New $50 million hurricane research center: a bad idea

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:28 PM GMT on July 01, 2009

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Hurricane track forecasts have improved by about 50% over the past twenty years, which has undoubtedly saved many lives and billions of dollars. These forecast improvements have primarily resulted from the investment made in hurricane research, which has been funded at approximately $50 million per year over that period. To me, it is unfathomable that our nation spends so little on scientific research that provides such an incredible value. The President's National Science Board, which makes budget recommendations for the National Science Foundation (NSF), agrees, and recommended a six-fold increase in hurricane research spending to $300 million per year in a 2007 report. But exactly how much "bang for the buck" are we getting from hurricane research? The answer is murky, making it difficult to excite the kind of attention and political appeal needed to give hurricane research funding the big shot in the arm it deserves. However, recent moves by the Obama administration show that they are taking notice of the need to spend more money on hurricane research. But, a recent proposal by Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Florida, to build a new $50 million hurricane research center in Orlando, is the wrong way to boost hurricane research.


Figure 1. A science team led by NOAA's Hurricane Research Division (HRD) prepares for a mission into Hurricane Gustav in 2008. Image credit: NOAA/HRD.

How current hurricane research is funded
In 2008, about $50 million was spent by the U.S. government on hurricane research, with about 25% of this total going to maintain the facilities that do the research. The $50 million funded 228 person-years of research. About 35% of this was provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), with the rest of the money coming from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Office of Naval Research (ONR), and NASA. An additional $4 million was earmarked by Congress in 2008 to fund NOAA's promising new effort to improve hurricane intensity forecasts--the Hurricane Forecast Improvement Project (HFIP).

Where future funding increases should go: HFIP and JHT
The President's proposed FY 2010 budget continues the roughly $50 million dollars the hurricane research community traditionally gets, but adds $13 million in funding for the HFIP effort. To me, this is a great way to channel new hurricane research funding, as the HFIP effort is heavily focused on improving hurricane intensity forecasts, which have not improved at all over the past twenty years. Specific advancements outlined in the HFIP plan include:

1) Improving hurricane track forecast accuracy by 50% out to 5 days by 2018.
2) Improving hurricane intensity forecast accuracy by 50% out to 5 days by 2018.
3) Extending the lead time for hurricane forecasts out to 7 days.
4) Reducing the false alarm rate for rapid intensity forecasts.
5) Increasing the probability of detection of rapid intensification.

Another great way to boost hurricane research funding would be to put more money into NOAA's Joint Hurricane Testbed (JHT) project. This $1 million per year program has funded 50 separate hurricane research efforts over since 2001, 30 of which have been adopted operationally by the National Hurricane Center. Examples of successful JHT projects include the successful integration of the Stepped Frequency Microwave Radiometer (SFMR) surface wind measurement instrument into NHC operations; improvements to the GFDL and HWRF computer models; and improving techniques to make a "consensus" forecast based on the output of our four best computer models. However, no new money for JHT has been proposed in the FY 2010 budget, though some of the money earmarked for HFIP may flow into JHT.

A new $50 million hurricane research center proposed
Instead, a new proposal for hurricane research funding has been championed by Representative Alan Grayson, D-Florida. According to an article in the Orlando Sentinel, Grayson is pushing for a new $50 million hurricane research center to be built in Orlando. He demanded that such a hurricane research center be built in exchange for his vote for the controversial climate change bill passed Friday by the U.S. House, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. There is no language in the actual bill authorizing funds for such a center--Grayson merely has the word of democratic lawmakers, including President Obama, that such a center would be built. "I think it's a very worthwhile project. I look forward to working on it and making it a priority as the legislative process moves along," said U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, the California Democrat who sponsored the bill, in the Orlando Sentinel article. The center could be constructed with funds aimed at helping states "study and adapt to climate change," money that would not be available until 2012 at the earliest. The hurricane center is "among the type of activities that would be eligible to receive funding," Waxman said. "We've never had anything [like this] come into this district before, ever," said Grayson, a freshman lawmaker. "This will be the world-leading facility for hurricane research. This will draw people from all over the world."

Well, I have championed efforts to give more funding to hurricane research over the years, and I think the $300 million per year in funding for the National Hurricane Research Initiative proposed in 2007 by the President's National Science Board is what is needed. However, I think Grayson's proposed new hurricane center is a bad idea. Florida already has a world-leading facility for hurricane research, NOAA's Hurricane Research Division on Virginia Key, and does not need another. The U.S. hurricane research community has an infrastructure in place that works, and the best way to foster hurricane research is to pump money into this existing infrastructure. I talked with a number of senior hurricane research scientists about the idea of a new hurricane research center, and none of them supported it. It's great that Rep. Grayson's wants to put new much-needed funding into hurricane research, but he didn't consult with the experts to see if a new research center was a good way to do this. It isn't. Where are all of the scientists needed to staff such a center going to come from? Presumably, they will be drawn from existing successful research teams, leading to the disruption of these proven research efforts. Adding a new national research center with a new bureaucracy with new management needing on-the-job training will dilute and distract from current hurricane research efforts, and is not a good way to spend $50 million. Several senior hurricane research scientists are going to be reaching out to Rep. Grayson over the next few months to make him more aware of the abilities and needs of the hurricane research community. Hopefully, these efforts will result in a more productive way for the Congressman to boost hurricane research. If you live in Rep. Grayson's district, I recommend you contact him to express your desire to see him champion a more effective way to boost hurricane research than with his proposed $50 million hurricane research center. Putting the $50 million into the National Hurricane Research Initiative (HFIP) effort would be a better use of the funds. To his credit, Rep. Grayson is a co-sponsor of the National Hurricane Research Initiative of 2009 (H.R. 327), a bill introduced into the House of Representatives on January 8, 2009. This bill is a lesser ($150 million per year) version of the $300 million per year National Hurricane Research Initiative proposed in 2007 by the President's National Science Board.

Good links for HFIP information are at:

http://www.nrc.noaa.gov/HFIPDraftPlan.html
http://www.dtcenter.org/plots/hrh_test/workshop20 09/presentations/1_Gall_HRH%20HFIP%20presentation. pdf

Some summaries of recent HFIP activities in the last year are at:

http://www.dtcenter.org/plots/hrh_test/index.php
http://rammb.cira.colostate.edu/research/tropical _cyclones/hfip/workshop_2009/

My next post will be Friday, when I'll have the first half of July hurricane outlook.

Jeff Masters

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When was the last season not a single named storm made landfall somewhere?
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Quoting dayton:
So I think you are saying this year there is a heighten chance of landfalling.


Every year, to my knowledge, save for 1990, has had at least one landfall of at least tropical storm strength in the United States, though even in that year, Marco had weakened to a tropical depression just prior to moving inland over Florida.

Bottom line is that a United States landfall is pretty much a given, regardless of the year.
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Quoting Levi32:


I wouldn't put it as high as last year, but yes I think a decent chance of landfalls.


As Kori was saying, the primary reasoning behind it is higher wind shear in the deep tropics south of 20N. The MJO also comes into play where we will probably see a lot of dry air and downward motion in the tropical Atlantic during the peak of the season, which is why I don't expect a very active Cape Verde season. Storms north of 20N, generally more north and east than last year and forming closer to home, are what I think this year's theme will be.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26682
Quoting foggymyst:
Good evening. Have family traveling to the Keys.. except for the partiers..anything to be concerned about? TIA


Nope.
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579. JRRP
1969 was EL NIŃO too

Link
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I guess it's just been a long time since we did not had an early start. Since the last 4 years took off quickly.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
Quoting dayton:
So I think you are saying this year there is a heighten chance of landfalling.


I wouldn't put it as high as last year, but yes I think a decent chance of landfalls.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26682
So I think you are saying this year there is a heighten chance of landfalling.
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Good evening. Have family traveling to the Keys.. except for the partiers..anything to be concerned about? TIA
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Quoting KoritheMan:


Actually, 2008 technically did not see a June storm. Most people forget that Arthur developed on May 31.


Perfect. Could not said it better. 2006 had a June storm and if we reach July 24 and no Ana, then Berly and we all knew what 2006 ended up with. Long story short, early season actvity is not a good indicator of activity in the peak. Though 2008 showed early activity in the deep tropics can often indicate intensity levels during the peak.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
Quoting CaneWarning:


I thought it was more turtles less hurricanes for that particular area at least.



turtle's won't nest where a hurricane w/make landfall is the legend,lol:)
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You're a good writer Baha...I appreciate hearing your well-articulated thoughts!

Eight and a half foot Burmese Python strangled a little 2 1/2 year old girl in Sumpter County, Florida today. Owner said he had left the snake in a plastic bag.
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Good catch...my mistake.
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Quoting dayton:
Levi: Are you saying that this year in particular, we should look for storms close to home? Meaning, more storms building close this year than in past years?

Would that make it more likely for a landfall?


I am not Levi, but I will try and answer your question.

The reason that Levi, myself, and others foresee storms developing primarily close to home is due to hostile wind shear in the deep tropics caused by El Nino.

That being said, shallow systems, be they tropical depressions, tropical storms, or even tropical waves, follow the low-level flow, which generally indicates a generally westward movement. This can help them to avoid recurvature. So yes, theoretically, storms forming closer to home could mean a heightened risk of United States landfalls. Do the math. With increased vertical shearing in the deep tropics, most tropical waves will have ample opportunity to develop closer to home, after they come out of the unfavorable environment to the east.

In 2005, some of the more powerful storms developed close to home (Rita immediately comes to mind).
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Quoting dayton:
Levi: Are you saying that this year in particular, we should look for storms close to home? Meaning, more storms building close this year than in past years?

Would that make it more likely for a landfall?


Yes, less long-track cape-verde-type storms. Storms forming closer to land are more likely to hit land. That's why even a below-normal year can have an active impact if most of the storms take a shot at land. Sometimes a good thing about this kind of a pattern is home-brew storms close to land don't always have time to strengthen very much. 2002 was a good example where 8 of the 12 storms that formed hit the US, but were all weak (7 tropical storms and one Cat 1 hurricane).
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26682
On July storms, aren't they usually at the low end of the scale? i.e. more TS and cat 1s than Majors.
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Not LMAO anymore, cool link SKypony.
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
The last time we didn't have a June named storm was 2004...and that year stunk for central and south Fla....and we got up to the name of Otto. In fact Alex didn't form til the last day of July. Does that mean anything for this season? No.


Actually, 2008 technically did not see a June storm. Most people forget that Arthur developed on May 31.
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Levi: Are you saying that this year in particular, we should look for storms close to home? Meaning, more storms building close this year than in past years?

Would that make it more likely for a landfall?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
The last time we didn't have a June named storm was 2004...and that year stunk for central and south Fla....and we got up to the name of Otto. In fact Alex didn't form til the last day of July. Does that mean anything for this season? No.
I beg to differ. It was very hot. SST's were high. And El Nino didn't kick in until later in the season.
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Quoting Chicklit:

By this time last year, we had Arthur and Bertha.


Bertha did not develop until July 3.
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An aside: on the bickering I've seen between some of our better forecasters and observers over the last few days.

I'm not saying much to anybody, but I'm using the flagging buttons as I see fit. I have a lot of respect for both Drak and 456, but I am not into all the "you-say-I-say" back and forth personality foolishness. If u as a blogger want to be frivolous and spend ur time baiting, insulting other bloggers, etc, u will be minused and reported. I'm just tired of the foolishness now, and I expect lots of other people are also.

I also notice some bloggers like hurricaneseason2006 who seem to be gleefully putting metaphorical wood on the fire of the foolishness. At home we call such people, those who instigate conflicts just for the fun of it, "jinxers", and they are widely despised. These people should be flagged too, for wasting the blog's time.

If u mean the blog well, do two things, please. 1. Follow the admin notice on flagging when people get into these contentions, and 2. avoid getting into the argument yourself.

Maybe I should just save this post and repost it at intervals..... save me the work of thinking it up again.
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561. Skyepony (Mod)
Ya'll scroll down on the 3-d radar link I left.. the waterspouts on the St Johns the other day...wow.
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The last time we didn't have a June named storm was 2004...and that year stunk for central and south Fla....and we got up to the name of Otto. In fact Alex didn't form til the last day of July. Does that mean anything for this season? No.
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Quoting Chicklit:

By this time last year, we had Arthur and Bertha.


Yes, but its not unusual to have a quiet June.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
Quoting Skyepony:
Cane~ Did they mention if they were laying high or low on the beach? High is when we're suppose to worry.


Here's a quote from the article:

"He has spotted nests in the dunes and has seen nests too close to the tide. Sometimes he sifts his fingers through sand, only to find that some poor turtle worked all night and produced no eggs."

I would say both!

Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
Quoting dayton:
Will the El Nino suppress any hurricanes this season? Have you lowered your predictions for the season?


If you're asking me, I made only one prediction this year on June 1st. I had been away from the blogs for a long time and it was kind of rushed since I was late, but I think I'll stick with it. I think El Nino will definitely be a factor especially in decreasing the number of storms in the deep tropics this year, but El Nino is not the whole story. The worry this year is storms forming close to home and being a problem even if there are a low number of total storms.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26682
Quoting CaneWarning:
The season is not off to a slow start either by any means. It's not uncommon for June to pass without any named storms.

By this time last year, we had Arthur and Bertha.
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Here's the article. I was wrong its a third more than last year, not three times as many.

Link
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
Will the El Nino suppress any hurricanes this season? Have you lowered your predictions for the season?
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553. Skyepony (Mod)
Cane~ Did they mention if they were laying high or low on the beach? High is when we're suppose to worry.
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Quoting Levi32:


Yeah I remember something about that. So what...more turtles means more hurricanes?


I thought it was more turtles less hurricanes for that particular area at least.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
Quoting CaneWarning:
Does anybody remember the relationship between nesting turtles and hurricanes? I remember a blog about it last season. I just read in the St. Pete Times today that this years nesting season around the bay area is about triple what it was last year.


Yeah I remember something about that. So what...more turtles means more hurricanes?
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26682
550. Skyepony (Mod)
Baha & Rmadillo~ SJ probibly has a link on his site to it but the 3-d radar has been moved to it's developer's site..our very own Wunderblogger Rainman32.. Check it out. Improvements were done. Doesn't bog down my computer anymore, same mind blowing radar..
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Quoting atmoaggie:


A year or 2 after it falls on capitol hill. I don't everything, now, I just happen to know the guys at NGI (Stennis), FCMP, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Colorado.
And whatever gets put in BAMS or in press releases.


Lots of info on Scatterometry on this website. Current plan is to place an instrument on a Japanese satellite with launch in late 2015/early 2016.
Member Since: September 23, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 11260
Does anybody remember the relationship between nesting turtles and hurricanes? I remember a blog about it last season. I just read in the St. Pete Times today that this years nesting season around the bay area is about triple what it was last year.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
I think weak el nino or weak la nina both have the facility to allow for above average storm numbers, similar to a neutral ENSO. What u really get depends more on the other factors that influence TC formation in such situations.

Nothing's automatic.
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Quoting plywoodstatenative:
so then what does that mean for the season, will we see an increase in Dr. Gray's forecast or not?


Hm what's his forecast now....11 storms? I can't tell you what the relationship is between El Nino and Dr. Gray, you'll have to ask him! Lol...I am personally expecting a near-normal season, 12 named storms, with less impact on the gulf coast and Caribbean islands than last year, due to a more north and east congregation of tracks. Formations close to the coast will be an issue.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26682
By July 4

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
not worth it
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This time last year we were tracking Invest 92L/bertha

Tropical Invest 92L

Posted by: Weather456, 6:58 AM AST on July 01, 2008

The strong tropical wave mentioned yesterday has now exited the coast of Africa and wasted no time in being recognized by the National Hurricane Center (NHC) as Invest 92L. The disturbance is located near 10.8N/16.5W, moving off towards the west near 15-20 mph. This morning’s infrared images showed a fairly organize system with a series of convective bands in and around the center and the eastern quadrants. Visible imagery along with a partial QuikSCAT pass showed there is an associated somewhat broad surface circulation with this system based on the west winds observed south of the center and the NHC 06Z surface analysis chart confirmed a 1011 mb low along the wave. This actually places it in stage 1 of development (suspect area) and should be monitored for increase in convection and organization beyond the diurnal cycle. There is an upper anticyclone over the system and the resultant outflow is creating some easterly shear over the system’s convective bands, which is a favorable situation for development. Along with warm sea surface temperatures and increase organization, the formation of a tropical depression in 24 hrs seems good.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
so then what does that mean for the season, will we see an increase in Dr. Gray's forecast or not?
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The season is not off to a slow start either by any means. It's not uncommon for June to pass without any named storms.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
Quoting plywoodstatenative:
Levi, what makes me wonder is if we are going to wind up in a neutral season.


Well I don't think it will be quite that weak. Looking at the SST anomalies now I would never call that neutral. That's a solid weak El Nino event, and it may stay weak or peak as a moderate, but overall not a very strong or sustained event.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26682
Quoting plywoodstatenative:
Levi, what makes me wonder is if we are going to wind up in a neutral season.


Now that is a scary thought.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
Levi, what makes me wonder is if we are going to wind up in a neutral season.
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press same for ya, thoughts on the fishing tournament
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SJ: Mail.
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Quoting StormJunkie:
Nice loop Oz, shows a pretty quiet June as it usually is. Had a little trouble with the buffering on it, but other then that pretty neat to see a month long loop! Worked best when I paused it and let the whole thing load prior to viewing. At least for me.
Hey SJ. Are u still doing stuff with the software u were working on for the 3-D storm structure representation?
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I work in West Palm, live in Lake Worth...and until now not a drop. Guess it's where you live!
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Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:
I think too much is placed on El Nino, particularly with a developing one.

El Nino & La Nina
Scoundrels or Scapegoats?


I viewed that whole presentation and I have to say it's probably the best one I've seen. It is very true that some forecasters put way too much stock in the ENSO alone. There are many other factors at work. This year since it's a reactive El Nino there has been more correlation with the changing ENSO than there usually is with a weak event. It's really quite nice, it almost makes the forecasting easier.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26682

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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