Big money for hurricane research for 2009?

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 9:50 PM GMT on March 11, 2008

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the parent organization of the National Weather Service (NWS) and National Hurricane Center (NHC), has just released the President's proposed Fiscal year 2009 (FY 2009) budget. The new $4.1 billion budget is 5.2% larger than the budget enacted for this year, and proposes major new funding for hurricane-related research and operations. If approved by Congress and sustained for the next ten years, the new hurricane research funding offers some real hope that we will finally make headway in improving hurricane intensity forecasts.

$5.3 million in new funding for improving hurricane intensity and track forecasts
The big news in this year's proposed budget is the increased funding for improving hurricane intensity (and track) forecasts. Forecasts of hurricane tracks improved by about 50% in the past 20 years, but intensity forecasts improved very little during that period. In fact, the intensity forecasts issued by NHC in 2007 were poorer than average, thanks to twice as many rapid intensification episodes as usual (recall Felix, Humberto, and Lorenzo). To have any hope of solving the hurricane intensification problem, a major investment in hurricane research is required. In May 2007, the NOAA Executive Council (NEC) established the NOAA Hurricane Forecast Improvement Project (HFIP), a 10-year NOAA effort to accelerate improvements in one to five day forecasts for hurricane track, intensity, storm surge and to reduce forecast uncertainty, with an emphasis on rapid intensity change. The proposed FY 2009 budget allocates $1.04 million to fund this effort, plus another $3.2 million for improving hurricane models such as the new HWRF model (which debuted operationally in 2008). An additional $1 million is proposed for the Numerical Prediction Developmental Testbed Center (DTC), to transfer improvements in hurricane forecast models done in a research setting into operational use by the NHC as quickly as possible.

This proposed $5.3 million in new funding for hurricane research would allow us to increase the resolution of today's current computer hurricane forecast models--currently no better than 9 km--down to 1 km, a scale that can resolve the fine-scale processes that are critical to hurricane intensification. This sort of improvement gives us real hope of being able to solve the hurricane intensity forecast problem. The cost of such an effort could be made up in savings from the reduced evacuation costs from just one major hurricane. For example, the evacuation effort for Hurricane Rita cost over 100 lives and $2 billion. Quoting from the proposed FY 2009 budget document (p. 386):

A case study of Hurricane Rita demonstrates the economic benefits derived from improved forecasting. Typically, a household decision to evacuate is based on the issuance of a hurricane warning and the anticipated storm strength. On early morning of September 22, 2005, a hurricane warning was issued from Port Mansfield, Texas to Cameron, Louisiana. At that time, Hurricane Rita was a Category 4 storm having just been downgraded from a Category 5. Under this scenario, the estimated economic impact of the evacuation was $2.344 billion. Without the initiative, NWS expects a reduction of forecast track and wind speed errors by 10% resulting in 159,000 people remaining home and saving the economy $68.9 million dollars. With the initiative however, NWS could improve forecast track and wind speed errors by 50% and 30% respectively, resulting in 4 million remaining home and saving the economy $1.99 billion dollars. This includes 100 that would have been saved during the evacuation of Houston."

References:
1. Cost of Hurricane Evacuation by Kevin Smith, University of Eastern Carolina, 1999; Opportunity Costs of Hurricane Evacuation by John Whitehead, University of Eastern Carolina, 1999; and Structure of a Hurricane Evacuation by Mike Lindell, Texas A&M University, 2005.

2. Based on 2002 Current Population Estimate and 2002 County Business Patterns from the Bureau of the Census. Probability of Evacuation and average cost from Cost of Hurricane Evacuation by Kevin Smith, University of Eastern Carolina, 1999. The average household will spend $149 during an evacuation and the average business will lose $20,599 in 2006 dollars.


Figure 1. Hurricane Rita approaches the Texas/Louisiana coast on September 23, 2005. Image credit: NASA.

New funding for the Hurricane Hunters
The new budget proposes $4 million in new money for NOAA's weather research aircraft, including the two NOAA P-3 Orion hurricane hunter aircraft. Flight hours would increase by about a factor of two, from 1365 to 2845, and a third NOAA P-3 aircraft would be added for hurricane hunting. The new P-3 is expected to be operational for the coming 2008 hurricane season.

Not all of the money for the NOAA weather research aircraft would go for hurricane-related operations; there would be increased flight hours for winter storms surveillance (125 hours), airborne snow surveys to improve water resource forecasts and improve snow melt flood forecasts (330 hours), and coastal mapping to improve and maintain nautical charts and to improve tsunami inundation modeling (330 hours).

$3 million for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)
The new budget proposes $3 million to fund the use of remote controlled aircraft--Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)--for weather research. Some of this money would go to fund hurricane research. The UAS platforms would also be used for climate change work and studies of Pacific storms that impact the U.S. West Coast. These UAS platforms can go where the Hurricane Hunters cannot--at low altitude in hurricanes--and provide a crucial set of data that can help with forecasts of rapid hurricane intensification.

$3 million for buoys
Another major increase in hurricane-related funding is an additional $3 million to operate the network of 15 open ocean "Hurricane Supplemental data buoys" that provide important measurements of wind speeds, pressure, and wave heights. These buoys had only $1.4 million in funding last year. Real time data from these stations will assist the National Hurricane Center to more accurately determine hurricane formation or dissipation; the extent of tropical hurricane wind circulation; the location and center of hurricanes; direction, height, and distribution of ocean waves generated by hurricanes; the maximum hurricane intensity; and the quality of measurements and estimates obtained from remote-sensing reconnaissance aircraft and satellites. Although this is not as big a deal as the proposed hurricane intensity research funding, it is still a great boost for hurricane forecasters.

Is this too much money for hurricane research and operations?
The President's proposed budget will be modified by both the House and Senate before it becomes law in October. It is possible that some or all of the increased hurricane-related funding could be stripped from the budget. However, it is more likely that additional funding would be added, since Congress has always passed a NOAA budget larger than asked for by President Bush. According to the National Science Board, government funding for hurricane research averaged $20 million between 2001 and 2006, so the proposed addition of another $10 million or so in the FY 2009 budget would represent a huge boost. Is this too much money to spend? Well, considering that the National Science Board advocated creation of a National Hurricane Research Initiative funded at $300 million per year, an extra $10 million per year for hurricane research is not very much.

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, a flu pandemic, and earthquakes. 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 $900 million per year of this goes to run the National Weather Service. The federal budget request for FY 2009 for flu pandemic emergency preparedness is $820 million--about the same amount of money that is spent for the entire National Weather Service! What's really startling is the amount of money spent on bioterrorism emergency preparedness--between $3 and $6 billion per year since 2002, with $4.3 billion requested for 2009. That's over 200 times what we spend on hurricane research, and over ten times the $300 million for hurricane research proposed by the National Science Board. A catastrophic bioterrorism attack on the U.S. may never occur, but catastrophic hurricane strikes are guaranteed. These strikes will occur with increasing frequency in the future, as more people move to the coast and the population increases. A major increase in hurricane research funding will reduce the costs of these future disasters, and is very much in order.

Jeff Masters

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314. pottery
1:31 PM GMT on March 14, 2008
312 post correction--------
the wind shear here has in fact changed direction over the past couple of days, and is now 20 knots from n/w to s/e
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24307
313. TampaSpin
1:14 PM GMT on March 14, 2008
The local Mets didnt think we would get much more than a shower in Tampa, has that changed...good morning everyone. Radar looks alot stronger than a shower.
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20439
312. pottery
1:12 PM GMT on March 14, 2008
The Sahara Air Layer analysis does not show sahara dust here, which is what I thought
The material floating about is most likely haze or smoke.
The jetstream is still strong over here, and blowing from south/west to north/east. It has been doing so for several weeks.
I wonder how long it will continue.

Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24307
311. stoormfury
1:08 PM GMT on March 14, 2008
after a long lay off i am back. looking foreward to the april hurricane forecast by Gray et al
Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 2678
310. pottery
1:00 PM GMT on March 14, 2008
Morning CCHS, I was looking forward to your explanations. Feel well soon .
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24307
309. pottery
12:58 PM GMT on March 14, 2008
Trinidad weather now;
79 f
78% humidity
Visibility 6.2 miles
1015 rising
8;55 am
Some haze, or dust, in the air is affecting the weather locally now, but I am not convinced that it is Sahara dust, I will look at the links.....
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24307
308. cchsweatherman
12:53 PM GMT on March 14, 2008
Good morning all! Sorry to all, but I will not be publishing the report that will explain the predictions I have posted on my site for the upcoming hurricane season today. I have come down with a cold this morning. I'll be around from time to time today.
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5169
307. pottery
12:47 PM GMT on March 14, 2008
Not a single entry since last evening ???
Have you all beamed up, without me ??
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24307
305. KoritheMan
2:32 AM GMT on March 14, 2008
... A Tornado Warning remains in effect until 1000 PM CDT for
southwestern Pushmataha County...

At 920 PM CDT... Weather Service radar continued to indicate a
potentially tornadic thunderstorm with strong low level rotation.
This storm was located near Moyers... moving east at 15 mph. This is a
dangerous storm... a tornado is occurring or could form at any time.

Some locations near the path of this storm include... Moyers...
Kellond... Kosoma... Antlers... snow... Finley... Rattan and Dela.

Nighttime tornadoes are especially dangerous - take cover now! If you
wait until you see or hear it coming... it may be too late to get to a
safe place!

Lat... Lon 3418 9564 3417 9568 3418 9577 3439 9576
3440 9539 3417 9537 3416 9543 3417 9563
time... Mot... loc 0222z 284deg 13kt 3429 9571
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 575 Comments: 20571
304. jimmiek
2:28 AM GMT on March 14, 2008
What are you doing in Aggieland, anyway?

I'm on the faculty. I'll put a web link in your mailbox.
Member Since: July 6, 2005 Posts: 53 Comments: 1016
303. atmoaggie
2:07 AM GMT on March 14, 2008
294. GeoffreyWPB 1:39 AM GMT on March 14, 2008
Bill Grey is a nut case...


He is a bit of a kook, but the vagarities of the statistical forecasts probably have a lot more to do with the variability in the cycle timing and amplitudes of the QBO, AMO, PDO, etc.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
302. KoritheMan
1:58 AM GMT on March 14, 2008


Strong storms making their way into southeastern Louisiana right now. Probably won't be severe inland, though. These storms will probably mainly produce large hail.
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 575 Comments: 20571
301. GeoffreyWPB
1:53 AM GMT on March 14, 2008
On your policy it is called LOSS OF USE
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11151
300. GeoffreyWPB
1:49 AM GMT on March 14, 2008
It is not that expensive and trust me...well worth it!
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11151
298. GeoffreyWPB
1:47 AM GMT on March 14, 2008
To this day..no reason...and I last asked in Janurary.
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11151
297. GeoffreyWPB
1:46 AM GMT on March 14, 2008
It was my fault I did not have additional Home Owners Insurance that covered living somewhere else. For sure I have that now and I encourage everyone to have that.
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11151
295. GeoffreyWPB
1:41 AM GMT on March 14, 2008
I did appeal...and was refused..with no explantion...to this day, i have no idea why...they will not tell me.
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11151
294. GeoffreyWPB
1:39 AM GMT on March 14, 2008
Bill Grey is a nut case...Well wait, I may change my mind in 3 months...then may change it again in 6 months....then may change it again in 9 months....etc.
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11151
292. atmoaggie
1:35 AM GMT on March 14, 2008
For the discussions about the December Bill Gray forecasts see: Link (go down about 2 pages)
The skinny version: This is entirely a statistical forecast, as is the June one. Somewhat like CLIPER, only considers what similar conditions led to in the past. Dynamical forecasts apparently are more of the equation for the August forecast.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
291. GeoffreyWPB
1:35 AM GMT on March 14, 2008
A political ? (Ut Oh) If a Democrat gets elected, can their FEMA Director review all of rejected claims from Katrina, Wilma, etc.? I really got screwed from Wilma while folks down south received benefits for minor, minor damgage. My roof was taken off and I lived in a hotel for four months and received $1,000.
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11151
288. atmoaggie
1:14 AM GMT on March 14, 2008
It gets funnier - I used to work at Stennis (NRL).

There are some things I miss about Stennis, but I don't miss that cafeteria in 1100 :)


OK, weird. I work in 1103, private company, WorldWinds. We did some work in the past for NRL, such as operational COAMPS, which we still run.

We also run ADCIRC constantly.

Amen about the crapeteria, I NEVER eat in 1100, outside of getting a sandwich at the blind-man stand. Thankfully, I also get to work in our Gause Blvd office 2 days a week. Lunch options abound.

Also, I use the NRL oceanographic library at least once a month.

What are you doing in Aggieland, anyway?
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
287. ShenValleyFlyFish
1:09 AM GMT on March 14, 2008
Re Digital portables. I'm betting prices will really go down the closer to the change over due to economies of scale. Think that all the hype is to get folks to by now,
Member Since: September 9, 2007 Posts: 36 Comments: 4687
286. jimmiek
1:08 AM GMT on March 14, 2008
jimmiek, here's the funny. You went there from Bay St L, I now live near Slidell and work at Stennis

It gets funnier - I used to work at Stennis (NRL).

There are some things I miss about Stennis, but I don't miss that cafeteria in 1100 :)
Member Since: July 6, 2005 Posts: 53 Comments: 1016
285. atmoaggie
1:03 AM GMT on March 14, 2008
I was wrong about when the analog TVs could still be sold. The rule is that any TV imported or built domestically after March 1 of this year accept digital signals.

You might want to the converter box, for which you can get a free coupon: Link

If that box has to be plugged in and you were hoping to use a battery powered TV during the season, you might need another plan.

Just found the answer, alas:
"Portable, battery-powered analog TVs may be able to receive over-the-air programming after February 17, 2009 if they have the necessary plugs to allow them to be connected to a digital-to-analog converter box. Because it is not anticipated that battery powered digital-to-analog converter boxes will be produced, an external power source would also be required."
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
284. GeoffreyWPB
12:54 AM GMT on March 14, 2008
I am sorry..I meant to say Digital...they had a report on our local news that the portables we have now will not pick up the signals.
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11151
283. atmoaggie
12:54 AM GMT on March 14, 2008
Yep, Bryan/College Station. I'm in Bryan, just north of University Drive. Not five min from the office, which has a lovely view of the Fatburger on University... :)

NOOOO! I want a fatburger! Not a pretty place, but ~$2.50 for a 1/3 lb fresh burger that you dress yourself (aka Fuddruckers) cannot be beat. You're killin me! (A tip: bury your burger in Cholula...if you like it spicy)

I too lived in Bryan for 3.5 years. I honestly miss it. That area just north of university is the exact center of civilization there. Wonderful for gas mileage...2 miles in any direction and you were in the cow pastures.

jimmiek, here's the funny. You went there from Bay St L, I now live near Slidell and work at Stennis.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
282. GeoffreyWPB
12:49 AM GMT on March 14, 2008
pledges...lets get jfv to pledge not to end his sentences with a ? or a !.
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11151
281. atmoaggie
12:49 AM GMT on March 14, 2008
With all TV signals going hi-def next February

I thought they were just going digital. And I thought all new TVs (in the last few years were required to be able to handle it.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
280. Patrap
12:49 AM GMT on March 14, 2008
Could be a rumbler or two,as they show.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128273
279. Cavin Rawlins
12:48 AM GMT on March 14, 2008
244. NorthxCakalaky 7:04 PM AST on March 13, 2008
How long to hurricane season?


Countdown To Hurricane Season 08

11 Weeks or 79 days
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
278. jimmiek
12:47 AM GMT on March 14, 2008
Is that not College Station?


Yep, Bryan/College Station. I'm in Bryan, just north of University Drive. Not five min from the office, which has a lovely view of the Fatburger on University... :)
Member Since: July 6, 2005 Posts: 53 Comments: 1016
277. surfmom
12:47 AM GMT on March 14, 2008
hurrican23 I am here, LOL, just didn't want to jump into the pool today - the boys are making waves LOL. Now I'm off G'night
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
276. atmoaggie
12:47 AM GMT on March 14, 2008
Pat, SPC expects us to hear thunder tonight. Maybe I'll put the WX radio on standby.

Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
275. lindenii
12:45 AM GMT on March 14, 2008
Shen,

I concurr.

I likewise remove you from the ignore list and I agree to your pledge as well.
274. atmoaggie
12:45 AM GMT on March 14, 2008
Aggieland, TX

Is that not College Station?
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
273. jimmiek
12:43 AM GMT on March 14, 2008
How did things works out? Did you all have to leave town and if so where did you go to live. Did you get any assistance from local agencies or was it a got it alone sort of deal?


Our house was flooded but still standing. We repaired the house to the extent possible, then sold it and left. Though I'm not from the area, we'd been there 11 years. It was sad to go, but life is about moving on.

We are now in what is known as Aggieland, TX. Been here almost 2 years and like it a lot.
Member Since: July 6, 2005 Posts: 53 Comments: 1016
272. GeoffreyWPB
12:40 AM GMT on March 14, 2008
Kinda off topic....With all TV signals going hi-def next February...all of our portable TV's will be of no use during the 2009 Hurricane Season. Searching online, I have found DVD-Hi-Def combos...Does anyone know if they are making just HI-Def portables at this time?
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11151
271. surfmom
12:38 AM GMT on March 14, 2008
Hurricanman - post 257 - brilliant!
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
270. atmoaggie
12:37 AM GMT on March 14, 2008
Well done Shen. And well said.

I'm in.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
269. atmoaggie
12:37 AM GMT on March 14, 2008
Very cool H-man!
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
268. ShenValleyFlyFish
12:28 AM GMT on March 14, 2008
245. lindenii

I have taken you off ignore since I cannot get away from your posts impact on the blog. I challenge you to refrain from causing the strife you did at the end of the last season. This is a site that is relied upon by folks making serious decisions during the "season". It behooves us all to check our egos and pet theories at the door. For my part I pledge to do my best.
Member Since: September 9, 2007 Posts: 36 Comments: 4687
267. lindenii
12:25 AM GMT on March 14, 2008
jimmiek

Holy cow!!!

I just took a look at your photo gallery and all I can say is OMG. I am reminded of something I always say to myself when things are bad. "I felt sorry for myself because I had no shoes, until I met someone with no feet.'

I felt sorry for myself before and after Wilma; looking at your pictures, I now know that I should just forget about it because you had it much much worse.

How did things works out? Did you all have to leave town and if so where did you go to live. Did you get any assistance from local agencies or was it a got it alone sort of deal?
265. lindenii
12:17 AM GMT on March 14, 2008
262. jimmiek 7:05 PM EST on March 13, 2008

I boarded up a lot when I lived on the MS Gulf Coast. Pulling the trigger on a hurricane plan is a big decision. You know what to do but starting the process is another matter. Not only that, but what you do affects your neighbors as well. Every time I started the boarding up process, cars would slow down and look thoughtfully. If there was a couple in the car, there was usually argument. And buying plywood when a hurricane was in the Gulf was just asking for dirty looks.

And boarding up is hard. I had a two story house with windows whose screens jutted out from the frame about 1/4". This meant that I couldn't just slap a piece of plywood up against the window. I had to install rails on each shutter so that the shutter would envelop the entire screen. For Ivan I was still adding the last few shutters as tropical storm force winds were starting to gust. And I started a day and a half earlier.

Then you have to see about evacuating, if you decide to or are ordered to. Find a hotel or some family or friends. If a shelter is your only option, what about pets? What are they going to do?

A hurricane plan is a necessary component of life on the coast. But with all that entails, I can see where it would take a weatherman having a stroke on live TV to get people moving.

****************

Here in Naples, the code now requires the builder to include all the window protection as part of the home. Makes you feel kind of strange when you see all that stuff in the garage and realize that you will likely have to use it someday. Yet it also makes you feel all warm and fuzzy cause you know that you will be protected when the time comes.

It also helps to know that your windows are rated to 135 mph+ and that the garage doors are rated to 155 mph+ as well. Shoot, even my shed out back is rated and certified to 165 mph+. I even thought of sticking it out in a really bad storm in the shed. Wilma only hit about 105 at our house and the house just shuddered and the trees bent double. We were standing outside under our deck a couple of times when the gusts got real bad and forced us back into the house.

Worst part was being without electricity for almost three days...sure was glad to not have to hear that awful generator going out back.
264. hurricane23
12:16 AM GMT on March 14, 2008
Are we going back to what drove me almost to the leave this blog for good last year???Remember we are all here to learn from each other through difficult times wheather its weather related or what ever it maybe come on folks dont start this again.Hopefully come tropical season the real posters that have been on WU for years will come out cause its those folks i truly enjoy blogging with.There is not need to be rude or disrespectful towards anyone on jeff masters blog.There's just NO room for that here. Adrian
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13786

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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.