Lesser Antilles tropical wave; big money for hurricane research?

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 9:47 PM GMT on October 27, 2006

Share this Blog
2
+

A tropical wave (93L) moving through the Lesser Antilles Islands has gotten better organized today. Wind shear has dropped to 5 knots over the disturbance, and some modest thunderstorm activity has built up. Wind shear is forecast to remain below 15 knots over the eastern Caribbean over the next two days, which may allow some slow development of the system. The track of the disturbance should take it near the Dominican Republic on Sunday, and the island of Hispaniola will probably get heavy rains from this system on Sunday and Monday. I don't expect this system will become a tropical depression, but it is something we need to keep an eye on. This system is not a threat to the East Coast of Florida.


Figure 1.Preliminary model tracks for tropical disurbance 93L.

World Series tonight a GO
Tonight's World Series game in St. Louis between the Tigers and the Cardinals should not suffer any rain delays. Game time temperature should be about 45 degrees, with a strong 15 mph wind blowing out to center field.

The National Hurricane Research Initiative (NHRI)
There's big money proposed to fund new hurricane research. The National Science Board, in a report issued September 29, 2006, calls for an increase of $300 million per year in hurricane research funding. That's a whopping increase in funding, when one considers that the average annual spending on hurricane research has been only $20 million the past six years. So, what is the National Science Board, and this a reasonable proposal?

National Science Board
The 24 members of the National Science Board are appointed by the President of the United States, and make budget recommendations for the National Science Foundation (NSF). The NSF has an annual budget of about $5.6 billion (fiscal year 2006), and funds approximately 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America's colleges and universities. So, this is a very serious proposal by a group which has real power to influence the Federal budget.

Major recommendations of the report
The primary recommendation of the report is the formation of a National Hurricane Research Initiative (NHRI), which will "provide urgently needed hurricane science and engineering research and education". As justification for this effort, the report notes that that hurricane damage is increasing, with annual total losses (in constant 2006 dollars) averaging $1.3 billion from 1949-1989, $10.1 billion from 1990-1995, and $35.8 billion per year during the last 5 years. $168 billion in losses occurred in 2004 and 2005 alone. Over 50% of the population lives within 50 miles of the coast, and the value of infrastructure in the Gulf and Atlantic coast areas is over $3 trillion, with trillions more in investment likely in the next few decades as the U.S. population continues to expand. This incredible investment will be increasingly affected by hurricanes, and scientists "know relatively little about the most important aspects of hurricanes including their internal dynamics and interactions with the larger-scale atmosphere and ocean; methods for quantifying and conveying uncertainty and mitigating hurricane impacts; associated short and long term consequences on the natural and built environment; and the manner in which society responds before, during, and after landfall." The study notes that "billions of tax dollars have been provided for rescue, recovery, and rebuilding after hurricanes strike", but more money needs to be spent minimizing losses from hurricanes before they strike. In fact, had the NHRI been funded two years ago, much of the devastation wrought by Katrina could have been avoided. The program funds engineering studies to evaluate the structural integrity of the entire coastal infrastucture including levees, seawalls, drainage systems, bridges, water/sewage, power, and communications. The flaws in the New Orleans levees that led to over 80% of the city's flooding could have been found and fixed before Katrina hit had such a program been funded earlier.

The report has many excellent suggestions on how to make a coordinated research effort that will pay big dividends over the coming years by reducing our vulnerability to hurricanes. For example, the report seeks funding for research on improving evacuation planning, so that we can avoid a repeat of the debacle that occurred during the evacuation of Houston for Hurricane Rita. Over 100 people died in the evacuation effort. Research on improved disaster communications technologies is proposed, so that we avoid the situation that arose in Katrina where FEMA had no idea what was going on at the Convention Center.

My only gripe about the report is the inclusion of funding for research on human modification of hurricanes to reduce their intensity or alter their movement. I don't believe we should be messing with these great storms until we understand better how they work. In addition, given the sheer size and incredible energy that storms have, modification efforts will likely be an ineffectual waste of time and money. Finally, I don't think the legal system in this country will allow hurricane modification to occur without a lot of lawsuits being filed. I don't know too many hurricane scientists who are in favor of hurricane modification research, and suspect it is being funded for political reasons.

Is $300 million a reasonable request?
To do a thorough job of reducing our vulnerability to hurricanes, $300 million per year is a reasonable amount to spend. However, the U.S. faces a number of threats that also require large outlays of dollars, such as bioterrorism and earthquakes. The framers of the report realize that getting a $300 million per year project funded in a time of "increasingly small non-defense discretionary budgets" is difficult. To put this number in perspective, the annual amount spent in the U.S. on meteorology operations and supporting research is $3 billion. About $1 billion/year of this goes to run the National Weather Service, with weather satellites consuming another big chunk of the costs. But consider the amount being spent on defending the country against bioterrorism. The federal budget for bioterrorism emergency preparedness has ranged between $3 and $6 billion per year since 2002. The request for FY 2007 is $4.3 billion. That's over 200 times what we spend on hurricane research, and over ten times the $300 million being proposed. While others will disagree, I believe that the threat of catastrophe from hurricane strikes on the U.S. is much higher than that from bioterrorism. If we need to find funding for the NHRI, the bioterrorism budget can suffer a 7% cut. Another hurricane as strong as Hurricane Katrina is certain to hit a major populated area in the future, while a bioterrorism attack is not certain, and hopefully not even probable. There are wiser ways to spend our disaster preparedness dollars than what we are doing.

National Hurricane Research Initiative Act of 2006
Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., introduced the National Hurricane Research Initiative Act of 2006, a bi-partisan bill that adopts the recommendations of the report. The proposed legislation puts NOAA and the National Science Foundation in charge of coordinating the research initiative. Not surprisingly, the bill is being co-sponsored by Florida's other Senator, Sen. Nelson (D-FL), and Louisiana's two Senators, Sen. Vitter (R-LA), and Sen. Landrieu (D-LA). Apparently, the Senators from the states hard hit by the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005 felt that $300 million per year wasn't enough, and ask for $435 million in funding per year through 2017.

Some historical perspective
In 1898, the United States fought the Spanish-American War. With the U.S. Navy heavily committed to operations in the Caribbean during the height of hurricane season, Willis L. Moore, Chief of the Weather Bureau, saw the need set up an improved hurricane warning system. Moore took a long view through the history of naval warfare and discovered that more armadas had been destroyed by weather than by the enemy. He placed his findings before President McKinley, and proposed that the U.S. spend money to establish a new hurricane warning service, despite the fact that budgets were tight in a time of war. McKinley responded to Moore: "I am more afraid of a West Indian hurricane than the entire Spanish Navy. Get this [hurricane warning] service inaugurated at the earliest possible moment!"

The Spanish are no longer our enemies, but the threat of hurricanes remains and will worsen if we do nothing. I hope today's politicians will emulate President McKinley, and take the long view of history. In the words of the report's conclusion:

Can we as a Nation continue to remain vulnerable to hurricanes that are an inevitable part of our future, that have demonstrated the capacity to inflict catastrophic damage to our economy, and that kill hundreds of our citizens? The hurricane warning for our Nation has been issued and we must act vigorously and without delay.

I urge you to write your Senators to support S, 4005, the National Hurricane Research Initiative Act of 2006. The public is also invited to email their comments on the report to the National Science Foundation at NSBHSE@nsf.gov before Sunday, October 29, 2006. Those of you in Louisiana and Florida probably do not need to write your Senators--they are definitely on board on this one!

I'll likely update just the first few sentences of this blog this weekend. I'll post a new blog on Monday.

Jeff Masters

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 467 - 417

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10Blog Index

467. Drakoen
6:28 PM GMT on October 29, 2006
its also headed for Jamaica as well. Maybe it will slow down dramatically allowing for some organization.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29929
465. nash28
2:01 PM GMT on October 28, 2006
Lovely....

Just caught a preview of what's on tonight on AMC, and the movie that scared the toenails off of me is gonna be on like 87 times between now and Halloween.

Which, by the way, is my birthday.....
Member Since: July 11, 2005 Posts: 190 Comments: 16972
464. IKE
1:58 PM GMT on October 28, 2006
Should be east of south Florida by 5 pm EDST.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
460. kmanislander
1:50 PM GMT on October 28, 2006
Nash

That front will likely erode the W edge of the ridge as it pushes to the SE
I would expect this to allow 93L to make a hard right turn before reaching the NW Caribbean but it all depends on timing and speed of 93L versus the front.
the models will be interesting to look when they are updated
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15769
458. nash28
1:47 PM GMT on October 28, 2006
Yep. Steering currents definately taking this thing west for now. Not sure yet if it will be picked up by the next front, but we'll see.
Member Since: July 11, 2005 Posts: 190 Comments: 16972
457. kmanislander
1:41 PM GMT on October 28, 2006
sorry about that

Link
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15769
456. kmanislander
1:39 PM GMT on October 28, 2006
here is why its West for 93L href="http://cimss.ssec.wisc.edu/tropic/real-time/atlantic/winds/wg8dlm3.html" target="_blank">Link
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15769
455. GoofOff
1:34 PM GMT on October 28, 2006
jackson88, as far as anyone controlling the weather, that is something I definitely would not lose any sleep over. If the funds are used to beef up the levees and improve structures in coastal areas as well as giving the NWS and other qualified groups the funds to attempt to find out what really lets the storms get cranked up and better methods of figuring out intensity, I am all in favor of it. They have improved quite a bit in regard to track, but many other things are still unknown.
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 438
454. kmanislander
1:26 PM GMT on October 28, 2006
bb soon
coffee time
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15769
453. jackson88
1:25 PM GMT on October 28, 2006

hi all. i just have to comment on the national hurricane research initiative act.
i have two questions for y'all to consider:

- just what technology will be used (in their theory) to
alter the path or magnitude of a hurricane? silver iodide won't cut that.
and

- once they id all the weak points in our coastal infrastructure, what will be done next? a program to strengthen them?

of course if you have your headlights on i'm suggesting something here. that would be... if there were technology to control weather like hurricanes and there were on record weak points in coastal infrastructure, that info in the hands of the wrong people coule make them massive amounts of money and cause untold destruction and loss of life. but alas, i do not wish to raise sand. it's more about awareness.

452. nash28
1:25 PM GMT on October 28, 2006
That's right my brother, west it is!
Member Since: July 11, 2005 Posts: 190 Comments: 16972
450. kmanislander
1:23 PM GMT on October 28, 2006
Nash

W it is !
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15769
449. kmanislander
1:22 PM GMT on October 28, 2006
Navy has repostioned the sat
center placed at 14.3N 63.5W and pressure of 1009
Link
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15769
448. nash28
1:21 PM GMT on October 28, 2006
Oh, and just in case no one mentioned this yet, the wave is moving WEST.

I had to throw that in:-)
Member Since: July 11, 2005 Posts: 190 Comments: 16972
447. nash28
1:19 PM GMT on October 28, 2006
Yeah Rand, I have been seeing that in the last few GFS runs. It takes it NE out to sea.
Member Since: July 11, 2005 Posts: 190 Comments: 16972
446. pcshell
1:18 PM GMT on October 28, 2006
thank you randrewl
445. kmanislander
1:18 PM GMT on October 28, 2006
pcshell

I don't see anything in the boc. there is some convection over land but with all that cold air aloft my guess would be that the gulf is closed to tropical development for the rest of the yr
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15769
443. pcshell
1:15 PM GMT on October 28, 2006
so watch you think i am just wondering nobody is really mentioning it i am in florida and i know this time of year this can be bad
442. kmanislander
1:15 PM GMT on October 28, 2006
pottery
you got that right. That front is very strong for this time of yr.
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15769
439. pottery
1:13 PM GMT on October 28, 2006
kman, those strange people from Florida keep kidnapping your weather. But not this time, no siree, they just want something to look at up close, but this time they gonna haf to buy a plane ticket... anyway, seems they have enough of their own today for sure.....
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24085
438. MarcKeys
1:12 PM GMT on October 28, 2006
OK, guess it waxs a little too early to put away the hurricane shutters.

Florida Keys Fishing
437. pcshell
1:09 PM GMT on October 28, 2006
hey all whats going on with the system in the boc woryy or not to worry
436. kmanislander
1:09 PM GMT on October 28, 2006
Nash
I know what you mean. Several posters on here remarked back in Aug. that the latter part of the season may well be where one or two surprises would come from
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15769
435. kmanislander
1:07 PM GMT on October 28, 2006
looks like it will be a close call here in a few hrs. The tail end does look very nasty
Link
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15769
434. nash28
1:06 PM GMT on October 28, 2006
Actually Kman, I am not surprised. I have been thinking before the year is out, we would reach "Joyce". Although this may not get named, I do believe a TD is not out of the question...
Member Since: July 11, 2005 Posts: 190 Comments: 16972
433. kmanislander
1:06 PM GMT on October 28, 2006
hey there pottery
sorry to hear you are a little under the weather ( pun intended ) LOL
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15769
431. kmanislander
1:04 PM GMT on October 28, 2006
Hi Nash

Good to hear from you again. Who would have thought we would be watching an Easterly wave in the Caribbean this late in the yr ?
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15769
430. pottery
1:02 PM GMT on October 28, 2006
Yah kman. Wacth out , its coming yr way, ingore the spagetti........
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24085
429. IKE
1:02 PM GMT on October 28, 2006
Posted By: kmanislander at 7:59 AM CDT on October 28, 2006.

good morning everyone. haven't had my coffee yet but had to check in first lol

It looks as if the low cenetr of 93L is near 13N 64W. To travel 4 degrees overnight is a pretty fast clip but not unusual for the E Caribbean. Typically these systems slow dramatically once reaching underneath Hispaniola.If that happens we could see some development


I agree with your coordinates. It is moving along at a good clip. This one may have a shot at developing.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
428. kmanislander
1:02 PM GMT on October 28, 2006
morning Rand. Lots of weather action everywhere.
That strong front is bearing down on the NW Caribbean right now. Could be rough weather here later today from it
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15769
427. nash28
1:02 PM GMT on October 28, 2006
Morning Kman. Yeah, we could see some slow development from this as the upper level winds appear to be favorable for this thing, which is very unlike what has been in the Carribbean all year long.
Member Since: July 11, 2005 Posts: 190 Comments: 16972
426. Physicsprofessor
1:01 PM GMT on October 28, 2006
Hi Pottery (blushing)

Hopefully the swamp will get some real rain...but all is well after a good's night sleep!
424. pottery
1:00 PM GMT on October 28, 2006
gator, how is life in your swamp today???? all is well?
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24085
422. kmanislander
12:59 PM GMT on October 28, 2006
good morning everyone. haven't had my coffee yet but had to check in first lol

It looks as if the low cenetr of 93L is near 13N 64W. To travel 4 degrees overnight is a pretty fast clip but not unusual for the E Caribbean. Typically these systems slow dramatically once reaching underneath Hispaniola.If that happens we could see some development
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15769
421. Physicsprofessor
12:58 PM GMT on October 28, 2006
Well actually Rand...I already posted, but I am going to delete it.....
420. Physicsprofessor
12:57 PM GMT on October 28, 2006
There are sirens in Tampa? Like for Tornado warnings?
418. nash28
12:57 PM GMT on October 28, 2006
Not really Gator. A couple of straight line wind gusts and some heavy rain, but no sirens or anything...
Member Since: July 11, 2005 Posts: 190 Comments: 16972
417. Physicsprofessor
12:56 PM GMT on October 28, 2006
Hi Nash...was in rough last night in Tampa?

Viewing: 467 - 417

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10Blog Index

Top of Page

About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

Local Weather

Partly Cloudy
76 °F
Partly Cloudy