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

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

Sign In or Register Sign In or Register

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 128 - 78

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9Blog Index

127. PSLHokie
10:32 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
There is also an increasing amount of moisture in the area

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
125. PSLHokie
10:25 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
The ULL at 69W 27N appears to be getting some lower level circulation


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?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
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
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
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
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
120. CJ5
10:20 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
Posted By: KEEPEROFTHEGATE at 10:14 PM GMT on July 20, 2007.

That is incorrect. If Dr. M blogs a topic it is appropriate to make comments.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
10:26 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
118. bekroweather
10:23 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
10:20 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
go ahead talk away im just here for weather not politics
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
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.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
10:16 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
yo're always on the attack huh jp
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
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.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
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
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
10:11 PM GMT on July 20, 2007
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
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.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
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)

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
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.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
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.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
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
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
92. WPBHurricane05
5:58 PM EDT on July 20, 2007

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
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
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
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: 37995
81. RL3AO
4:41 PM CDT on July 20, 2007
900, that is just an ULL.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
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.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Viewing: 128 - 78

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9Blog Index

Top of Page
Ad Blocker Enabled

Dr. Jeff Masters' WunderBlog


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

Local Weather

Mostly Cloudy
75 °F
Mostly Cloudy

JeffMasters's Recent Photos

Grizzlies in Lake Clark National Park
Mount Redoubt Lava Dome
Matanuska Glacier
Icebergs From Columbia Glacier