cold, no precip. Just right, snow and wintery precip. Too far north, warm air invades the lower atmosphere, rain.

Watch the GFS/NAM model runs through 00z and 6z tomorrow. Then we'll have a real good idea. Too close to call right now!
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
My Local Weather:

John Wayne-Orange County, California

70 °F

;)

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Temp doing that rock thing here, again:



Minimal winds died completely in the last hour.
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Quoting unf97:


The GOM system would develop, but be weak. If that short wave maintains itself over the next 36 hours, it can "feed" or energize the developing GOM cyclogenesis. The question is whether or not that short wave doesn't get squashed or flattened by the strong confluent flow in the upper atmosphere.

I'll be watching the models closely regading that feature, which is just now swinging into Mexico.

If this shortwave were to hold up, what does this mean for SETX?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
142. unf97
Quoting GBguy88:


Is this the only 'trigger', or will the system blossom regardless?


The GOM system would develop, but be weak. If that short wave maintains itself over the next 36 hours, it can "feed" or energize the developing GOM cyclogenesis. The question is whether or not that short wave doesn't get squashed or flattened by the strong confluent flow in the upper atmosphere.

I'll be watching the models closely regading that feature, which is just now swinging into Mexico.
Member Since: September 25, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1193
Quoting unf97:


That shortwave still looked impressive on water vapor imagery this afternoon as it crossed earlier from Northern Baja California peninsula now swinging over Mexico. If this piece of energy doesn't get flattened out by the confluent flow downstream and holds together, it could be a "trigger" for the GOM system in the next 36 hours or so.


Is this the only 'trigger', or will the system blossom regardless?
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TWC updated map



They continue backing off on it.
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139. unf97
Quoting PensacolaDoug:
Any thoughts on the short wave moving thru the south-west? Is that part of our southern storm system?


That shortwave still looked impressive on water vapor imagery this afternoon as it crossed earlier today from over the Northern Baja California peninsula now swinging over Mexico. If this piece of energy doesn't get flattened out by the confluent flow downstream and holds together, it could be a "trigger" for the GOM system in the next 36 hours or so.
Member Since: September 25, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1193

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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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