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Bill Read to retire as director of the National Hurricane Center

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 4:28 PM GMT on January 16, 2012

Bill Read, the director of the National Hurricane Center (NHC) since 2008, announced Saturday that he will be retiring on June 1, ending four and one-half years as the nation's most visible meteorologist. Read took the post of NHC director after Bill Proenza stepped down following a stormy six-month tenure where much of staff revolted against him. In the wake of the turmoil stirred up by Proenza, Read brought stability to the Hurricane Center. Conversations I've had with staff at NHC indicated that Read was an excellent manager of people, and was well-respected among his employees. His management ability, easy-going style, and solid communication skills made Read an excellent choice for director of NHC, and he will be missed. “I will have been in charge just shy of four and a half years on June 1,” Read wrote in a letter to hurricane center staff . “I had no idea I would ever be considered for such an honor. It’s been quite a ride and I’m blessed to hit the exit ramp in my career after working with you all.”

Previously, Read served as director of Houston's National Weather Service office, a post he took in 1992. Read was called in to work at NHC three times between 1992 and 2005 to help out with hurricane emergencies. Prior to his job in Houston, Read served in the U.S. Navy, where his duties included an assignment as an on-board meteorologist with the Hurricane Hunters. He began his career in 1977 with the National Weather Service test and evaluation division in Sterling, VA.

Figure 1. Bill Read at the National Hurricane Center forecast desk. Image credit: NOAA.

National Hurricane Center Directors:
Gordon Dunn, 1965 - 1967
Robert Simpson, 1967 - 1973
Neil Frank, 1973 - 1987
Bob Sheets, 1987 - 1995
Robert Burpee, 1995 - 1997
Jerry Jarrell, 1998 - 2000
Max Mayfield, 2000 - 2007
Bill Proenza, January - July, 2007
Ed Rappaport (interim), July 2007 - January 2008
Bill Read, 2008 - 2012

Who will the next director of NHC be?
The retirement of Bill Read means that a search for NHC's eleventh director must be complete before hurricane season arrives. While I haven't had time to ask them if they are interested, here are four candidates who would make excellent directors of NHC:

Dr. Ed Rappaport, Deputy Director of NHC since 2000. Dr. Rappaport served as interim director of NHC during the hurricane season of 2007, and did a great job. He did not want to be the permanent director, though, and it is uncertain if would want the position now. In a Q and A interview posted on the NHC web site last year, Dr. Rappaport said, "The responsibilities are immense and, to date, the circumstances have not been right for me to be the director full time. But I will consider it the next time the opportunity arises. For such a critical position, one which has such important responsibilities, great visibility, many challenges and the long periods of travel, everything has to be aligned right within your professional and personal life to make the commitment that is required to do the job well." I have to believe that if he wants the job, the next director of NHC will be Ed Rappaport.

James Franklin, Branch Chief of the NHC Hurricane Specialists Unit. Since 2008, Franklin has been responsible for the quality of hurricane forecasts coming out of NHC, a tough, high-pressure job that he has handled remarkably well. Before arriving at NHC, Mr. Franklin worked as a hurricane research scientist for NOAA's Hurricane Research Division.

Dr. Chris Landsea, NHC Science and Operations Officer since 2005. Between 1995 - 2004, Dr. Landsea worked as a hurricane research scientist for NOAA's Hurricane Research Division. Dr. Landsea has testified in front of Congress several times on the issue of hurricanes and global warming, and has excellent public communication skills.

Dr. Rick Knabb, tropical weather expert for the Weather Channel. Dr. Knabb served as a senior hurricane specialist at NHC from 2005 - 2008, then took a position as deputy director and director of operations of the Central Pacific Hurricane Center (CPHC) and NWS Forecast Office in Honolulu, Hawaii. In 2010, he joined the Weather Channel.

Jeff Masters

Hurricane Politics

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.