QuikSCAT science at yesterday's hearing

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

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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178. charley04survivor
11:34 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
Since when has TWC known much of anything?
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177. cajngranny
11:34 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
Posted By: clwstmchasr
How do I know? My wife is due that day with our 3rd child.....

LOL my experience was the storms came 5-6 wks later, the new baby slept all night for the first time, mom didn't
11:31 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
in fact if iam not mistaken weather is the copulation of many indiviuals observations compile into a resonable projection of the weather and its outcome
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 195 Comments: 62878
174. KoritheMan
6:33 PM CDT on July 20, 2007
Not a chance Murko

TWC says a surface low could develop with it eventually.
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 617 Comments: 22390
173. Murko
11:30 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
Thanks Charlie. JP, don't be a child, if someone upsets you, ignore them. Taz said the same thing a few days ago, but was grown up enough to ignore the flames. I like your posts and think you bring a lot to this blog.
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11:27 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
jp not meant for u but for us all including myself sometimes we all sound like we know to much we should really be understanding and allow everyone the chance to express there view including u jp
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 195 Comments: 62878
168. charley04survivor
11:29 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
Not a chance Murko
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167. moonlightcowboy
11:27 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
Jp, don't do that "leaving act" again, please. I respect your opinions, just respect mine is all I'm saying.

You're a great caster, hang on and hang out!!! This is fun. Don't take any of that crap personally! It's not worth it.

Whaddya say, truce...and let's get back to the tropics. Friend? I'm good if you are!!!
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29641
165. charley04survivor
11:26 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
jp, I agree with you.
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163. charley04survivor
11:25 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
I would love to see them all replaced.
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161. Tazmanian
4:24 PM PDT on July 20, 2007
wow we dont have a cat 5 hurricane out there and this blog is going mad
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157. charley04survivor
11:18 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
Agreed Boca.
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155. moonlightcowboy
11:15 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
Jp, our discussion stopped being a debate when you said I was "bashing" Proenza.

I simply stated my humble opinion in the early on; but after that, it was less than a debate. You disputed my conclusions of ineffective leadership, QS lobbying methods and doubted my statements by saying there was no proof to them. When the facts I stated are completely and totally already on the record.

If you can't take it, don't dish it out. I like you just fine, Jp; but, if there's going to be an "honorable" debate, or discussion on the matter, the way to handle it is to just state opinions and NOT argue that someone is being "bashful", argumentative, or mis-stating facts.
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29641
154. BocaReader
11:17 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
Looks like Bill Proenza comes out on top and even takes home the bacon.

It is time for Mr. Masters to either resign for making a fool of weatherunderground or get back to talking weather, which he may know something about.
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153. NRAamy
4:15 PM PDT on July 20, 2007
gee, thanks bobw!!!!!!
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150. moonlightcowboy
11:13 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
I'm glad Proenza is gone, and I'll be glad when the out-of-touch, ole boy's gone from this blog, too!
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29641
149. bobw999
7:12 PM EDT on July 20, 2007
Dont blame me MLC. The only post I today was NRAamy seizure man.
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148. Alec
7:10 PM EDT on July 20, 2007
Some individual blogs have GREAT weather info too.....to escape this blog's insanity, you could go there...
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147. flaboyinga
11:07 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
I was watching a line of thunderstorms move across
SE Ga on the NWS radar and suddenly I thought I
thought I was gonna get a tree through my roof. If anyone wants the wind, I'll keep the rain and you can have the wind.
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146. charley04survivor
11:11 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
If Dr. Masters wants to criticize anyone, it should be Bush and his administration. Bush's war has taken away funds from everything in America, including weather technology.
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145. charley04survivor
11:10 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
Dodabear, who died and make you king?
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144. moonlightcowboy
11:08 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
I see Proenza is still moderating the blog.

Politics-weather; politics-weather....going to stop, going to another blog...yeah, yeah, whatEVER.

Well, I talked about the Doc's blog and my posts got pulled. Go figure...didn't sit well with a few. It's hard to have an "opposing" political view here without getting blasted.
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29641
139. scwindsaloft
10:46 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
Never mind...Thanks JP
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138. scwindsaloft
10:43 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
Question to all...Did that ULL last night help that wave to outflow as it did? Or did it inhibit it?
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137. Tazmanian
3:44 PM PDT on July 20, 2007
i 2nd that
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135. Tazmanian
3:43 PM PDT on July 20, 2007
your all ways welcome to my blog texascanecaster1
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134. charley04survivor
10:43 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
I am tired of this topic Dr. Masters.
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133. PSLHokie
10:40 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
Yep JP I was watching that wave as well yesterday. I guess the main problem is that the ULL inhibits good outflow needed for tropical development.

Well, I'm new at looking at all this. But It'll be interesting to watch for me at least...
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10:32 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
make a comment yes CJ5 but not write a book
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 195 Comments: 62878

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Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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