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NHC director Bill Proenza under fire

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 2:04 PM GMT on June 18, 2007

New National Hurricane Center director Bill Proenza is in hot water for his outspoken criticism of his bosses, according to Miami Herald stories published in the past few days. The acting head of the National Weather Service, Mary Glackin, visited his office in Miami Friday and handed him a three-page letter of reprimand. Proenza shared the contents of the letter with his staff and the media, a pretty gutsy move for a guy just appointed to the job. However, Proenza's boss, Ms. Glackin, is on the job for just a few more months--on September 2, Jack Hayes takes over as boss of the National Weather Service. Proenza can probably get away with his criticism of his bosses while there a major shake up at the top. See the View From the Surface blog this week for further speculations, and for any follow-up articles that might be published on this topic.

Figure 1. The NASA QuikSCAT satellite. Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory.

Replacement for the aging QuikSCAT satellite?
Proenza has been particularly outspoken in his desire to see a replacement for the aging QuikSCAT satellite, which measures surface winds over remote ocean areas, and has been credited with improving 72-hour hurricane track forecasts by 16%. His comments may be having an effect. On May 24, the improved Hurricane Tracking and Forecasting Act of 2007 (Senate Bill S. 1509) was introduced before the Senate. The bill, introduced by Sen. Landrieu, D-LA, and co-sponsored by John Kerry and Florida's two senators, asks for $375 million to build a replacement for the QuikSCAT satellite. Bravo to Mr. Proenza for speaking out on this important issue! Some excepts from the bill:

(5) The QuikSCAT satellite was built in just 12 months and was launched with a 3-year design life, but continues to perform per specifications, with its backup transmitter, as it enters into its 8th year--5 years past its projected lifespan.

(6) The QuikSCAT satellite provides daily coverage of 90 percent of the world's oceans, and its data has been a vital contribution to National Weather Service forecasts and warnings over water since 2000.

(7) Despite its continuing performance, the QuikSCAT satellite is well beyond its expected design life and a replacement is urgently needed because, according to the National Hurricane Center, without the QuikSCAT satellite--

(A) hurricane forecasting would be 16 percent less accurate 72 hours before hurricane landfall and 10 percent less accurate 48 hours before hurricane landfall resulting in--

(i) with a 16 percent loss of accuracy at 72 hours before landfall, the area expected to be under hurricane danger would rise from 197 miles to 228 miles on average; and

(ii) with a 10 percent loss of accuracy at 48 hours before landfall, the area expected to be under hurricane danger would rise from 136 miles to 150 miles on average; and

(B) greater inaccuracy of this type would lead to more `false alarm' evacuations along the Gulf Coast and Atlantic Coast and decrease the possibility of impacted populations sufficiently heeding mandatory evacuations.

The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and awaits consideration there. The Chair of that committee is Senator Inouye from hurricane-prone Hawaii, so the bill has a decent chance of making it out of committee to the Senate floor. If your senator is on the committee, please write them to let them know what you think about the bill:

Chairman Daniel K. Inouye (HI)
John D. Rockefeller, IV (WV)
John F. Kerry (MA)
Byron L. Dorgan (ND)
Barbara Boxer (CA)
Bill Nelson (FL)
Maria Cantwell (WA)
Frank R. Lautenberg (NJ)
Mark Pryor (AR)
Thomas Carper (DE)
Claire McCaskill (MO)
Amy Klobuchar (MN)

Vice Chairman Ted Stevens (AK)
John McCain (AZ)
Trent Lott (MS)
Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX)
Olympia J. Snowe (ME)
Gordon H. Smith (OR)
John Ensign (NV)
John E. Sununu (NH)
Jim DeMint (SC)
David Vitter (LA)
John Thune (SD)

There is no activity in the tropical Atlantic worth mentioning, and none of the computer models are forecasting any development over the coming week. I'll have a new blog on Wednesday.

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.