Hurricane research flights grounded

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:24 PM GMT on February 08, 2007

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For the first time since NOAA began flying research aircraft into hurricane in the 1950's, there is no money to fund airborne hurricane research for an upcoming hurricane season. NOAA's state-of-the-art flying weather research laboratories, the two P-3 Orion hurricane hunter aircraft, may sit idle this hurricane season due to a lack of funding. NOAA's Hurricane Research Division (HRD) usually receives several million dollars each year to perform hurricane research using the P-3's. However, funding for HRD has steadily declined over the past decade, forcing HRD to reduce staff and cut back on hurricane research. Now, this key form of hurricane research has been zeroed out by NOAA. It is possible that the National Science Foundation will step in and fund one P-3 research project, though--there is interest in taking real-time P-3 Doppler radar data and putting it into one of NOAA's experimental hurricane research computer models (the HWRF model). It is also possible that if the President's newly-proposed budget gets approved (which contains an extra $2 million in funding for hurricane intensity research), some of that money will go towards keeping the P-3s flying. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) does have money to keep the P-3s flying this year, but not for reasearch projects. Flights done for NHC would be strictly operational--one altitude, one airplane at a time, with the intent of providing center fixes and surface winds estimates. HRD scientists would be allowed to take research data, but would not be able to fly both P-3s at once, or do custom flight patterns to use the P-3s' Doppler radar and other advanced instrumentation to gather state-of-the-art research data. No follow-up work on last years promising field study that examined the effect of African dust on suppressing hurricane activity will be performed. And with the Air Force C-130 hurricane hunters receiving the advanced SFMR surface wind measuring instrument this year, it is questionable how much flying time the P-3s will get from NHC.


NOAA's P-3 hurricane hunter research aircraft. Image credit: NOAA/AOC.

With zero money allocated to fund one of the most important types of hurricane research, one has to wonder--what are NOAA and Congress thinking? While improvements in computer models, better satellite data over oceanic regions, and better forecasting techniques are primarily responsible for the 43% improvement in hurricane track forecasts in the past 15 years, research flights performed by the P-3s are also a big reason. For example, the now routine flights by the NOAA high-altitude jet to sample the large-scale environment around a hurricane improves tracks forecasts by perhaps 20% on its own, when it flies. This advancement grew out of a multi-year research project conducted by the P-3s in the 1980s and 1990s. Continued hurricane research by aircraft is essential if we are to continue improving track forecasts, and do a better job at forecasting intensity--which has only improved 17% in the past 15 years. The National Science Board, in a report issued September 29, 2006, called for an increase of $300 million per year in hurricane research funding. The National Hurricane Research Initiative Act, was introduced in the Senate in September to fully fund the National Science Board's recommendations. I presented a long report on these initiatives in a blog in October.

Given the huge return on our investment the NOAA P-3s have already paid, and the critical need to improve our understanding of hurricanes, it is imperative that we not let NOAA's hurricane research aircraft sit idle. It's like signing Roger Clemens to get you to the World Series, then deciding to use him just to pitch batting practice. I urge you to write your Representatives to approve more funding for hurricane research, and ask your Senators to support S. 4005, the National Hurricane Research Initiative Act of 2006. The act is co-sponsored by all four of Louisiana and Florida's senators. When the bill comes before committee or the full Senate, I will be sure to post a follow-up blog urging you to write your Senators again.

My next blog will be Monday.

Jeff Masters

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232. seaoftranquility
6:30 PM GMT on February 23, 2007
Hi again to everyone for 2007! I'm back early for the duration of the hurricane season as it progresses into the year. Are they still saying the weather pattern favors a mild hurricane season for the East Coast and Gulf or has something changed! Appreciate any comments or opinions!
231. Levi32
3:23 AM GMT on February 12, 2007
Skye, JFLORIDA was hinting at it a lot lol. I don't mean to assume, but that's what I was picking up from him.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26564
230. Skyepony (Mod)
3:22 AM GMT on February 12, 2007
Levi~ who has been calling this tropical? I don't see where anyone's thought this was even gonna be an invest...lol. Surface lows are surface lows, the ones in winter just don't tend to have the convection & high winds in the center, though not tropical, there still called waves & lows.

SFC OBS/SAT PIX
MAY INDICATE SURFACE WAVE STARTING TO TAKE SHAPE OVER SOUTHERN GULF
ALONG OLD FRONTAL BAND.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 161 Comments: 37448
229. pottery
2:19 AM GMT on February 12, 2007
Wow. This blog is so quiet, I cant even start an argument ! heheheh
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24094
228. pottery
2:06 AM GMT on February 12, 2007
I'm looking at the overall picture for the storm season this year, and my thoughts are:

La nina is proving to be coming on stream
So the Pacific is cooling nicely
Africa shows no signs of being anything but dry
The Atlantic is super dry (air ) right now
The ITCZ may not move north of the equator
Any tropical wave that comes off Africa will get eaten by all of the above
We are in for a pretty benign storm season in the equatorial Atlantic this year.
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24094
226. Levi32
1:35 AM GMT on February 12, 2007
catastropheadjuster - I have Firefox 2 and it's the best. No bugs that I've found yet. Also a nice litte feature about it is it automatically spell-checks what you type on a webpage. Great for this site when you're writing blogs or comments. I highly recommend you get it.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26564
225. pottery
1:31 AM GMT on February 12, 2007
Just a note to confirm that others on this blog are quite right, when they say the Caribbean is dry. The breezes blowing across Trinidad for the past 10 days or so are like a blowdryer. You can see the vegetation wilt as you look. We are looking at a bad fire season if this keeps up.
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24094
224. catastropheadjuster
1:24 AM GMT on February 12, 2007
JFLORIDA: Thank you so much I'm gonna go try that but let me ask you something. I seen Firefox2, but is it good? How about bugs and stuff? Is that what u have and have you had any trouble with it? Sorry for so many questions. I'm not what u call computer smart.
Member Since: August 24, 2006 Posts: 21 Comments: 3657
222. catastropheadjuster
1:10 AM GMT on February 12, 2007
Hello, this is really off the subject but I really need some help, or is anyone having this trouble with IE7? Like right know I'm in Dr M blog and reading and someone puts up a link in there When I go to it and look at it and finish and go to X out of it, it says blank page and then one of them boxes come up to send error report then I do and it shuts everything down and I have to log back on. I don't know what to do about it. It's been happening since last night and it's a pain. If someone can just help or tell me where to go. Thank You in advance. Sheri
Member Since: August 24, 2006 Posts: 21 Comments: 3657
220. ryang
12:22 AM GMT on February 12, 2007
The first invest should be late May.
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 329 Comments: 12419
219. hurricane23
12:19 AM GMT on February 12, 2007
Indeed nothing tropical in nature but overall increasing rainfall chances for south florida.I say anywere between mid may to sometime in june we might see our first invest but nothing significant.Once we get into august i think we will have a much better idea on how steering currents will be setting up.My 2 picks for seeing some activity this season are florida and north carolina with florida being at the greatest risk.
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13639
218. ryang
12:18 AM GMT on February 12, 2007
Hey Guys.
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 329 Comments: 12419
217. Levi32
12:15 AM GMT on February 12, 2007
That "blob" of precip you're seeing is nothing tropical at all. It's part of the stormsystem, maybe some convective lift on the frontal boundary, but it is definately not tropical in nature. Sorry but we have to wait until May/June lol.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26564
216. hurricane23
12:14 AM GMT on February 12, 2007
Looks like some decent rain chances for florida in the next 2-3 days on the 18Z.
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13639
214. ryang
11:51 PM GMT on February 11, 2007
Hey
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 329 Comments: 12419
212. weatherboykris
11:13 PM GMT on February 11, 2007
thanks for the link Skye
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
211. Skyepony (Mod)
10:34 PM GMT on February 11, 2007
The Melbourne local was calling the clouds in the gulf a surface trough, then a weak low, now they expect it to make wave statues before crossing FL on the southern branch of the Jetstream. Timing has it just infront of the tail from the low forecasted to cross the SE on the West to East branch of the jetstream, nearly converging over Fl. Depending on other factors as well it's what's giving us a chance at possible severe storms Monday night & Tues. The 12Z Canadian GEM (which has had a bettter grasp on these SE winter storms imo) keeps deeping both as well with the wave now 1011mb over FL & the SE low at 979mb apon exit of NC.. To compare to the 00Z GEM run check the comments in my blog. Or check out the Gem model here.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 161 Comments: 37448
210. ryang
10:26 PM GMT on February 11, 2007
23 check my blog!
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 329 Comments: 12419
209. hurricane23
10:24 PM GMT on February 11, 2007
There will be absolutely no development in the basin for atleast the 2-3 months as conditions are extremely unfavorable for any type of tropical developement.I say early to mid may will be a time to start looking for our invest.Adrian
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13639
207. Levi32
9:34 PM GMT on February 11, 2007
Lol yeah this blog is pretty quiet. Yes I see the t-storm activity on the radar but there isn't an LLC anywhere in the entire Atlantic and won't be for at least 2 months lol. If you want proof, just look at the wind shear and SSTs for the gulf this time of year. No storm in your wildest dreams could develop in there lol. I can't wait till our first real one though!
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26564
205. Levi32
9:23 PM GMT on February 11, 2007
JFLORIDA, what you are seeing there is simply cirrus from the subtropical jetstream, nothing more.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26564
203. AySz88
8:59 PM GMT on February 11, 2007
I just confirmed that the bill is dead due to there being a new Congress - so even if you're from Florida or Louisiana, ask your representatives to resurrect (not just 'support') the bill!
Member Since: August 25, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 8
201. ryang
8:11 PM GMT on February 11, 2007
You got my mail?
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 329 Comments: 12419
200. mrpuertorico
8:09 PM GMT on February 11, 2007
hi ryang, We had a few days of high level cloud cover which gave us a drizzle here and there but it has be very dry here and its been even longer scince we had a nasty storm with lighting and the such.
Member Since: July 10, 2006 Posts: 1 Comments: 833
199. ryang
8:02 PM GMT on February 11, 2007
Hey MP.
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 329 Comments: 12419
198. mrpuertorico
8:00 PM GMT on February 11, 2007
ryang its been very dry here in pr for about three and half weeks. The lack of rain is starting to show as grass turns brown.
Member Since: July 10, 2006 Posts: 1 Comments: 833
196. ryang
6:44 PM GMT on February 11, 2007
STL good point.
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 329 Comments: 12419
195. 04gtp
6:44 PM GMT on February 11, 2007
Dear Dr. Masters,

I have emailed both of my Florida senators, requesting they push to reinstate funding for the NOAA HRD.

Not having this valuable asset is like painting a cross-hair on the state!

Thank you for bringing this important issue into the light.

Member Since: July 29, 2002 Posts: 1 Comments: 11
194. 04gtp
6:43 PM GMT on February 11, 2007
Dear Dr. Masters,

I have emailed both of my Florida senators, requesting they push to reinstate funding for the NOAA HRD.

Not having this valuable asset is like painting a cross-hair on the state!

Thank you for bringing this important issue into the light.

Member Since: July 29, 2002 Posts: 1 Comments: 11
192. ryang
6:36 PM GMT on February 11, 2007
dry

Super dry air!
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 329 Comments: 12419
191. HurricaneMyles
6:35 PM GMT on February 11, 2007
A few days ago I was looking at the Atl WV loop that MichaelSTL put up a while back, and the Carribean was so dry that is was black. Not the transition from dry to moist, but the black and the far left after the brown. I think that may be why the Carribean WV charts were off the map.
Member Since: January 12, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 827
190. Levi32
6:27 PM GMT on February 11, 2007
The Caribbean seams to have been quite dry in January/February of 2005 as well.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26564
189. Levi32
6:23 PM GMT on February 11, 2007
Thank you too Michael for digging that up, but Kris was faster lol.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26564
188. Levi32
6:22 PM GMT on February 11, 2007
Thank you Kris that's perfect! Thanks so much :)
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26564
186. weatherboykris
6:20 PM GMT on February 11, 2007
Here you go Levi.LinkCLick on the year,you want,then the wind shear map for the part of the Atlantic you want to see data for.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
185. weatherboykris
6:17 PM GMT on February 11, 2007
I'll find it for you Levi...know I have it somewhere.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
184. Levi32
6:15 PM GMT on February 11, 2007
Well if that shear drop starts happening farther west in the Caribbean or something, then I'll start getting worried. That is very interesting. Michael is there any kind of archive of wind shear data for the Atlantic somewhere? That's one of the links even I can't find lol.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26564
182. Skyepony (Mod)
5:31 PM GMT on February 11, 2007
Oh & the Atlantic shear values were interesting..

on to weather news...

Finally we get some rain in fire ravaged Aulstralia, of course it's in absolute downpour form, collapsed a mall roof.

Still looks bad in IndonesiaThe floods in Jakarta have killed 57 people and more than 250,000 people are still displaced from their homes, many of them sheltering under flyovers and plastic tents near graveyards and cemeteries

New York state braces for another meter of snow

LONDON (Reuters) - Airline tycoon Richard Branson (Virgins)announced on Friday a $25 million prize for the first person to come up with a way of scrubbing greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere in the battle to beat global warming.


Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 161 Comments: 37448

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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.