Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:55 AM GMT on February 01, 2006
This week marks the largest gathering of meteorologists in the world—the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society, in Atlanta, Georgia. The variety and depth of weather knowledge to be gained here are truly remarkable! Here are a few snapshots of what I’ve experienced so far:
What May Mayfield wants engraved on his tombstone
Max Mayfield, Director of the National Hurricane Center, addressed the conference today to talk about the incredible Hurricane Season of 2005. He noted that forecast track errors were at a record low during 2005, and that we were lucky that the major hurricanes got strong well before they hit. “One of our greatest fears is that people will go to bed at night expecting a Category 1, and wake up to an Andrew or Katrina”, he cautioned. He added: “I want it engraved on my tombstone, DON’T FOCUS ON THE CENTER BLACK LINE! Pay attention to the cone of probability when looking at hurricane forecast tracks.”
Figure 1. May Mayfield tells the American Meteorological Society audience what he wants engraved on his tombstone.
Record rains in India
Sanjiv Nair from the Department of Science and Technology in New Delhi, India, analyzed the remarkable July monsoon rainstorm that drenched parts of Bombay with more than one meter of rain in 24 hours. The rain fell from an unusual small-scale eddy in the monsoon flow that only affected a 20x20 km area. Southern portions of Bombay received only 7 cm of rain from the storm!
Hurricane Stan's effect on Guatemala
E. Hardie Sanchez-Bennett of Guatemala’s Instituto Nacional de Sismolog described the devastation wrought by Hurricane Stan in that country. Stan killed over 1500 and caused $1 billion in damage to Guatemala, a staggering toll for such a poor country. Sanchez-Bennett indicated that as a result, funding for Guatemala’s first ever weather radars—one for each coast—had been procured, and the radars would be installed within a year’s time. When I talked to him afterwards, he promised to provide the radar data to the Weather Underground when it became available.
Tornado scientists Josh Wurman and Erik Rasmussen outlined VORTEX2, the most ambitious field program ever designed to study tornadoes. VORTEX2 is planned for 2008, and hopes to have a armada of 40 vehicles on the ground, including seven mobile Doppler radars. A fleet of weather research aircraft in the skies will add air support, and forays by unmanned Aerosonde aircraft—like the one that flew into Hurricane Ophelia in 2005—are planned. The study may also use a swarm of locust-sized unmanned aircraft to fly through super-cell thunderstorms.
The NOAA weather ball
Finally, the exhibit area had the coolest computer screen ever—a spherical 5-foot diameter “weather ball” that NOAA featured. The weather ball hung suspended in mid-air, and displayed a variety of animations. Included were the 2005 hurricane season, El-Nino data, weather on the sun, and a rotating Mars. It was awesome to be able to walk around all sides of the sphere and check out what was going on, on the other side of the planet!
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