Bryan Norcross's Hurricane Almanac: a book review

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:19 PM GMT on May 24, 2007

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Bryan Norcross, Hurricane Analyst for CBS's national news and Director of Meteorology for WFOR-TV in Miami, has just written his second annual Hurricane Almanac: The Essential Guide to Storms Past, Present, and Future. Bryan is famous for his marathon on-air performance during Hurricane Andrew of 1992, when he talked people through the storm as their homes came apart around them. His book is a great addition to the bookshelf of anyone living in Hurricane Alley. Like any almanac, it has information on a variety of topics, and is not meant to be read straight through. My favorite part was his 5-page description of his Hurricane Andrew experience--and the lessons we should have learned from it, but didn't. Some other highlights:

Ready, Set, Hurricane!
The book's greatest strength is the impressive 134-page section that provides checklists and practical information on how to prepare, ride out, evacuate, and recover from a hurricane. There are so many things to think of that having them available in a handy book one can pick up anytime makes Hurricane Almanac a great book to have. When preparing for a hurricane, you'll find tips on what storm shutters and generator to buy, what to do with your pet, computer, boat, pool and car, and how to make a Family Hurricane Plan. Bryan also boosts a web which I also like, onestorm.org. This is a free hurricane preparedness web site that helps you put together a family hurricane plan.

I like how the book emphasizes the most important things it wants you to know. In the case of the Ready, Set, Hurricane! section, Bryan emphasizes this:

IF YOU DON'T DO ANYTHING ELSE, DO THIS!

-Contact a friend or relative out of town and ask him or her to be your family's emergency contact.

-Before the storm, be sure that every member of the family has a piece of paper on them that says, for example:

EMERGENCY CONTACT
AUNT MILLY IN NJ
201-555-5555

-Call Aunt Milly before the wind starts blowing to tell her exactly where you are and what you are planning to do.

-Be sure everybody knows that they should call Aunt Milly if they get lost or anything bad happens.

It's important that your main contact person is out of town, because local calls are more likely to be disrupted after a storm. Both ends of local connections are subject to problems.

Another interesting fact I learned from Hurricane Almanac: You can send an email message to any cell phone able to receive text messages by emailing to XXX-XXX-XXXX@teleflip.com (replace the X's with the phone number of the person's cell phone). The message will be forwarded to any cell phone provider in the U.S.

Hurricane Almanac also details what to do after the storm--how to deal with FEMA and your insurance company, save water-damaged possessions, and purify your drinking water. Additional chapters include an excellent summary of all the various National Hurricane Center advisories and how to interpret them, the basics of hurricane science, and a summary of some of the famous storms in the past. The opening chapter includes a very passionate critique of our emergency management system, building codes, and the politicians who fail to adequately protect us against hurricanes. A sample quote:

That President Bush, DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, and the head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, General Carl Strock were completely misinformed and saying ridiculous things for days and weeks after the Katrina disaster is frightening. These people know when a pin drops in Afghanistan. How can they not know when a levee breaks in New Orleans? The evidence says that the communications and operational infrastructure of the federal government broke down. We should all be very concerned.

Hurricane Almanac (335 pages, softcover) is $10.39 from amazon.com. It's not fancy--all the photos and figures are black and white (if you want a coffee table hurricane book with beautiful color photos and figures, get Dr. Kerry Emanuel's Divine Wind. An added bonus for Hurricane Almanac is a companion web site, hurricanealmanac.com. The web site is not fancy, but does have some useful links and a page that allows you to send Byran emails with suggestions and/or fixes for the 2008 version of his book.

The book also has a provocative chapter titled, "How I'd do it better," that I'll comment on in a future blog.

Jeff Masters

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319. weatherguy03
10:24 AM EDT on May 25, 2007
I just dont like using the word "not legit". Of course I know long range forecasts are not accurate. But anyway, just my opinion.
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318. HIEXPRESS
2:12 PM GMT on May 25, 2007
Somebody that said the long range predictions based on a current pattern is a 50%/50% bet has a strong argument. But it might just be right for 50% of the season. We have seen those set-ups fade & reappear later in season before - an oscillation, but peculiar to that season. It doesn't seem to me one can make a blanket statement about an entire season. Now, I might pay more attention to someone's studied opinion about early, middle, or late season patterns as they might differ from or agree with the average. Sorry, I haven't seen one that I will bet on yet. I'm just going to be ready all season. No reason to do anything different based on any prediction with the possible exception of making a non-refundable deposit on vacation plans at a certain time & place. Government, insurance & construction industries, etc... should, no must, in the long term, & at the risk of repeating what has been said here many times, plan for the worst & hope for the best.
Member Since: October 13, 2005 Posts: 4 Comments: 2156
316. Gatorxgrrrl
2:18 PM GMT on May 25, 2007
I think most of us just want to know if we are going to evacuate or put up shutters. We work our vacation now around hurricane season.
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314. nash28
2:15 PM GMT on May 25, 2007
The convection is nice. The wind shear just to the north of it is not.
Member Since: July 11, 2005 Posts: 190 Comments: 16972
313. cajunkid
9:12 AM CDT on May 25, 2007
Looks like a party south east of Cancun Link but the shear police are on patrol
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312. Gatorxgrrrl
2:12 PM GMT on May 25, 2007
Well all in all it is just predictions/forecasts - even up until Sept. 2005 the respected experts were changing their numbers and I think maybe that happened last year too around Sept. 2006. I think it is interesting to see folks, experts or otherwise make predictions, and how they come up with their numbers. But in the end, its just predictions.
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311. seminolesfan
2:13 PM GMT on May 25, 2007
his weather site is also very good and deserves to be listed there

Seconded!
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310. ricderr
2:08 PM GMT on May 25, 2007
he brought it up ra...err...flboy...didn't say he endorsed it...i may enjoy h23 when he gets away from cutting and pasting..but when he cuts and pastes..the man does a great job...his weather site is also very good and deserves to be listed there
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309. nash28
2:08 PM GMT on May 25, 2007
I don't know why anyone would get up in arms about that particular forecast. It's almost as if someone came by with a pin and took the air out of the obligatory balloon. No one has a clue as to how many storms form or where they will inevitably end up.
Member Since: July 11, 2005 Posts: 190 Comments: 16972
308. Tazmanian
2:06 PM GMT on May 25, 2007
23 dont take this forcast to likey this yet for now wait and see all we can do
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115437
307. seminolesfan
1:57 PM GMT on May 25, 2007
The IWIC forcast just proves the saying,'Anything can be proved with statistics'.

One thing that bothers me is the timing of their forcast release. It brings up the question of how much are they waiting for the more established forcasts' results and then hedging their bets, by skewing their forcast towards the normal long-term average.

(Ask any poker player, sometimes the bluff will win you the pot.)
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305. TheRingo
9:34 AM EDT on May 25, 2007
Looks like shear has been on the decline in the GOM and Car. with that trough moving out.
304. Caffinehog
1:40 PM GMT on May 25, 2007
Another weak closed circulation down there:Link

Last time, though, it was more vigorous and still amounted to nothing.

Wait and see.
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303. incogNeato
1:45 PM GMT on May 25, 2007
SJ, as someone who's put out seasonal hurricane predictions for 14 years, I get bothered when I hear people just pan such predictions. I'm not trying to argue - I can certainly understand people's skepticism after the last year or two! The "issue" I take is threefold. One is the everpresent argument, like you make, that we can't even predict 3-5 days out, nevermind four months. That's completely apples to oranges, predicting entirely different things. Second is that it's a dead-on fact that several global climate paramters link strongly to Atlantic hurricane activity. The Atlantic hurricane activity forecast usually only fails because the prediction for one of those parameters fails... like the unexpected El Nino last year. Yet, we don't see everyone just panning every El Nino/La Nina prediction. Why? I can only guess it's because the Atlantic seasonal predictions are an easy, headline-catching target. The third issue I take is that many people argue that these predictions are so bad they're not even worth doing. Besides the fact that they're often not bad, the notion that they are extremely flawed is precisely why we should continue doing them!! It's a challenge and there is much to be learned! As CSU tries to outperform TSR and whoever else, and vice-versa it encourages further research and development towards discovering better linkages between Atlantic hurricane activity and various other global weather phenomena. And, then, as we must do, after such a correlation is found, we must further the research to determine why. Not only can this improve the seasonal forecast but, perhaps more importantly, understanding the link can also help us further our understanding of tropical cyclone development. This is also true for the seasonal regional risk assessments that are very much still in their infancy right now.

In short, while I'd agree that there may be too many people making such forecasts - perhaps people just trying to grab headlines with little scientific backing. But, in principle, these seasonal predictions are neither illegit nor useless. Even if you believe they are useless in a practical sense (which even I'd admit they may be... the old "it only takes one" adage), the competition for better predictions is a basis for furthering the understanding tropical cyclone development.
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301. Tazmanian
1:31 PM GMT on May 25, 2007
DO NOT GO BY THE IWIC 2007 Atlantic Basin Hurricane Season Forecast YOU BE VARY SORRY IF YOU DO!!!!!!!!


there will be hurricane land fall this year so i am not sure what they are talking about there will be hurricane land fall in the United States mainland this year may be not right a way but there will be a few of them


DONT GO BY THE FORCAST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


IWIC 2007 Atlantic Basin Hurricane Season Forecast


By Rob Mann and Jason Moreland

As of May 25, 2007




ABSTRACT

Data obtained throughout the past several months indicates that 2007 Atlantic Basin hurricane activity will be somewhat above the long-term average, with an estimated 13 named storms, 8 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes. An abnormally high number of tropical cyclones will form east of the Lesser Antilles during the bimonthly period of August and September, with at least one significant hurricane striking the northeast Caribbean. The Yucatán Peninsula also faces a high risk of a major hurricane strike during the final third of the season. No tropical cyclone landfalls are expected along the United States mainland.


DONT GO BY IT YOU BE SORRY IF YOU DO!!!!!!!!


Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115437
300. StormJunkie
1:39 PM GMT on May 25, 2007
all I am saying is people put alot of hard work into these predictions, so dont say they arent legit.

Bob, I don't think anyones 4 month forecast is legit. Yours, the NHC, NOAA. We are just not there yet. Don't try to convince folks that we are. Lot's of the data in these forecasts is legit '03, just don't think the predictions are, at least not yet. Show me four days and I will start to ask to see 7 out. We are no where near 4 months capability.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16874
299. ricderr
1:31 PM GMT on May 25, 2007
ok.....so i'm in a bad mood........but come on....they are hobbyists!!!.....they want to spend time playing let's one up the big boys...god freakin speed.....the fool....is not them...there doing what they enjoy..basing it on what knowledge they have..and then using this wonderful world wide web to share it with....and hey..if every tom dick and harry wants to do it...god freaking speed to them too...but to give it more credence than what it is...who's the fool..the one that's having fun practicing their hobby..or the one that's worrying about it?
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298. TheRingo
9:34 AM EDT on May 25, 2007
Seeing some convection firing up with SW caribbean blob. Seems the NAM could be on to something.

SWCar
297. nash28
1:27 PM GMT on May 25, 2007
Bingo SJ. Hit the nail right on the head. Everything else is in place for development. MJO pulse, SST's and for now, a neutral ENSO. The only variable that is almost impossible to forecast is the shear. We have seen the shear remain high in the danger areas for this time of year. This is not unusual, rather it is normal. During the peak of the season, the shear in the Carribean and the ATL usually dies down.
Member Since: July 11, 2005 Posts: 190 Comments: 16972
296. weatherguy03
9:27 AM EDT on May 25, 2007
Yeah but SJ, these websites and agencies that are putting out predictions have websites and products that have been out for years, its not like that just started yesterday. Now who is correct, we dont know. But, all I am saying is people put alot of hard work into these predictions, so dont say they arent legit.
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295. StormJunkie
1:18 PM GMT on May 25, 2007
now its up to us whether to believe it or not.

Actually, I think it is more up to us to realize and accept that folks want people to think they know what is going to happen. Hell, we can't predict four day out tracks and now every Tom, Dick, and Harry seems to know what the next four months hold.

That said '03, I think you made some good points in your analysis and I agree that this year will come down to the shear. Everything else looks to be in place for a fairly active season.

Sorry Bob,what I hope to help folks find is legit data.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16874
293. sails1
1:19 PM GMT on May 25, 2007
I am looking at cyclonic spin in the western caribbean just east of Honduras? Does anyone else see it? It appears that sheer continues to blow the upper cloud tops to the east; however, there is a definate spin and storms are starting to form near the center of the low? What are your guys/girls thoughts on this deveoping weather system?
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292. MisterPerfect
1:12 PM GMT on May 25, 2007
Sorry folks, but I don't bet on a pony that is still grazing on the farm. Predicting storm activity that doesn't peak until 3 months from now is like trying to predict the winner of the Superbowl 3 years from now. I wouldn't get caught up in numbers of storms considering we are all riding along inside this huge "snow globe". But if you're one of those compulsive hurricane predictors, put your money where your mouth is and read this carefully: Link
Member Since: November 1, 2006 Posts: 71 Comments: 20140
291. weatherguy03
9:14 AM EDT on May 25, 2007
That is one thing that I will not get in to on my site, there is plenty of real good data out there and I just want to make it a little easier to find the legit info!

So, when people put out their hurricane forecasts its not legit..LOL They give their reasonings, they did the research, now its up to us whether to believe it or not.
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290. weatherguy03
9:13 AM EDT on May 25, 2007
Thing are great in St. Aug. This weather has been perfect. Need the rain, but hey, it will come.
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289. StormJunkie
1:08 PM GMT on May 25, 2007

These guys look to be hobbyists with like 4 years of forecasts under their belts. I've seen more and more folks doing this kind of thing, and it looks to be for attention more than anything else. Use your own common sense.


Well said bjd and I agree. Seems everyone wants to put their 2˘ in. That is one thing that I will not get in to on my site, there is plenty of real good data out there and I just want to make it a little easier to find the legit info!
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16874
288. ricderr
1:09 PM GMT on May 25, 2007
well said BJ.........
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287. bjdsrq
1:00 PM GMT on May 25, 2007
Why doesn't independantwx.com show all their past season forecasts on their web site? That's the question you need to ask yourself when wondering whether or not to give much consideration to their outlook or wasting much time planning on that being the outcome.

These guys look to be hobbyists with like 4 years of forecasts under their belts. I've seen more and more folks doing this kind of thing, and it looks to be for attention more than anything else. Use your own common sense.
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286. Comatose
8:42 AM EDT on May 25, 2007
Interesting, 90E invest looks like it's going into a favorable shear environment and warm waters.

Too bad it way too early in the season for anything to happen to it.
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285. MZT
12:44 PM GMT on May 25, 2007
GainesvilleGator is more on target, I think. Yes, we could have an "average" season when it's all done. But average seasons normally have a few named systems in the Gulf of Mexico, and those almost always strike land somewhere.



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283. Chicklit
12:47 PM GMT on May 25, 2007
Just got to work this morning and reading some of the chatter from last night. I have to say, the independent pull the forecast from ones rear end had me rolling on the floor! No U.S. landfalls?? Where can I get the opiate that these bozos were taking??
Hmmm. I wonder what H23/Adrian thinks about this.
Member Since: July 11, 2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11410
282. weatherguy03
8:40 AM EDT on May 25, 2007
I actually agree with IWIC's numbers. Predicting landfalls this far out is soooo hard. No landfalls on the U.S is alittle out there, but hey who knows. Maybe they want to drive my gas prices down!..LOL
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280. HurricaneGeek
8:24 AM EDT on May 25, 2007
Hey, Good Morning Everyone!!!
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279. WPBHurricane05
8:19 AM EDT on May 25, 2007
90EINVEST 25kts-1006mb-12.2N-108.3W

NA
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278. nash28
12:11 PM GMT on May 25, 2007
Shear is still high throughout the GOM and most of the Carribean.
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277. ricderr
12:05 PM GMT on May 25, 2007
LOL..fl...i said masses.....i'm still trying to figure out why it's dangerous
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276. nash28
12:02 PM GMT on May 25, 2007
Just got to work this morning and reading some of the chatter from last night. I have to say, the independent pull the forecast from ones rear end had me rolling on the floor! No U.S. landfalls?? Where can I get the opiate that these bozos were taking??

Unreal. Way to go out on a limb:-)
Member Since: July 11, 2005 Posts: 190 Comments: 16972
275. GainesvilleGator
11:44 AM GMT on May 25, 2007
Stormchaser77's Pre Season Storm Prediction's :

1- Less Storms Than Everyone Is Predicting.
2- No Storms Affecting North Florida.
3- No Storms Affecting The Gulf Coast.
4- Less Than 10 Named Storms Total.

Number one may be a possibility since the consensus calls for such a high number of storms. Number 2-4 will probably miss by a combined six times or more. My money is that Gainesville, FL will at least get rain from a tropical system. I would be surprised if the Gulf coast doesn't have at least two names storms. I say we have at least 14 storms before the season ends.

Member Since: September 11, 2005 Posts: 4 Comments: 745
273. Chicklit
11:25 AM GMT on May 25, 2007
It's been windy here in east Central Florida for about three weeks now...Just had a nice little downpour this morning. We surely need the rain, but let's hope the Memorial Day weekend shapes up with some sun between the clouds...
Member Since: July 11, 2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11410
272. ricderr
11:16 AM GMT on May 25, 2007
I used the word dangerous because some people might read certain sections of this forecast and believe the entire US is out of the woods this season

thanks for the explanation fl......now....do you really think "the masses" read the independants?....do you see it reported on the news?.....instead...they're read by those that take an active interest in the weather..andi'd like to think.....those people are smart enough to be prepared no matter what they
read...when you see how innacurate the early predictions are by the people with supposedly the best equipment..the best minds..and backed with a good amount of money....to specualte about these independent predicitons is meaningless.....even if they're closer than the experts...it's still pin the tail on the donkey
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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.