Transcript of the NHC press conference; QuikSCAT science

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 8:27 PM GMT on July 06, 2007

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The National Hurricane Center political controversy continues today. In an Associated Press story released this morning, Senior Hurricane Specialist James Franklin of the National Hurricane Center commented on Bill Proenza's QuikSCAT claims, saying:

"He has been very loudly saying if it failed our forecasts for landfalling storms would be degraded, that warning areas would need to be expanded. None of that is the case, and he knows that we feel that way. The science is not there to back up the claims that he's making."

This was the same case I made in my blog yesterday. However, in comments published in the Miami Herald today, Dr. Bob Atlas, a QuikSCAT scientist who runs NOAA's Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory on Virginia Key, rose to defend Proenza. To quote from the Herald:

He said the report challenged by Masters, even if not yet published, appears to be a "rigorous study" that provides the "most comprehensive study of QuikSCAT data related to hurricane predictions."

Atlas said nothing he has heard Proenza say about QuikSCAT has made him wince, though Atlas added that NOAA is developing ways to mitigate the loss of QuikSCAT data.

In addition, he said, Proenza's estimates of 16 percent and 10 percent have been misunderstood: They apply to the accuracy of one of many computerized forecast models rather than actual, end-result predictions by hurricane forecasters.

"Bill's worked very hard and very well to position the hurricane center to interact well with researchers," Atlas said.


Dr. Atlas was mis-quoted by Time Magazine, who printed this:

Bob Atlas, director of NOAA's Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory in Miami, insist that Proenza's concerns "are very well founded. QuickScat is the most valuable forecasting tool." Atlas says he applauds Proenza's outspokenness, predicting it will "accelerate the effort to replace QuickScat with an even better scatterometer satellite."

I talked with Dr. Atlas this morning, and what he actually said is that "NCEP's Ocean Prediction Center (OPC) have referred to QuikSCAT as the most valuable tool they have." OPC issues the high seas marine forecasts and warnings for the North Atlantic and North Pacific. Dr. Atlas did not say QuickSCAT is the most valuable forecasting tool for hurricane forecasting which it is not. Dr. Atlas and I both agree on what the science says about QuikSCAT. I respect his support for Proenza, and hope that Proenza's superiors in Washington take into account all the facts in the case. I did my best to present what I know of the science in my blog yesterday. No one knows the full story of what's going on at NHC, but this morning's press conference, done by staff members at NHC who oppose Proenza, will help clarify things. A transcript was sent to me by WTVJ, the NBC Station in Miami.

Transcript of this morning's press conference

Senior Hurricane Specialist James Franklin
We have been a family here, we are a small group of about 50 people. When things are really happening, we've got a Katrina out there or a Rita type of storms, everybody needs to stop what they're doing and pull together and make sure our message gets out and that we're doing the best job that we can to make the best forecast. We've got a lot of people pulling together to do that. That takes a certain amount of teamwork and appreciation of sense of family and he's destroying that, he's destroying that.

He's divided the staff, and it's hard to know how we're going to be able to come together with him here. One thing that happened yesterday when the staff met, and talked about these issues and a lot of people learned for the first time about some of the issues going on yesterday, and that brought a lot of the staff together. You saw a number of people speaking out both in terms of 3 to 23 yesterday. We found out what was really going on here. and I think you're going to see more later on.

I was very very gratified, we had a wonderful meeting with staff, including those who have been prior supporters of Bill. And we're learning a lot of things for the very first time. There we're a number of people who agreed with us, didn't like the idea of going to the press, but felt he needed to go, there are a fair number of people who didn't sign the letter for that reason. They wanted to keep it in house, and I certainly understand that. About 70-percent of the people who were in the discussion yesterday, put their names on the paper.

I think we've learned an awful lot about Bill here, during the last six months that maybe we didn't know.

We would have liked to have seen Bill realize that he didn't have the support of the staff and step down. That's not going to happen apparently. The process, the Dept. of Commerce process, I imagine needs to go forward. I think it would be nice if they could take him out of the office while that process goes on, those are not decisions we can make.

Lixion Avila-Senior Hurricane Forecaster
-Been here longer than any other forecaster
-Worked for 5-hurricane directors

I was Bill's stronger supporter, I went with him to the Caribbean with the hurricane hunter plane. To develop the hurricane hunter plan, like I did with all the directors. And I'm very upset (loud truck drives by) that he's been misrepresenting the views of the National Hurricane Center, and the hurricane plan. That plan was developed by the previous five hurricane directors, it's a jewel, it's the best in the world and it's been something that Neil Frank, Bob Sheets and Jerry Jarrel and developed for 20-years in six months he wants to destroy that plan.

For example he, I'm a scientist not a manager, and I don't know anything about management, but I can tell you that he came to my office telling me that he wants my advice, that he can not work here if he doesn't hear my advice.. very helpful with the previous directors, and he asked me, and I said the first thing you need to do is quit talking about that QuikSCAT and tell him that is out of line, will help all the problems. And he says he will do that, instead he goes back to the media, and you don't publish that you only publish the good things he said.

He said that we don't want to work with him, because he brings many good ideas, and we don't want to do that. I want you to know that he has not made a hurricane forecast since 1964.

That satellite, I gave that example to many people here. There are many things more important than that satellite. Of course I want that someone to have that satellite. The example I gave everybody is like having a BMW with leather seats. If you don't have leather seats that BMW is going to ruin, and we are going to make a very damn good forecast this year, with Bill or without Bill, and I think. I'm being very emotional, because I was his strongest supporter and I feel betrayed.

I was the last forecaster to join the group. They were smarter than me, I was giving him one more chance. Two day's ago when he came to my office and said please, what should I do to solve this problem? And I was very naive and I told him you need to stop fighting, pretending you're David against Goliath, and all those things with NOAA. The public thinks you're a hero, but you're not. You just need to develop your time and saving the hurricane program that your predecessor developed so nicely, this castle that has been done here. and he went back and said he was going to do that, he went to the media and said the opposite, and that's the end, thank you.

James Franklin
I want to say something about the QuikSCAT issue because, because that's important. The QuikSCAT satellite, is important to us, it does a lot of good things for us. We want a next generation advanced instrument, however there are a lot of things that current instrument cannot do, and by misrepresenting the case for that satellite, he has made it seem so urgent and so important. That what we're afraid of, that we'll get a quick fix, a copy of the kind of thing with existing technology. And within a couple of years we'll be in exactly the same position same situation. QuikSCAT is not a tool to help us improve track forecasts, that's how it's been misrepresented. Bill waves this NOAA report that some of my colleagues worked on and said look this is it. That report did not address track forecast accuracy, that is another one of the misrepresentations.

QuikSCAT is important to help us understand the size of the wind field, the strength, the current instrument has a lot of trouble with rain, a lot of rain in tropical cyclones. We need to move forward if we take the time develop the technology further and in a few more years get at the technology that really helps us get at the intensity problem, that's where our forecast problem really is. We've made great strides with track, as you know we're having a lot more problems with intensity, and doing the QuikSCAT problem correctly, taking our time, developing new technology is one of the tools that we need to help solve the intensity problem. But because of the way it's been portrayed we're afraid that there's going to be a quick fix that's not going to address the track problem, and it doesn't address the track problem and it isn't going to end up helping us with what the forecasters really know will help us.

We've see members of the Congress talking about how the information from the recognizance aircraft are inferior to QuikSCAT, we're afraid that somebody might get it in their heads to fund a stopgap QuikSCAT to take funds from recon aircraft. There is no comparison, there is not a forecaster here who believes QuikSCAT is more important than recon aircraft or other tools we have. But because this issue has been misreported we're afraid we might lose what we have.

We've got forecasters still back at there desks doing their jobs and they'll continue doing that. But there's a lot of people losing sleep over this, and as we get into august September, October, I don't think you want a bunch of tired sick, forecasters working the forecast desk. I think it takes a full effort. It's not just about doing our jobs, we need to go over and beyond when those storms are coming, and that's becoming harder to do.

I think when things get busy, it's going to be harder for us to work effectively with the situation we have here.

Vivian Jorge, Administrative Officer
As far as myself in the administration, since Bill got here, is the turmoil in the administration, because in my sense, bill(sat breakup) likes controversy. And I myself have been asked to do things that I know are not procedure but have been asked to do because that's the way he wants things done, and I've worked at hurricane center since 1985.

Unfortunately I think a director needs to unite his staff and he needs to be a calming person. It doesn't need to be a no new ideas. All the directors have different ideas.. from Neil on down to Max, they were different, they were not the same, their management styles were not the same, but they united the staff, the listened to the staff, especially the folks who have been here for so many years. .. and I think in the case of bill he doesn't feel that's necessary, he always feels he knows best. And that again in our case, there's never been so many closed doors, so much intrigue at the hurricane center as now and that's really unfortunate. I can't tell you how proud I am to work here.

--End of Press Conference

QuikSCAT science
Enough of politics, let's talk science! I've communicated several times over the past few weeks with Dr. Paul Chang, a NOAA QuikSCAT scientist whose QuikSCAT web page I've linked to hundreds of times in my blogs over the past two years. He did not want to comment on the politics of the QuikSCAT issue (smart man!), but did ask me print these comments:

The need for an operational ocean surface vector wind satellite system like QuikSCAT (or actually better) goes much further than the hurricane issue, and the push for it started long before Bill Proenza became the NHC director. NHC actually wants/needs something better so that it can provide them with reliable and accurate information (intensity and structure) within all hurricanes. A few other users of QuikSCAT data include: The Department of Defense's Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Pearl Harbor, which has a much larger area to forecast for. They have no Hurricane Hunter data and much less surface and upper air data to work with, and thus use QuikSCAT winds quite a bit. This is a similar situation for NOAA's Central Pacific Hurricane Center located in Hawaii. QuikSCAT has also had significant positive impacts at the Ocean Prediction Center, which issues the high seas marine forecasts and warnings for the North Atlantic and North Pacific. This has led to the introduction of a warning category for hurricane force winds for the most dangerous extratropical cyclones. I know of at least a few private marine weather companies that routinely use QuikSCAT. The Australians, French and many others use QuikSCAT routinely for tropical storm forecast/analysis, and for marine weather in general.

The track degradation impact numbers that Bill Proenza has been stating publicly come from a limited data study for the 2003 season in the Atlantic with the GFS model only. I believe Bob Atlas did some earlier work studying the impact of QuikSCAT on Hurricane Cindy using an earlier version of the NCEP global model. Both of these studies did show promising positive impacts. They are of course limited studies, and a more in-depth study is warranted.

The GFS model hurricane track forecasts are just one piece of guidance that the NHC human forecasters use to generate the official track forecast, so the impact in a particular model guidance package does not directly translate to the same impact in the actual NHC officially issued track forecast. Additionally, QuikSCAT data are also used directly by forecasters at NHC and elsewhere, but this impact tends to be more difficult to quantify.

The aircraft are a very important hurricane operational and research tool, and no one involved in the QuikSCAT follow-on effort has ever said QuikSCAT (or its successor) should or could replace the role of the hurricane aircraft flights, just as no one has said that aircraft could replace the role of satellites. They are very complementary platforms, but they fulfill different roles.


It would be a shame if in the hubbub over Bill Proenza's push to get a replacement for the QuikSCAT satellite we lose sight of what all the scientists agree on--QuikSCAT is a vital tool in weather prediction that needs to be replaced with a better satellite. Both Dr. Atlas and Dr. Chang are working on research specifically designed to study just how much impact QuikSCAT has on landfalling hurricanes in the Atlantic, which no studies have yet quantified.

Read Margie' Kieper's View From the Surface Blog for more on the QuikSCAT/Bill Proenza matter.

Jeff Masters

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186. Drakoen
11:21 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
StormW aren't you a Met?
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184. moonlightcowboy
11:20 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
Posted By: bobcane at 11:18 PM GMT on July 06, 2007.
Tropical Discussion: Nothing out there. Go back to drinking. Next update at 5AM.


...ROTFLMAO, Bob...without spilling my drink! lol, this sounds like a Friday evening crowd!!! Must be happy hour!!!
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29594
183. Bamatracker
11:20 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
Posted By: bobcane at 11:18 PM GMT on July 06, 2007.

Tropical Discussion: Nothing out there. Go back to drinking. Next update at 5AM



This is great stuff here!!! We can use this for the update! Short and quick to the point!
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182. tampahurricane
11:19 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
can some body please post the computer modles thank you
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180. Drakoen
11:19 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
lol Bamatracker i think StormW does a pretty good job at that.
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179. jeanri2000
11:19 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
Bamatracker at 11:14 PM GMT on July 06, 2007.

SouthernLady....WE are the new NHC...alright people...we have to get a 11 est pm tropical discussion ready.


But if everyone is preparing the tropical update at 11, who is going to prepare the head on commercial.
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178. Bamatracker
11:19 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
StormW...your a real met right....congrats your now a Senior forecastor for he new NHC wunderground divison!!
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177. moonlightcowboy
11:18 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
Miami, a bee-line means a staight line. Pottery is at 11N / 61W. That is, if it holds up until then. lol
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29594
176. Drakoen
11:17 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
If i were Bill i would just resign. Let politics mix with politics. let them be happy. They might not like the next guy for something that he may do. repeating cycle? who knows. When politcs gets this deep its best to stay out of it.
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174. Bamatracker
11:17 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
Drakeon...your up...congrats you get to sign your name to the bottom of the discussion.

Taz...call the NHC and tell them to go ahead and link their discussion page to Drakeons blog.

We will get Dr. masters to approve it before we post it...just to make sure its synopically sound.
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173. bobcane
11:17 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
Tropical Discussion: Nothing out there. Go back to drinking. Next update at 5AM.
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172. jeanri2000
11:15 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
bobcane at 11:14 PM GMT on July 06, 2007.
Who will win at the NHC, Bill or the forcasters - The forecasters


Have to agree, that the forecasters will most likely win the battle, but the when is really the question. Will it happen within the next few weeks or at the end of the season after this latest bruhaha wears down?
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171. Miamiweather
11:16 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
Posted By: moonlightcowboy at 11:09 PM GMT on July 06, 2007.
I think this 96L invest (Navy still has it up) is making a bee-line for Pottery!!!


What does that mean?
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170. Drakoen
11:15 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
Posted By: Bamatracker at 11:14 PM GMT on July 06, 2007.

SouthernLady....WE are the new NHC...alright people...we have to get a 11 est pm tropical discussion ready.


LOL.
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169. Tazmanian
4:14 PM PDT on July 06, 2007
LOL
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114728
168. Drakoen
11:13 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
Posted By: JFLORIDA at 11:12 PM GMT on July 06, 2007.

And like this too from above:

I want you to know that he has not made a hurricane forecast since 1964.

I mean what is that?! Thats just petty and silly - the guy is more than qualified - I wonder if there is some kind of NOAA/NHC thing going on here.



me too. Politics goes deeper than what the public sees. That is very unfortunate.
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167. Bamatracker
11:13 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
SouthernLady....WE are the new NHC...alright people...we have to get a 11 est pm tropical discussion ready.
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166. bobcane
10:46 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
Bring back John Hope! Absolutely

Who will win at the NHC, Bill or the forcasters - The forecasters. They are a rare commodity. There are Bills all over the place.

The TWC - Tornado on my block, i'm not watching TWC for my safety. They would break for a commercial about that time.
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165. Drakoen
11:11 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
Posted By: Tazmanian at 11:03 PM GMT on July 06, 2007.

Drakoen we may want to keep a eye on it it may spin up to some in if it where to move in to the gulf


upper level low. don't think it has much of a chance.
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164. SouthernLady
11:11 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
So in 'other words' we're up a creek without a paddle???

Please correct me if I'm wrong..too busy with the garden to keep up with things.
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162. CJ5
11:08 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
All of the current seniors were passed over or were not interested in the job. Huh...I wonder why?

moonlightcowboy at 11:03 PM GMT on July 06, 2007.
He's out of touch. If he were in the loop and knew of the Qscat situation, how come he hasn't said anything until now! He's obviously got bark, but he could've been barking sooner.


He has only been there 6 months.
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161. Drakoen
11:09 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
jeanri2000 they are just bring up things to further their case. you are right that it makes no sense.
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160. moonlightcowboy
11:08 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
I think this 96L invest (Navy still has it up) is making a bee-line for Pottery!!!
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29594
159. jeanri2000
11:04 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
If he hasn't made a forecast since 1964, what has be been doing in the mean time. What was his position prior to this, and what were his qualifications for the job. If the fact that he hadn't made a forecast since 1964 didn't hinder him being hired then why is it an issue now?
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157. wunderwomen
7:06 PM EDT on July 06, 2007
Posted By: Bamatracker at 7:04 PM EDT on July 06, 2007.

bobw and CJ....dont try to understand. We need to get ready for hurricane season!!!

ALL with this turmoil in the NHC we, the weather underground, are going to have to step up and keep the public safe this hurricane season!!! WE will issue the warnings, We will issue evacuations, WE will save the day!!!


I will save the day toooo lol
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155. bobw999
7:05 PM EDT on July 06, 2007
Yup Bamatracker.
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154. Bamatracker
11:04 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
Who has a turboprop plan we can hook our personal weather stations up too and fly into storms?
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153. Bamatracker
11:02 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
bobw and CJ....dont try to understand. We need to get ready for hurricane season!!!

ALL with this turmoil in the NHC we, the weather underground, are going to have to step up and keep the public safe this hurricane season!!! WE will issue the warnings, We will issue evacuations, WE will save the day!!!
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152. moonlightcowboy
10:56 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
Too much dissention, wrong or right, circle the wagons and get back to the biz of tropical weather. Proenza must go. Mayfield to come back in the interim. Get a great job description and get the right person in the job!

No forecast since '64? I'm not sure someone like that should be at the helm anyways. That's almost like getting an outsider to run the NHC. The changes in technology are inversely proportional to learning. He's out of touch. If he were in the loop and knew of the Qscat situation, how come he hasn't said anything until now! He's obviously got bark, but he could've been barking sooner.

Sorry, 2 cents worth. Now, I promise not to join in this convo anymore!!!

MLC <---------back to blob watching! lol
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29594
151. Tazmanian
4:00 PM PDT on July 06, 2007
Drakoen we may want to keep a eye on it it may spin up to some in if it where to move in to the gulf
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114728
150. bobw999
6:59 PM EDT on July 06, 2007
I agree CJ5. I can't understand that first comment by the forecaster.
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149. stormybil
10:59 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
Drakoen TWC siad that there is some kind of a low sining a round overe MX where it comes you see the same thing

yeap is it going to eneter the gulf looks like it
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148. wunderwomen
6:59 PM EDT on July 06, 2007
Posted By: Bamatracker at 6:58 PM EDT on July 06, 2007.

thats why they want him gone! LOL! so one of them can get in there and keep things the same.

Lets be honest...Bill probably forgot to bring the snack on his day and pissed everyone off. Now they are throwing him under the bus!


LMBO
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147. Bamatracker
10:58 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
I know you werent calling for the removal of the staf drake....just speaking my opinion.
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146. Drakoen
10:58 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
seems to be an upper level low taz
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145. bobw999
6:59 PM EDT on July 06, 2007
Lets be honest...Bill probably forgot to bring the snack on his day and pissed everyone off. Now they are throwing him under the bus!

LMBO!!!
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144. CJ5
10:48 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
Wow. This is looking more like a lynching everyday. There is nothing more in this blog than in the previous. It is all about QuickSat. For example he, I'm a scientist not a manager, and I don't know anything about management, but I can tell you that he came to my office telling me that he wants my advice, that he can not work here if he doesn't hear my advice.. very helpful with the previous directors, and he asked me, and I said the first thing you need to do is quit talking about that QuikSCAT and tell him that is out of line, will help all the problems. And he says he will do that, instead he goes back to the media, and you don't publish that you only publish the good things he said.

What? I honestly cannot understand her transcript.

He's divided the staff, and it's hard to know how we're going to be able to come together with him here. One thing that happened yesterday when the staff met, and talked about these issues and a lot of people learned for the first time about some of the issues going on yesterday, and that brought a lot of the staff together. You saw a number of people speaking out both in terms of 3 to 23 yesterday. We found out what was really going on here. and I think you're going to see more later on.

Ok, James. What are these issues? More later on?? You are going after a man and his job but you'll save the real issues until after he is gone?

Sorry, there are so many nuggets in that blog I would be here all day.

There is no doubt that QuickSat should be replaced and is very valuable. Hell, the replacement is sitting in the shop floor undeveloped. Yes, any monkey in a zoo whats the best possible technology in the next Sat. It takes years to build the thing...2012 now if they clipped along. If they decided to make it the best it can possibly be today by the time you got ready to launch it would not have the best technology available...jeez wake up.

Dr. Paul Chang's analysis did nothing but boolster Proenza's position. The fact is, if QuickSat fell from the sky today it would not make things better and they certainly would not be the same, so what is one to think?
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142. Bamatracker
10:57 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
thats why they want him gone! LOL! so one of them can get in there and keep things the same.

Lets be honest...Bill probably forgot to bring the snack on his day and pissed everyone off. Now they are throwing him under the bus!
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141. Tazmanian
3:53 PM PDT on July 06, 2007
: Drakoen TWC siad that there is some kind of a low sining a round overe MX where it comes you see the same thing

Link
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114728
140. wunderwomen
6:57 PM EDT on July 06, 2007
we need some new with experience or keep proenza
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139. Drakoen
10:56 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
Bamatracker lol. I was refering to the way the opposing side handled the situation.
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138. Drakoen
10:54 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
I saw this post beofre and i agree

Posted By: bobw999 at 10:30 PM GMT on July 06, 2007.

NOAA doesn't even have a replacement if they were to fire Proenza. This is not the best time to be doing this since the hurricane season is about to get active.

I want you to know that he has not made a hurricane forecast since 1964.
Well than Lixion Avila, why didn't you take the job??


There are many senior forecasters that probabaly are candidates for the job. Step up to the plate.

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137. Bamatracker
10:53 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
Posted By: Drakoen at 10:53 PM GMT on July 06, 2007.

I'm sure the forecasters at the NHC who oppose Bill will get reprimanded. the cycle of life. You can't add fire to fire and expect it to go out...


WEll they certainly can't fire all of them and completely re-staff the center. Thats why I think Bill is as good as gone!


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136. moonlightcowboy
10:52 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
Bama <----------gets MLC vote!!! Go for it!
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29594

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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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