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Transcript of the NHC press conference; QuikSCAT science

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

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

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

Reader Comments

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1085. kmanislander
3:09 AM GMT on July 08, 2007

I get your point too !. Now, can you please resize your image LOL
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1084. kmanislander
3:04 AM GMT on July 08, 2007

No offence taken. I've lived in the islands all my life and have a pretty good feel for what is normal and what isn't. Quiet is normal until the end of July.
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1081. Rodek
3:03 AM GMT on July 08, 2007
Hi folks. Here's my question of the night....

African Dust - I've seen that it alters storm development alot by drying them out. Just how far does this dust travel? Has it ever made it stateside?
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1079. HurricaneGeek
11:02 PM EDT on July 07, 2007
Yeah i didn't wanna seem angry either...just wanted to make a point! sorry if i did
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1078. kmanislander
2:58 AM GMT on July 08, 2007

No problem, I understand your point. Trust me, I don't want a notable event, Ivan was enough for me !
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1076. KoritheMan
9:55 PM CDT on July 07, 2007
It will be quiet.

Just kidding. >_>

kman, sorry for getting mad, it's just everytime I come on here, I see some people saying "This year is boring, it'll be like 2006".

As for stormkat, I'm sure he just says what he says because he has faith that what he says will come true. Granted, this usually does not occur with having faith to believe no tropical cyclones will make landfall (they have every single year), a lot of people do have that, especially when it is something they don't like. Not everything will go as planned just because of faith, though. That much is obvious.

kman, here are some years that started extremely late but had at least one notable event:

1977: Anita
1983: Alicia
1984: Diana
1992: Andrew
1998: Georges, Mitch
1999: Bret, Floyd, Lenny (this year started early with Arlene, but then got CONSIDERABLY slower for TWO months)
2000: Keith
2004: Do I really have to say?

So see, just wait and I'm sure a notable event will occur. I don't WANT it, but it probably will.
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1074. kmanislander
2:46 AM GMT on July 08, 2007

I am not saying it WILL be a quiet year. I know that June and July are typically quiet but I was curious how the current shear and dry air values stacked up against previous years. We will know soon enough what kind of season is in store
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1073. KoritheMan
9:44 PM CDT on July 07, 2007
With conditions as hostile as they are ( shear/ dry air) I wonder if the UK guys may not be on to something with a below average season prediction?

Argh... Why does everyone INSIST on saying 2007 will be a quiet year? 2005 has gotten TOO many people thinking that six storms by July 31 isn't normal......... Even during a...*sigh*...La Nia year, shear and dry air won't just disappear and stay that way forever. They change throughout the year.........
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1071. kmanislander
2:36 AM GMT on July 08, 2007
The real problem with making accurate predictions is that anything more than a week into the future is little more than crystal gazing. We have seen how atmospheric conditions can almost switch on and off ( 2004 was a classic example )and a season can go from no activity to a series of storms and then back to no activity in a matter of weeks.

Weather patterns seem to be undergoing changes that have not been seen before and it is this evolving pattern that seems to be confounding the long range forecasters who rely on history to predict the future
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1070. Dodabear
10:39 PM EDT on July 07, 2007
I personally am very happy with boring.
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1069. HurricaneGeek
10:35 PM EDT on July 07, 2007
Hey..I ve heard many people say that this season is boring...give it a chance ITS JULY and 2 have formed..of course this probly will be no 2005 but...1992 only had 7 names and one of then was andrew!! then ill bet the season is no longer boring!!!
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1068. Dodabear
10:33 PM EDT on July 07, 2007
I don't know enough about it to say, but it seems damn few of the others on this blog, except maybe for the good Dr., figured it out.
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1067. kmanislander
2:32 AM GMT on July 08, 2007

It didn't take much for him to get it right. All he had to do was bet on climatology !
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1066. kmanislander
2:29 AM GMT on July 08, 2007

I know that climatology says that early to mid July is quiet and the Cape Verde season does not get underway until very late July into Aug and Sept. Having said that, has anyone compared current shear levels and dry conditions with previous years ?. It would be interesting to see if what we have now is what usually prevails at this time of year
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1065. Dodabear
10:29 PM EDT on July 07, 2007
Nah, he didn't say that this time. But I find it interesting that he said it with so much confidence and then everyone pooh-poohed him and now it looks like he had it right.
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1064. kmanislander
2:27 AM GMT on July 08, 2007

It is written in stone ! lol
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1062. CJ5
2:15 AM GMT on July 08, 2007
Thanks, Pat

Both were cool. Katrina, at times, was just a beautiful and perfect cane in the pure science sense. The 2005 season was just plain wild.

I would like to figure out how to make complete Sat loops for my files.
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1061. Dodabear
10:23 PM EDT on July 07, 2007
Don't forget folks, StormKat told us so.
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1060. Patrap
9:22 PM CDT on July 07, 2007
One link says it all here..

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1059. Patrap
9:20 PM CDT on July 07, 2007
they been seamen for a long time.This trofiness ioff the east coast..is really wild
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1058. kmanislander
2:13 AM GMT on July 08, 2007
Hey Pat

Snooze time in the tropical ATL
With conditions as hostile as they are ( shear/ dry air) I wonder if the UK guys may not be on to something with a below average season prediction?

If the Colorado boys blow another one can you imagine that ?
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1056. Patrap
9:12 PM CDT on July 07, 2007
Goes-12 Nightime Composite color SSTs..GOM..
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1055. kmanislander
2:10 AM GMT on July 08, 2007
OK I just saw your post to Pat
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2:03 AM GMT on July 08, 2007
east pacific getting interesting looks like two more waves forming still atlantic real quiet almost like a dead zone nuttin maybe for a long time to come very stange in about two weeks we will be coming into august at that time we will have to have 2 storms per week just to make the numbers earler forecasted my guess is a big reduction in numbers come the end of the month
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1053. RL3AO
9:10 PM CDT on July 07, 2007
Katrina loop

2005 loop

Both incredible videos.
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1052. kmanislander
2:06 AM GMT on July 08, 2007

Lets clear up this loop thing. Are you talking about a loop of a storm from day one to when it dissipates ( that is several days or even weeks of loops ) or are you referring to a current loop that may only be the last 6 hrs or so of the storms activity ?
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1051. Patrap
9:08 PM CDT on July 07, 2007
Its Pat..just google Katrina satelitte loops..youll get a zillion
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1050. bobw999
10:07 PM EDT on July 07, 2007
CJ5- I know on Youtube they have a satellite loop of the 2005 season.
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1049. CJ5
2:05 AM GMT on July 08, 2007
Thanks Pap, but I would like to see from begining to end invest to impact.
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1048. RL3AO
9:03 PM CDT on July 07, 2007
I think he was talking about a satellite loop.
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1047. CJ5
2:03 AM GMT on July 08, 2007
If I remember right, Hurricance Bob was pretty loopy...
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1046. Patrap
9:03 PM CDT on July 07, 2007
Hurricane Cindy Local Landfall loop..7 weeks before Katrina

2 years ago tonight. Link
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1045. bobw999
10:04 PM EDT on July 07, 2007
Tropical Storm 04W Rainbow loop
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1044. Patrap
9:02 PM CDT on July 07, 2007
Katrina local landfall radar loop...

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1043. SkulDouggery
1:56 AM GMT on July 08, 2007
Not much weather to talk about,someone start a fight or something!
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1042. bobw999
9:59 PM EDT on July 07, 2007
Tropical Storm 04W AVN loop
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1041. kmanislander
1:58 AM GMT on July 08, 2007

Hurricane 23 would know the answer. He once made a video of all the storms for a season with full loops
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1040. TayTay
1:57 AM GMT on July 08, 2007
Kman's right, they lose all convection after a day of being over the water. Way too early.
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1039. CJ5
1:53 AM GMT on July 08, 2007
I am sure this is probably more of a computer question or maybe there is a site that has it, but is there a way to get a full loop of a storm? I am sure there is a link of Katrina..maybe not..but I would like to see storms this year in complete loop. Is that something I have to personally make or not possible?
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1038. groundman
1:54 AM GMT on July 08, 2007
texascanecaster1 have a good vacation. I predict Chantel will form before you return. To be exact on July 23. My birthday. LOL But since it forms on my birthday if it hits land it's an unpopulated area of the US but it lasts for weeks and weeks so we can all gain knowledge. LOL
And we all lived in a yellow submarine..........
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1037. TayTay
1:55 AM GMT on July 08, 2007
We might have an East Pacific storm. I doubt it will have a long life span since it's getting further and further from ideal SSTs. It's getting fairly organised, though.
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1036. kmanislander
1:53 AM GMT on July 08, 2007
Hurricane 91

If you mean this, well its 10 days away, assuming it survives the trek across the ATL
Most waves coming off this far N just dissipate as soon as they hit water. Too early
in the season

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Cat 6 lead authors: WU cofounder Dr. Jeff Masters (right), who flew w/NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990, & WU meteorologist Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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