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QuikSCAT replacement funded; NWS fires former NHC director Proenza

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 2:20 PM GMT on February 04, 2013

In November 2009, one of the greatest success stories in the history of satellite meteorology came to an end when the venerable QuikSCAT satellite failed. Launched in 1999, the QuikSCAT satellite became one of the most useful and controversial meteorological satellites ever to orbit the Earth. It carried a scatterometer--a radar instrument that can measure near-surface wind speed and direction over the ocean. Forecasters world-wide came to rely on QuikSCAT wind data to issue timely warnings and make accurate forecasts of tropical and extratropical storms, wave heights, sea ice, aviation weather, iceberg movement, coral bleaching events, and El Niño. Originally expected to last just 2 - 3 years, QuikSCAT made it past ten, a testament to the skill of the engineers that designed the satellite. Last week, though, NASA announced that a new QuikSCAT-like instrument called ISS-RapidScat will be launched in 2014 on a SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft, and installed on the International Space Station (ISS.) In a clever reuse of hardware originally built to test parts of NASA's QuikScat satellite, the cost of the new instrument will be much lower than any previous scatterometer launched into orbit.


Figure 1. Artist's rendering of NASA's ISS-RapidScat instrument (inset), which will launch to the International Space Station in 2014 to measure ocean surface wind speed and direction and help improve weather forecasts, including hurricane monitoring. It will be installed on the end of the station's Columbus laboratory. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/JSC

Alternatives to QuikSCAT
Three valuable alternatives to QuikSCAT are available, but none are as good as QuikSCAT was. There's the European ASCAT satellite, launched in 2007. Like QuikSCAT, ASCAT can measure global wind speed and direction twice per day. However, ASCAT covers only 60% of the area covered by QuikSCAT, which saw a swath of ocean 1800 km wide. ASCAT sees two parallel swaths 550 km wide, separated by a 720 km gap. I find it frustrating to use ASCAT to monitor tropical storms, since the passes miss the center of circulation of a storm of interest more than half the time. On the plus side, ASCAT has the advantage that the data is not adversely affected by rain, unlike QuikSCAT. The other main alternative is the OSCAT instrument, which was sent into orbit on September 23, 2009, on the ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) Oceansat-2 satellite. Like QuikSCAT, the OSCAT has a swath 1800 km wide that covers 90% of Earth's area every 24 hours. The winds at the edge of the swath are not as accurate as the ones in the middle. Moderate and heavy rain cause bogus winds that can be up to 45 mph too high. The resolution is not as high--25 km, versus the 12.5 km resolution of QuikSCAT and ASCAT. The third option is the Windsat instrument aboard the Coriolis satellite (launched in 2003), which measures wind speed and wind direction using a different technique. Evaluation of these data at NHC and NOAA's Ocean Prediction Center (OPC) shown the winds to be unreliable in and around tropical storms.


Figure 2. Bill Proenza, directory of the National Hurricane Center from January 2007 - July 2007.

Former NHC director Bill Proenza fired
Former National Hurricane Center director Bill Proenza, 68, was fired from his position as director of the National Weather Service's Southern Region last week. The reason stated for his firing was his unauthorized transfer of $528,000 from a local forecasting account to pay for new radar equipment in 2012. The issue of moving money without authorization in 2012 also landed the director of NWS, Jack Hayes, in trouble, forcing him to resign.

Proenza laudably made a big push in 2007 for a new QuikSCAT satellite, but unfortunately made claims about the usefulness of QuikSCAT for improving hurricane track forecasts that were not supported by scientific research, an error that may have ultimately led to his downfall as NHC director. Proenza lasted only six months as director of NHC, from January - July 2007. While there is evidence that scatterometer data may improve hurricane track forecasts of some computer models, NHC uses many models to make hurricane track forecasts, and some of these models are not helped by scatterometer data. Scatterometer data is extremely valuable for many other aspects of hurricane forecasting, providing early detection of surface circulations in developing tropical depressions, and helping define gale (34 kts) and storm-force (50 kts) wind radii. The information on wind radii from scatterometers is especially important for tropical storms and hurricanes outside the range of aircraft reconnaissance flights conducted in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific basins, and for the regions where there are no reconnaissance flights (Central Pacific, Western Pacific, and Indian Ocean). Accurate wind radii are critical to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), Central Pacific Hurricane Center (CPHC), and Guam Weather Forecast Office (WFO) watch and warning process, since they affect the size of tropical storm and hurricane watch and warning areas. Between 2003 and 2006, QuikSCAT data were used at NHC 17% of the time to determine the wind radii, 21% of the time for center fixing, and 62% of the time for storm intensity estimates.

References
2007 NOAA QuikSCAT user impact study:

I'll have a new post on Wednesday.

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.

Reader Comments

Warm Weather Forces Iditarod Changes
By Mary Pilon

WILLOW, Alaska -- By 9:30 most mornings here in the world's unofficial dog-sledding capital, Luan Marques has harnessed 10 Alaskan huskies to his sled and shot off into the awakening woods for a training ride, his sights set on the famous Iditarod competition next month. The thick, powdery blanket of snow on the trails and the frigid temperatures have made a musher haven out of Willow, where locals joke that dogs outnumber humans.
But as Marques rode this winter, he and his huskies trudged over dirt patches and bramble, surrounded by tree branches that once held fluffy snow. ...Most sled dogs run best at temperatures ranging from 20degrees below zero [-29C] to zero degrees [-18C]. When temperatures are higher, dogs risk overheating and sustaining injuries from stepping on bramble...
...temperatures have been in the 30s and 40s. "It's raining and not snowing"..."That's not good."

Several Iditarod qualifying events have been postponed, rerouted or canceled because of a lack of snow. The John Beargrease sled dog race, a trek of some 400 miles in northern Minnesota, postponed its start to March 10 from Jan. 27. In Alaska, the Don Bowers Memorial 200/300, the Sheep Mountain Lodge 150 and the Knik 200 have been canceled. The Copper Basin 300 in Glennallen, Alaska, had to cut its trail for several teams by 25 miles because there was not enough snow at the finish line; the mushers finished the race with their hats and gloves off and jackets unzipped.
"That was crazy with the warm weather"..."but the trail at the end was dirt. It wasn't safe."

During last year's snow season, defined as July 1 2011 to June 30 2012, Anchorage had 134.5 inches of snow...This season's tally in Anchorage was 39.2 inches... North of Fairbanks, another area where mushers train, snowpack is 21 percent of average.
The lack of snow especially affects rookie mushers. To qualify for the Iditarod, mushers must complete at least two 300-mile races and additional smaller races to log a total of 750 miles."There just aren't that many 300-mile races"...
Can't say that I didn't see the 8.0 quake coming, they've been shaking for days with 6.0 quakes. I kinda figured a 7.5 or higher was coming.
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:


good storm the GFS brings for us here in the Northeast
Some interesting items:
www.terradaily.com/reports/Cyclone_did_not_cause_ 2012_record_low_for_Arctic_sea_ice_999.html
www.terradaily.com/reports/Cities_Affect_Temperat ures_For_Thousands_Of_Miles_999.html
www.terradaily.com/reports/Global_warming_less_ex treme_than_feared_999.html
www.terradaily.com/reports/Central_Valley_irrigat ion_intensifies_rainfall_storms_across_the_Southwe st_999.html
(This site and its sister sites seem to compile press releases from universities, etc. around the world. Rather crude, but it works - I've been finding lots of interesting things.)
This isn't directly related to climate but it's one of the scariest articles I've ever read: Boom and doom: Revisiting prophecies of collapse, New Scientist, issue 2846, p. 38, Jan. 10, 2012.
Oops, there shouldn't be spaces in Temperatures, extreme, or irrigation in those links.
Here's my problem with the GFS ensembles. In the long range they decide to amplify all the ridges to create one general area of blocking over the entire Arctic region. In this solution, anomalous subtropical ridging is also nearly non existent. This wont happen. GEM and ECMWF ensemble mean solutions are preferred.

GFS Ensemble Mean




GEM Ensemble for the same time

ECMWF Ensemble MJO evolution is also much preferred over GFS Ensemble evolution. GFS Ensembles have been trying to stall out the MJO for the last few days now, which hasn't happened at all. ECMWF forecasts have verified much better, correctly showing the MJO moving progressively through the octants.

GFS Ens




ECMWF Ens

7-day for Tampa Bay area..................
Good Morning Folks!!..the coffee is perked for when You get here..enjoy..have a great day everyone....around here i hope we get some rain soon..the fires are starting in the forests again..we need some rain...
GFS 12 hour for today...................
Might get Interesting this coming weekend huh...
515. VR46L
Good Morning Folks

Interesting Low In the North Pacific ..




Image JMA
its good to see Texas getting some rain today.......
518. VR46L
And another Veiw of the Low From Unisys

Quoting VR46L:
And another Veiw of the Low From Unisys

amazing how those pacific lows look like summer hurricanes huh
south Fla is warm but red tide is kicking it west coast..
506 gippgig: Some interesting items:
Cyclone did not cause 2012 record low for Arctic sea-ice
Cities affect temperatures for thousands of miles around
GlobalWarming less extreme than feared?
California's CentralValley irrigation intensifies rainfall storms across the Southwest
This isn't directly related to climate but it's one of the scariest articles I've ever read: Boom and doom: Revisiting prophecies of collapse
[or at] New Scientist, issue 2846, p. 38, Jan. 10, 2012.

"...overshoot -- the delayed response to problems that makes the effects so much worse -- will eventually be especially catastrophic for ClimateChange..."
"Forty years on from its publication, it is still not clear whether [The Limits to Growth] was right, but it hasn't been proved wrong either. And while the model was too pessimistic about birth and death rates, it was too optimistic about the future impact of pollution..."
"There will be no more sequels based on World3 [The Limits of Growth modeling algorithm], though. The model can no longer serve its purpose, which was to show us how to avoid collapse. Starting from the current conditions, no plausible assumptions produce any result but overshoot [to collapse]."

BTW: "Internationally renowned climate researcher Caroline Leck of Stockholm University" is at best extremely gullible (and absurdly naive about media sound-bite manipulation) for providing an overly polite response to the utterly nonsensical numbers prestidigitation used by "Terje Berntsen...University of Oslo's Department of Geosciences" to arrive at his "less extreme" conclusion.
Good morning, everyone. Evening, Aussie.

Breakfast cassarole, biscuits with sausage gravy and fresh fruit on the sideboard.

Largo, hope you get your rain. We have rain again today and are saturated. I'm not sure who is going more insane with no recess, the teachers or the kids.
525. MahFL
Quoting mrmaawk:
re the firing of the NHC/NWS directors, it's been awhile since I was in the government but I thought transferring residual funds from one account to another was customary....


I think in this case there were specific rules saying not to do that, and the guy ignored them.
526. MahFL
Some drizzle and light rain in Jacksonville this am.
Good morning to all. Sad news as five people died in the Solomon islands because of the Tsunami that was generated.

(CNN) -- An 8.0-magnitude earthquake struck off the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific on Wednesday, triggering a tsunami that killed five people but didn't threaten the wider region.

Four elderly people and one child died after the roughly 1-meter (3-feet) high wave hit the Santa Cruz Islands, an eastern region of the Solomon Islands, said Augustine Bilve, a director at a hospital in Lata, the main town in the area.

The strong waves appeared to have caused damage and disruption at the local airport and nearby villages.

Bilve said that some patients were being relocated, but the hospital was intact.

"Our staff in Temotu province felt the quake and within five minutes there were a number of wave surges, which flooded the runway there," said Andrew Catford, the program director in the Solomon Islands for the humanitarian group World Vision.


Link
It looks like the probability for a big outbreak early next week is not in the cards.

DAY 4-8 CONVECTIVE OUTLOOK
NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK
0343 AM CST WED FEB 06 2013

VALID 091200Z - 141200Z

...DISCUSSION...
HIGHEST SEVERE PROBABILITY /AROUND 15 PERCENT/ IS EVIDENT FROM PARTS
OF THE MID-SOUTH TO THE WRN GULF COAST ON D5/SUN. DECREASING
PREDICTABILITY THEREAFTER RENDERS LOW SEVERE PROBABILITIES FOR D6-8.

GFS/MAJORITY OF GEFS MEMBERS HAVE FINALLY FALLEN INTO LINE WITH
PRIOR ECMWF/CMC DEPICTIONS OF A LEAD SHORT WAVE IMPULSE EMANATING
FROM THE WRN CONUS UPPER-LEVEL TROUGH AND ONTO THE CNTRL PLAINS BY
D5. THIS RENDERS INCREASED CONFIDENCE OVER THE SYNOPTIC
PATTERN...BUT BELOW-AVERAGE CONFIDENCE CONTINUES WITH LINGERING
RUN-TO-RUN INCONSISTENCIES IN THE DETAILED TIMING/INTENSITY/TRACK OF
THIS SHORT WAVE TROUGH.

RETURN FLOW ALONG THE WRN GULF WILL COMMENCE FRI NIGHT WHICH
COMBINED WITH STRENGTHENING LOW-LEVEL WAA SHOULD YIELD SHOWERS/TSTMS
ACROSS PARTS OF THE SRN PLAINS BY SAT NIGHT. THIS ACTIVITY WOULD
SEEMINGLY INCREASE IN COVERAGE/INTENSITY DURING D5 AS A COLD FRONT
MOVES EWD ACROSS THE SRN PLAINS TOWARDS THE LOWER MS VALLEY/WRN GULF
COAST. SUCH ABUNDANT RAINFALL POTENTIAL WILL LIKELY LIMIT THE NEWD
EXTENT OF MORE ROBUST DESTABILIZATION. IN ADDITION...THE CONSENSUS
TRACK OF THE SURFACE CYCLONE FROM THE CNTRL PLAINS TO THE UPPER MS
VALLEY WOULD REMAIN WELL-DIVORCED FROM THE RICHER GULF MOISTURE. AS
SUCH...ORGANIZED SEVERE TSTMS REMAIN POSSIBLE ON D5...BUT
PROBABILITIES DO NOT APPEAR A0A 30 PERCENT ATTM.

..GRAMS.. 02/06/2013
529. VR46L
Quoting LargoFl:
amazing how those pacific lows look like summer hurricanes huh


Yeah except not as tightly wrapped ....It has the classic comma appearance
Everyone have a wonderful Wednesday. Aussie, have a great Thursday!
Winter storm watches have been issued for parts of Michigan and the NE in advance of the upcoming winter storm. In SE MI, the thumb and Saginaw Valley areas are under a watch for over 6" of snow. Areas south of that but north of Wayne and Washtenaw counties should see 3-6" of snow. From there down to the Ohio border should see 2-4" with places near the border possibly having P-type issues. Any shift south or north would move the axis of the heaviest and prolonged snowfall. This should be the second biggest to biggest snowstorm of the year, depending on what part of SE MI and this storm should put Detroit several more inches above average.

Good Morning/Evening.

Hope the tsunami folks get the help they need today.
I was very happily surprised for the nice rain in the early morning hours.
JeffMasters has created a new entry.
There is a threat for severe thunderstorms today in S Texas and S Louisiana, not a big threat though. There is one active severe thunderstorm warning in south Texas right now. The storm is capable of producing large hail and damaging winds.