QuikSCAT science at yesterday's hearing

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 8:22 PM GMT on July 20, 2007

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Dr. Robert Atlas, director of the NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory--the parent organiztion of NOAA's Hurricane Research Division--testified at yesterday's Congressional hearing, on the science of QuikSCAT. In his written testimony, Dr. Atlas presented a good summary of QuikSCAT science:

There are three studies that address the potential degradation to computer hurricane forecasts that might result from the loss of QuikSCAT. Each of these studies has limitations that prevent definitive conclusions, and additional studies are needed. In my opinion, the preponderance of evidence from the three studies indicates that computer model forecasts of landfalling hurricanes, especially in the 2-5-day time range, could be degraded if we do not mitigate the loss effectively. Forecasters at the NHC are able to improve upon the computer forecasts, so that the potential degradation can be diminished. This is especially true as the storms are approaching land in the shorter time ranges. In addition, NOAA has recently developed an effective mitigation plan that would make substantial use of other satellites as well as enhanced aircraft observations.

I was pleased to see Dr. Atlas mentioning many of the uncertainties I've been drawing attention to. In his verbal comments, he offered a theory as to why the study done using the Navy NOGAPS model showed little effect of QuikSCAT on hurricane track forecasts. The NOGAPS model inserts a "bogus" vortex where a tropical cyclone exists, and this bogus vortex is resistant to modification by winds from QuikSCAT. The GFS model, used in the QuikSCAT study Bill Proenza cited, does not do vortex bogusing.

Dr. Atlas was not questioned about the uncertainties of QuikSCAT's impact on hurricane track forecasts, which surprised me. The general consensus among Congress members seemed to be that QuikSCAT was a valuable enough satellite that it deserved to be replaced, regardless of whether Mr. Proenza exaggerated its importance or not. No one talked about the need to cut any hurricane funding to pay for QuikSCAT, and a number of Congressmen thought we should be spending more. Congressman Ehlers (R-Michigan) said, "I think we have given short shrift to NOAA and its satellite program, considering how much is spent on the satellite programs for the Department of Defense, Global Positioning System, and NASA."

QuikSCAT science in the independent panel's report
The independent panel sent by NOAA to investigate management problems at the National Hurricane Center talked extensively about QuikSCAT (Attachment 9 of the written testimony of the administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Conrad Lautenbacher). The report said that mistrust of Bill Proenza by the staff was, in part, caused by disagreements about the science of QuikSCAT:

"Statements by the director about the limited lifetime of the QuikSCAT satellite and the resulting impact on forecasts--made without context or caveat--raised public doubt about the center's ability to perform its mission and distracted center staff from doing their jobs."
And: One senior hurricane specialist noted that the director repeatedly quoted him out of context about the potential impact of QuikSCAT's loss even after the director was told that he was in error.

Had I been a senior forecaster at the NHC, I would have raised the same issues, and spoken out against the misrepresentation of the QuikSCAT science that occurred. The director of the NHC must be honest with the uncertainties in the science if he is to be entrusted with the most important job in weather.

Jeff Masters

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128. texascanecaster1
10:30 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
can ask some of you specifcally the ones bickering with keeper of the gate wtf your problem is??? Cant we all just talk about weather NOT POLITICS! and get along???

also psl....
i do not know the situation is similar to what happend with andrea. i imaging if anything comes out of this it will be a subtropical storm.
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127. PSLHokie
10:32 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
There is also an increasing amount of moisture in the area

http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/goes/east/carb/loop-wv.html
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125. PSLHokie
10:25 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
The ULL at 69W 27N appears to be getting some lower level circulation

http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/show_plot.php?station=41043&meas=pres&uom=E
and
http://cimss.ssec.wisc.edu/tropic/real-time/atlantic/winds/wg8vor4.html

Also, the pressures at buoy 41043 appear to be dropping (due to the wave passing over being eaten by the ULL)

Is it possible this ULL will try to convert to warm core?
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123. charliesurvivor
10:24 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
I enjoy everybodys input,its better than watching our local weathermen,if everybody keeps their egos in check
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122. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
10:27 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
hey jp no hard feelings ur all really a great bunch of people but sometimes the politics just goes on far to long
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120. CJ5
10:20 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
Posted By: KEEPEROFTHEGATE at 10:14 PM GMT on July 20, 2007.
WHEN USING THE BLOG ONLY ITEMS RELATING TO TROPICAL WEATHER ARE ALLOWED


That is incorrect. If Dr. M blogs a topic it is appropriate to make comments.
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119. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
10:26 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
no
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118. bekroweather
10:23 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
KEEPEROFTHEGATE, are you STORMTOP?
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116. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
10:20 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
go ahead talk away im just here for weather not politics
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114. cchsweatherman
10:19 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
I think that we should all just keep an eye on the wave emerging off Africa. It appears to have some circulation with it. I do agree that the southern part of the Caribbean wave could develop, but it is somewhat unlikely. This is all setting up for the big show.
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112. MichaelSTL
5:19 PM CDT on July 20, 2007
I think that normal fluctuations due to the tidal effect of the Sun and Moon, just as they affect the oceans, as well as diurnal heating (warm air is less dense and lighter than cold air, this effect is more pronounced over continents, like around here):

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109. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
10:16 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
yo're always on the attack huh jp
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108. nash28
10:17 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
Water temp off Clearwater Beach- 92 degrees
Member Since: July 11, 2005 Posts: 190 Comments: 16972
107. CJ5
10:13 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
Posted By: Fshhead at 8:45 PM GMT on July 20, 2007.
yea Rappaport that's right Thanx, WP!!!! He is the one who should have gotten the position in the 1st place. Usually does not go well promoting out of the "loop" lol


No one in the "loop" wanted the job. We can all see why, now.
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106. MichaelSTL
5:15 PM CDT on July 20, 2007
WHEN USING THE BLOG ONLY ITEMS RELATING TO TROPICAL WEATHER ARE ALLOWED

Or this:

QuikSCAT science at yesterday's hearing

When using Dr. Masters' blog, please refrain from posting material not relevant to the discussion of tropical weather, or the topic of the blog entry itself.
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104. 900MB
10:13 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
Not to obsess, but latest Yucatan readings show another pressure drop over the past hour to 29.89 (1012):

Wind Direction (WDIR): ENE ( 70 deg true )
Wind Speed (WSPD): 9.7 kts
Wind Gust (GST): 11.7 kts
Wave Height (WVHT): 3.0 ft
Dominant Wave Period (DPD): 4 sec
Average Period (APD): 4.1 sec
Atmospheric Pressure (PRES): 29.89 in
Pressure Tendency (PTDY): -0.04 in ( Falling )
Air Temperature (ATMP): 85.5 °F
Water Temperature (WTMP): 86.4 °F
Dew Point (DEWP): 76.1 °F
Heat Index (HEAT): 95.4 °F
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101. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
10:11 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
WHEN USING THE BLOG ONLY ITEMS RELATING TO TROPICAL WEATHER ARE ALLOWED
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100. CJ5
10:09 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
....made without context or caveat--raised public doubt about the center's ability to perform its mission and distracted center staff from doing their jobs

The centers staff were much more distracted by thier own dislike for Proenza than any thing he had done himself.
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99. JFLORIDA
10:09 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
All ULLs don't seem to be created equally, some act more like tropical jets I notice.

BUT - These out there now seem to be unusually similar and lower level perhaps, and, why are there so many?

I didn’t know the Ocean Prediction Center had their own products. They have nice maps.
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98. guygee
10:07 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
Two other things that Dr. Atlas said at the hearing yesterday:

-QuickSCAT was superior to other satellite systems for detecting cyclogenesis

-Three forecasters at the Ocean Prediction Center told him that QuickSCAT was "The best tool they have".

From my recollection of Conrad Lautenbacher's testimony yesterday I am under the impression that he believes that remote sensing of the surface wind vector field is important to forecasting accuracy, and that failure of QuickSCAT will lead to a degradation in forecasting track accuracy, even after the implementation of the mitigation plan that includes increased aerial reconnaissance, use of ASCAT for estimating surface wind vector fields, and 4 new buoys. Lautenbacher admitted under questioning that ASCAT data is not currently being used for model input, so that part of the mitigation plan is not currently operational should QuickSCAT fail anytime soon.

Perhaps the real issue here is not the man, Bill Proenza, but the abject failure of NOAA and NASA to deploy an advanced replacement for QuickSCAT that is well beyond it's expected lifetime and may fail in the middle of a dangerous hurricane season. Bill Proenza made it his mission to call this inexcusable failure to the public's attention, and even though the man is gone the message remains. I think Dr. Masters would agree that even if Proenza went beyond the current state of the science with his statements, that the science is far from complete, and that remote sensing of surface winds most likely makes a significant contribution to accuracy in tropical and ocean storm forecasting in regards to cyclogenesis, track accuracy and intensity.

Some further discussion from Ocean Winds (somewhat outdated, from June 2005, but still interesting):

"The late-April National Research Council report on the state of NASA's Earth science program mentioned six important missions that were in dire budget straits due to NASA's misplaced emphasis on sending humans back to the dead Moon rather than learn more about our own changing planet. Earlier I've covered Global Precipitation Measurement, which aims to measure rainfall over the bulk of the planet, and the GIFTS mission, which would demonstrate new technology for more detailed and more accurate measurements of atmospheric temperature and water vapor. Despite their great potential for directly benefiting our lives through improved weather forecasting, climate prediction, and more, the former has been delayed until 2010, while the latter has been canceled."

"Another canceled mission is called "Ocean Vector Winds." Its goal is simple: to measure the speed and direction of winds over the ocean surface. What does this data buy us? Apparently, quite a lot: improved weather forecasts and storm warnings; improved knowledge of air-sea interactions and ocean circulation and thus improved climate models; and the possibility of more accurate El Nino forecasts. El Nino, as many know, is the phenomenon, driven by changes in air and ocean circulation in the equatorial Pacific, that leads to drastic disruptions of normal climate patterns every few years, with corresponding drastic disruptions to the lives of many millions of people."
[...]
"Aren't there satellites that are already gathering this data for us? Yes, there is currently one such satellite, a NASA satellite called QuikSCAT that carries a scatterometer instrument called SeaWinds. QuickSCAT was launched in 1999 as a quick replacement for NSCAT, which had prematurely failed a couple years earlier after a short, but successful, mission."

"QuikSCAT has continued NSCAT's successes, while avoiding its premature death. A forecaster from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction's Tropical Prediction Center is quoted in the NRC report saying that "without QuikSCAT they would be forecasting in the dark." QuikSCAT not only hasn't failed, but is now three years beyond its designed lifetime. Since it won't last forever, what comes next?"

"Its first followup, SeaWinds on ADEOS-II, followed the unfortunate path of NSCAT and failed in 2003 after only a few months of operation. And now the other followup, Ocean Vector Winds, originally scheduled for launch in 2008, has been canceled by NASA."
[...]
(much more to read on linked page)


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97. CJ5
10:07 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
Posted By: aggie17 at 9:17 PM GMT on July 20, 2007.
So why don't all the Bush bashing posts get yanked?


Good question. I am here for tropical discussions but when four or five anti-Bush or anti-war posts get made it is impossible not to respond.
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96. 900MB
10:05 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
WPB..That's the one! You may think I'm nuts, but keep a close eye on it..we'll see..nice graphic btw, thanks.
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95. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
9:58 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
just checkin in i see soup starting to bubble all over the place action soon stay tuned won't be long now activity on the increase last few days, real kicker comes by the end of the month once we move into peak hurricane period of aug 1 to oct 1
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94. JFLORIDA
9:59 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
I can’t believe there is not more going on in the Caribbean today especially after yesterday’s show.
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92. WPBHurricane05
5:58 PM EDT on July 20, 2007
900MB

Is the circle area what you are talking about?



If so that is an ULL. Like I said no development.
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
91. texascanecaster1
9:58 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
900 that is ull it will not do anything. However go to coordinates 70 west 17 north you will see two new blobs on at those corrdinates another further sw. those could do something.
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90. 900MB
9:52 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
Just a couple degrees South and East of the Buoy in the Yucatan Basin ((20N, 85 W)
Here's the buoy: http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/station_page.php?station=42056
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89. JFLORIDA
9:52 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
Even though I act like I do it all the time I extremely rarely flag anyone’s posts -- Just usually those that are condescending and/or unnecessarily harsh and offer no “out” or conversational and factual means of resolution.

People should see when they say something inappropriate and take care of it themselves, way before the fastest admin can get to it.
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88. texascanecaster1
9:52 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
hmm. coughcoughstormkatcoughcough.
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87. MichaelSTL
4:47 PM CDT on July 20, 2007
Bloggers can't delete other bloggers post. Only on there own blog. It was one of the admin.

Actually, we can delete other's comments in a way - by clicking on the button, which reports the comment to the admin (I don't know who reported his comments though).
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86. texascanecaster1
9:50 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
no sammy wave go bye bye.
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85. IKE
4:43 PM CDT on July 20, 2007
900....I was quoting a discussion on the wave to the east of the Yucatan ULL(which will not develop).

The wave itself might develop some as it moves WNW....the models I've looked at show plentiful moisture in the western Caribbean in the next 2 to 3 days.

Also, on the latest TWO, they mentioned the southern portion of the wave...the Caribbean portion. They didn't do that on the earlier, late morning, TWO.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
84. sammywammybamy
5:43 PM EDT on July 20, 2007
Hey what happend to the blob?is it still there?
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83. JFLORIDA
9:31 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
Ok Dr M – not that it matters because no one probably cares what I think but I will concede a point to the NHC forecasters on the QuickScat impact overstatement issue. I changed my mind.

public doubt about the center's ability to perform its mission
- That broad statement has a many interconnected parts deserves a few blogs and a lot more thought and discussion.

Still just under the waves there seems to be other currents in the NHC storm, however, varying from many completely unrelated to the QuickScat issue to a small few inherently connected and inseparable from it.

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82. texascanecaster1
9:43 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
RL3ao we will know in a second what he is lookin at.
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81. RL3AO
4:41 PM CDT on July 20, 2007
900, that is just an ULL.
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80. texascanecaster1
9:39 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
900 please list the coordinates of the feature you are looking at.
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79. 900MB
9:36 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
Thanks Ike and Texas...
That little tiny bugger South of Cuba has been spinning for the past couple of days with on and off convection. Not much convection now, but pressures are starting to drop on Yucatan Buoy...who knows, it's been a slow day and I keep thinking the next TD will come out of that (hot water) area.
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78. texascanecaster1
9:35 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
000
ABNT20 KNHC 202115
TWOAT
TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
530 PM EDT FRI JUL 20 2007

FOR THE NORTH ATLANTIC...CARIBBEAN SEA AND THE GULF OF MEXICO...

CLOUDINESS AND SHOWERS EXTENDING FROM THE CENTRAL CARIBBEAN SEA
NORTHEASTWARD INTO THE ATLANTIC FOR SEVERAL HUNDRED MILES ARE
ASSOCIATED WITH AN UPPER-LOW INTERACTING WITH WITH A WESTWARD
MOVING TROPICAL WAVE. UPPER-LEVEL WINDS ARE NOT CONDUCIVE FOR
DEVELOPMENT AT THIS TIME...BUT ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS COULD
BECOME A LITTLE MORE FAVORABLE IN A DAY OR TWO.

ELSEWHERE...TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION IS NOT EXPECTED DURING THE
NEXT 48 HOURS.

$$
FORECASTER AVILA



....
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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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