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The director or National Hurricane Center (NHC) Bill Proenza is threatened with firing or demotion. He was put on leave after a staff revolt that revolved around arguments of how to respond to budget cuts to the NHC and NASA earth observation programs. Congressman Brad Miller is investigating the possibility that Bill Proenza is suffering from retribution for being a whistleblower.

One key satellite is failing and no replacement is going to be launched. Moreover other useful earth observation satellites are not being launched either. Funds have been diverted away from the NHC and NASA earth observation investigations to other activities, apparently for political reasons.

An intense hurricane season is predicted, but the NHC in engulfed in internal and external battles. And a number Atlantic basin weather buoys in key locations are out of service right now. The buoys are critical for tracking storms and swell trains that cause coastal wave damage.

Schoolchildren navigated the steep steps down from the Orion P3 as I walked up the tarmac. The battered, but proud, hurricane hunter plane's wingshielded me from the cool wind-driven rain.

ELIZABETH CITY - Trucks, trailers, ambulances, helicopters and planes lined up along the flight line outside Hangar 55 at the U.S. Coast Guard station.

There were vehicles from several military branches, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and local and regional emergency responders from as near as Elizabeth City and as far as Pitt County.

It's a scene normally reserved for the aftermath of a hurricane, but Thursday's  gathering was an open house to raise public awareness of the upcoming storm season.

I ignored everything but the plane, her crew and the exiting children. I wanted to meet the crew and see the equipment inside.

I was mildly shocked by the interior. Spartan is a bit too kind to describe it. The plane has been flying through hurricanes, nor-easters, massive thunderstorm complexes and typhoons for 32 years without any cosmetic maintenance on the interior. The technical equipment was solid and modern with utterly no frills. Every available dollar had gone into essential maintenance and scientific equipment. Zero was for show.

The crew was bright and friendly. I spent a long time talking to a young man who had recently worked his way onto the hurricane hunter team as a navigator. He had hard core ocean rescue skills with experience in navigation and diving. Hurricane hunting was his dream job.

I asked a number of questions about the problems involved in making a flight plan to collect essential hurricane data. They use multiple navigation systems including GPS. I was surprised that one key device he used was a cheap personal hand held GPS unit. I didn't have the courage to ask if he paid for it with his own money or donated funds. The hurricane hunter's auxiliary unit was selling T shirts on the plane to raise funds.

I discovered that many of the missions into storms are now being covered by the air force. The air force gathers data needed to locate and track the storms, but does not gather additional data used in research studies to develop better forecasts based on improved scientific understanding. The NHC's science budget is very tight, so they have cut back on missions.

The toughness and determination of the crew was palpable. However, when I asked a senior officer about last winter's mission into a major nor-easter off the Canadian maritimes, he didn't want to talk about it. That storm made him sick and he didn't want to bring back the memories. I hadn't realized that a major nor-easter was more difficult to fly through than a major hurricane.

The local media that had come to see the plane destroyed my inherent prejudice against them. They asked serious questions and made educational spots to prepare coastal residents for the coming hurricane season. They were excited to sit in the  cockpit and show the plane to the public, while discussing its work. This was small outlet TV at its best. Weather and wave forecasting in a coastal community is a matter of life and death to boaters, fishermen and anyone in the water. These weather reporters knew that. The TV forecasters had all studied meteorology and communications. There was no fluff.

For me it was an exciting but disturbing trip.  I had just met wonderful people who were under tremendous pressure because they weren't getting enough support from the bureaucrats and politicians in Washington.

Little did I know that weeks later the NHC would be embroiled in controversy. The controversy started over a letter about an aging satellite that measures the scattering of radar off of waves on water.

MIAMI — An aging weather satellite crucial to accurate predictions on the intensity and path of hurricanes could fail at any moment and plans to launch a replacement have been pushed back seven years to 2016.

In a letter obtained by The Associated Press, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's chief said the failure of the QuikScat satellite could bring more uncertainty to forecasts and widen the areas that are placed under hurricane watches and warnings.

If the satellite faltered, experts estimate that the accuracy of two-day forecasts would suffer by 10% and three-day forecasts by 16%, which could translate into miles of coastline and the difference between a city being evacuated or not.

What the media won't tell you is how critical this satellite is for surf forecasting. QuikScat wind vectors are critical inputs to wave generation models. QuikScat provides data that are important to planning ocean activities and to ocean safety. Large swell trains can be very dangerous to small boats and fisherman. Surfers depend on accurate swell forecasting for planning safe surf trips. And for ferries, big swells can be killers.

A ferry carrying more than 600 passengers sank in the Java Sea between the island of Java and Borneo just before midnight on December 29, 2006, during high winds and rough seas. On January 1, 2007, a plane carrying more than 100 people crashed on its flight over the Java Sea; high winds and turbulent weather are being investigated as possible causes. The origin of surges of deadly winds in this usually relatively calm region is poorly monitored and understood. However, ocean winds data from NASA's QuikScat satellite show potential for helping alleviate such deficiencies.

Data obtained from QuikScat on December 30 and January 1 shed new insights into the atmospheric conditions at the time of these incidents. QuikScat data are available in near real time to operational weather forecasting agencies around the world. The data from December 30 and January 1 observed that the strong winds in the Java Sea originated from the surge of a strong winter monsoon from the Asian continent. The monsoon winds blew south across the South China Sea and deflected eastward after they crossed the equator due to the rotation of Earth. The winds strengthened as they were channeled through the land masses of Indonesia. The winds in the Java Sea remained strong through January 1, 2007.

Unfortunately, QuikScat is beginning to fail.

Some scientists also complain that the technology planned for the replacement satellite is less precise for hurricane forecasting than what is currently flying.

QuikScat, launched in 1999 and designed to last two to three years, provides key data on wind speed and direction over the ocean. Weather aircraft and buoys can also obtain similar measurements near a storm, but they do not provide a constant flow of data as QuikScat does.

Last year, the satellite suffered a major setback — the failure of a transmitter used to send data to Earth about every 90 minutes. Now the satellite is limping along on a backup transmitter and has other problems.

The backup transmitter could last years, but there are no guarantees and no warnings when it is about to fail, said Robert Gaston, who works with the satellite at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Emergency managers like Sallade have been briefed on the satellite's problems. They said if they cannot rely on forecasts, they may have to make crucial decisions earlier, such as evacuating hospital patients or moving around emergency equipment.

Emergency managers estimate that the total costs of evacuations are up to $1 million per mile of coastline, meaning wider evacuations could be expensive.

As critical as this satellite is to surf and weather QUICKSCAT has other uses as well (JPL press release).

"Recent studies indicate Arctic perennial ice is declining seven to 10 percent each decade," explained Ron Kwok of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "Our study gives the first reliable estimates of how perennial ice replenishment varies each year at the end of summer. The amount of first-year ice that survives the summer directly influences how thick the ice cover will be at the start of the next melt season."

Using satellite data from NASA's QuikScat and other data, Kwok studied six annual cycles of Arctic perennial ice coverage from 2000 to 2006. The scatterometer instrument on QuikScat sends radar pulses to the surface of the ice and measures the echoed radar pulses bounced back to the satellite. These measurements allow scientists to differentiate the seasonal ice from the older, perennial ice.

Kwok found that after the 2005 summer melt, only about four percent of the nearly 2.5 million square kilometers (965,000 square miles) of thin, seasonal ice that formed the previous winter survived the summer and replenished the perennial ice cover. That was the smallest replenishment seen in the study. As a result, perennial ice coverage in January 2006 was about 14 percent smaller than the previous January.

Kwok examined how movement of ice out of the Arctic affected the replenishment of perennial sea ice in 2005. That year, the typically small amount of ice that moves out of the Arctic in summer was unusually high -- about seven percent of the perennial ice coverage area. Kwok said the high amount was due to unusual wind conditions at Fram Strait, an Arctic passage between Antarctic Bay in Greenland and Svalbard, Norway. Troughs of low atmospheric pressure in the Greenland and Barents/Norwegian Seas on both sides of Fram Strait created winds that pushed ice out of the Arctic at an increased rate.

The effects of ice movement out of the Arctic depend on the season. When ice moves out of the Arctic in the summer, it leaves behind an ocean that does not refreeze. This, in turn, increases ocean heating and leads to additional thinning of the ice cover.

These findings suggest that the greater the number of freezing temperature days during the prior season, the thicker the ice cover, and the better its chances of surviving the next summer's melt. "The winters and summers before fall 2005 were unusually warm," Kwok said. "The low replenishment seen in 2005 is potentially a cumulative effect of these trends."

Kwok also examined the 2000-2006 temperature records within the context of longer-term temperature records dating back to 1958. He found a gradual warming trend in the first 30 years, which accelerated after the mid-1980s. "The record doesn't show any hint of recovery from these trends," he stated. "If the correlations between replenishment area and numbers of freezing and melting temperature days hold long-term, its expected the perennial ice coverage will continue to decline."

Kwok points to a possible trigger for the declining perennial ice cover. In the early 1990s, variations in the North Atlantic Oscillation, a large-scale atmospheric seesaw that affects how air circulates over the Atlantic Ocean, were linked to a large increase in Arctic ice export. It appears the ice cover has not yet recovered from these variations.

"We're seeing a decreasing trend in perennial ice coverage," he said. "Our study suggests that, on average, the area of seasonal ice that survives the summer may no longer be large enough to sustain a stable perennial ice cover, especially in the face of accelerating climate warming and Arctic sea ice thinning."

Other satellites measure sea ice extent and properties also, but QuikScat  has proven to be especially effective. It has also proved effective at detecting never-seen-before large-scale melting of Antarctic snow and ice.

NASA Finds Vast Regions of West Antarctica Melted in Recent Past
May 15, 2007

A team of NASA and university scientists has found clear evidence that extensive areas of snow melted in west Antarctica in January 2005 in response to warm temperatures. This was the first widespread Antarctic melting ever detected with NASA's QuikScat satellite and the most significant melt observed using satellites during the past three decades. Combined, the affected regions encompassed an area as big as California.

Son Nghiem of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., and Konrad Steffen, director of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado, Boulder, led the team. Using data from QuikScat, they measured snowfall accumulation and melt in Antarctica and Greenland from July 1999 through July 2005.

The observed melting occurred in multiple distinct regions, including far inland, at high latitudes and at high elevations, where melt had been considered unlikely. Evidence of melting was found up to 900 kilometers (560 miles) inland from the open ocean, farther than 85 degrees south (about 500 kilometers, or 310 miles, from the South Pole) and higher than 2,000 meters (6,600 feet) above sea level. Maximum air temperatures at the time of the melting were unusually high, reaching more than five degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit) in one of the affected areas. They remained above melting for approximately a week.

Bill Proenza, the Director of the NHC who has advocated strongly for a replacement for QuikScat, has apparently lost his job over his advocacy.

The National Hurricane Center director, Bill Proenza, was forced to step down the week before last after criticising his bosses and suggesting that the loss of QuickScat would keep the NHC from doing its job effectively. He was called before Congress on Thursday to explain his position.

Bill Proenza, who recently took over the job as NHC director, was trying to reverse a decision that was made in 2006.

Nasa scrapped a proposed mission to replace QuickScat in 2006. The Ocean Vector Winds (OVW) mission would have provided continuity with QuickScat, but was never funded.

An updated version, the Extended OVW Mission (XOVWM), is listed as a priority mission and recommended for launch between 2013 and 2016, in a major study released this year by the National Research Council (NRC). But it does not have funding either.

Proenza was upset about NOAA agency priorities and stepped on toes in his effort to redirect funds to NHC priorities.

From the start, Mr. Proenza made waves by criticizing his superiors at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for spending lavishly on the agency's 200th anniversary while research budgets were constrained. He particularly chastised the agency for failing to replace an aging satellite whose loss, he warned, would reduce the center's accuracy in forecasting the path and landing site of a hurricane.

In June management of the National Weather Service, the parent organization to the NHC, began to respond to Mr. Proenza.

In June, Mary M. Glackin, the acting director of the Weather Service, wrote a letter to Mr. Proenza that said he had disregarded directions from his bosses and made decisions outside his authority.

This week, the Commerce Department sent a team to review the center's operations.

The relationship between this management review and the subsequent letter to management from some NHC staff is not made clear in press reports.

July 7, 2007

The director of the National Hurricane Center, who has for months traded barbs with his superiors at the National Weather Service headquarters in Maryland, now faces an insurrection from his staff in Miami.

On Thursday, 23 people, about half of the center's staff members, signed a letter that calls for a new director and urges the Department of Commerce, which oversees the Weather Service, ''to make this happen as quickly as possible.''

The letter continued, ''The effective functioning of the National Hurricane Center is at stake.''

However, questions have arisen about the motivations behind this letter. Was it prompted by management pressure? Congressman Brad Miller of the House Science and Technology Committee has opened Congressional investigations into the NHC controversy.

On first impression, what’s been unfolding at the Tropical Prediction Center (TPC), it sounds like office politics, something that happens every day at workplaces all across America. Certainly, there are disgruntled employees having difficulty adjusting to a new manager and a new Director trying to adjust to a new chain of command. But on a closer look, something just doesn’t seem quite right, the facts don’t quite add up.

We know that Bill Proenza, before being named Director of the Tropical Prediction Center (TPC) in Miami, had demonstrated that he was a strong, well-regarded leader throughout his seven years as head of the National Weather service Southern Region. We know that by all reports, Mr. Proenza had a strong relationship with the Weather Service union, and was seen by line-employees as one of their staunchest supporters.

We would assume, that if Admiral Lautenbacher was convinced that Mr. Proenza would be a superb replacement for the retiring Max Mayfield, he must have also thought that Mr. Proenza was a competent leader and manager.

What doesn’t make sense is why we are here today, trying to understand why a proven leader with a known track-record has come to find himself in grave difficulties with his own employees and managers.

If you look past the apparently spontaneous rebellion by employees in the lab, and look past what has unfolded at the managerial level of NOAA, the question arises whether Mr. Proenza was pushed out because he was a whistle blower, a truth teller.

Mr. Proenza called attention to the failure of NOAA to take aggressive steps to find a replacement for Quickscat. That has come to be a major talking point for Mr. Proenza in recent months. Some have criticized his comments and the science underlying his observations. To these critics I would note that Mr. Proenza had been relying on staff for this information and so the blame, if there is any, should be spread widely. In addition, to argue about the projected degradation or whether one model matters more than another misses the point that virtually everyone in the meteorological community agrees they need Quickscat. Finally, the source for Mr. Proenza's information shows up in NOAA presentations to the National Research Council in April and in February's "Interagency Strategic Research Plan for Tropical Cyclones" produced by the Office of the Federal Coordinator for Meteorology. To argue about the projected degradation or whether one model matters more than another misses the point.

He also called attention to the amount of money being spent by NOAA to celebrate its 200th Anniversary – an amount that appears to exceed $4 million over FY2006-2007 if one includes the costs of employees working on the issue.

Finally, Mr. Proenza opposed the weather service "downsizing" efforts that had been the hallmark of Mr. Johnson’s tenure at the National Weather Service. For that he earned the gratitude of many in Congress and in the Union.

Not every manager would welcome Mr. Proenza’s willingness to speak out. Some would see him as an annoyance. In addition to the possible motive of silencing an internal critic, the actions of the NOAA management suggest that something isn’t right here, that this isn’t about Mr. Proenza’s deficiencies as a manager. The chronology of events just doesn’t fit.

•  By the spring of 2007, Louis Uccellini, Proenza’s immediate supervisor and head of the NECP, began keeping a file on Mr. Proenza containing apparently minor administrative violations by Proenza. It should be noted that while Mr. Uccellini was Mr. Proenza’s superior, he was Mr. Proenza’s junior in the weather service and he and Mr. Proenza had been essentially of equal rank when Proenza was head of the Southern Region of NWS.
•  In April of 2007, senior staff at NOAA met at the Admiral Lautenbacher’s direction to work on something labeled in an e-mail as the "Proenza plan." This plan was to have five steps and be run by legal for review... It was shared with D.L. Johnson, then head of the National Weather Service and Jack Kelly, Deputy Undersecretary at NOAA.
•  On June 14, three days after being named as Acting Director of the Weather Service, Ms. Mary Glacken approved a memo that listed Mr. Proenza’s minor administrative violations that Mr. Uccellini had collected and urged Mr. Proenza to work through the chain of command and adhere more strenuously to new NOAA media policy.
•  On June 21 or 22, TPC senior forecasters—going against the chain of command -complained to Ms. Glacken about Bill Proenza’s leadership. The call was organized by the Executive Officer in the Center, Dr. Ahsha Tribble, who was seen by many at the TPC to be a "headquarters person." Dr. Tribble had arrived at the Hurricane Center just last September after working as Technical Chief of Staff to the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere.
•  By June 26, Admiral Lautenbacher assembled a team to be dispatched from Commerce to the Center to evaluate its operations. The team did not include any management or weather experts. Rather than turn to outside parties with expertise in the relevant areas - administration (National Association of Public Administration) or meteorology (National Academy of Science)—the Admiral selected people from within Commerce who had no background in weather service forecast office issues and little expertise in the science. The team’s preparation included meeting with the senior management figures who had played a role in preparing Mr. Proenza’s June memo and in launching the "Proenza plan."
•  On July 2, the team arrived on site. Mr. Proenza learned that this team was being sent by a telephone call from the Admiral that was designed to be timed with their arrival. While Mr. Proenza was unaware that a team was being dispatched to the Center of which he was Director, other people at the center knew of their pending arrival. Ahsha Tribble, apparently was assigned to greet the team and take them to Proenza’s office.

Scientists outside of the NHC don't understand the cause of the chaos there.

Observers outside the center said they were perplexed by the squabble.

''It seems to me very strange,'' said Hugh E. Willoughby, who led the hurricane research division at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from 1995 to 2002. The hurricane center fell outside his purview, but he said he knew many of its staff members.

''These are serious people, not a bunch of brooding malcontents,'' Dr. Willoughby said.

''I think Bill came in as somebody with a sort of broad perspective on the hurricane problem and he knew about this funding problem and he wanted to make a difference right from the start,'' Dr. Willoughby said. But, he added, ''he probably should have managed his people a lot better.''

Robert M. Atlas, the director of the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, and a member of the team that planned and designed QuikScat, said Mr. Proenza's original statements were accurate. Computer models calculating hurricane paths did do 16 percent worse without QuikScat data, Dr. Atlas said, but other satellites and additional instruments on aircraft could make up some if not most of the shortfall.

However, given the treatment of National Academy of Science member, Dr. James Hansen's work by political appointees there appears to be Bush administration interest in minimizing the problem of climate change.

In 2005 and 2006, Hansen claimed in interviews with the Washington Post[9] and the New York Times[10] that NASA administrators have tried to influence his public statements about the causes of climate change. Hansen claims that NASA public relations staff were ordered to review his public statements and interviews after a December 2005 lecture at the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

James Hansen has also appeared on 60 Minutes[5] claiming that the White House edited climate-related press releases reported by federal agencies to make global warming seem less threatening. He is unable to speak "freely", without the backlash of other government officials. "In my more than three decades in the government I've never witnessed such restrictions on the ability of scientists to communicate with the public," he said in one of his many public appearances.

Hansen has said that a global tipping point (also known as the runaway effect) will be reached by 2016 if the human population is unable to reduce greenhouse gases [11]. Hansen has said that IPCC scenarios for future sea level rise do not take into account ice sheet disintegration, which could cause several meters of sea level rise during the next century with unchanged climate forcings[12] .

The QuikScat satellite's primary purpose was to study air-sea interactions to improve forecasts of climate change.

QuickScat has been valuable in weather forecasting; but it was originally designed to provide data on climate, said Dr Liu. Its sensor provides key information on sea ice coverage and wind circulation. Winds and ocean currents are the major drivers of heat between the tropics and the poles.

"It's the coupling of the world's two great fluid systems that actively defines climate," said Michael Freilich, director of Nasa Earth Science Division and former project scientist on QuikScat.

Such basic climate data is important to future forecasting. As the Earth heats up, as scientists expect it to, changing wind patterns will influence upper ocean currents, which in turn are likely to alter that heat transport system from equator to poles.

If the launch of the follow up satellite to QuikScat is delayed, the climate models would not be improved as much and the uncertainties in forecasts would be larger. The larger uncertainties would make climate model forecasts less credible. This would serve the interests of those who want "to make global warming seem less threatening".

Moreover, the NHC may not be the only part of NOAA  that collects data for tracking hurricanes and hurricane swells affected by funding problems. I have noticed that other parts of NOAA may be showing signs of problems with maintenance of critical equipment.  A key buoy for tracking incoming swells and storms off of the North Carolina coast has been down for months.

Station 41002 went adrift on 02/25/2007 and the last report from its moored position (listed above) was at 2143z. The station has been recovered and transmissions turned off. It will be restored to service when it can be worked into the schedule. When the redeployment date is known, it will be posted in the weekly maintenance report.

Redeployment has been promised for months, but continues to be delayed without explanation. It's not the only failed buoy in Carolina waters.

Station 41004 failed on 7/21/2007 00z.  It will be restored to service when it can be worked into the schedule. When the service date is known, it will be posted in the weekly maintenance report.

A Key Buoy in Hawaiian waters have been down for months.

Station 51003 went adrift on 14 January 2007 and the last report from its moored position (listed above) was at 1400z. The station has been recovered and transmissions turned off. It will be restored to service when it can be worked into the schedule. When the redeployment date is known, it will be posted in the Weekly Maintenance Report.

Two key buoys for tracking storms and swells in the Caribbean are down.

Station 42058 failed on May 21, 2007. It will be restored to service when it can be worked into the schedule. When the date is known, it will be posted in the weekly maintenance report.

In June, 2006, buoy 42057 was reestablished at the location above. It had previously been moored at 17.60N 80.75W.  Station 42057 failed on 07/03/07. It will be restored to service when it can be worked into the schedule. When the service date is known, it will be posted in the weekly maintenance report.

I have been using buoys for surf forecasting for over 10 years. It is normal for a  buoy to be out of service for a few months. However, lengthy outages and untimely outages - in the middle of hurricane season - have been infrequent in the past, in my experience.

Most of the Florida buoys have been maintained but the Tampa/Pensacola buoy has been down since January.

Station 42036 failed on 01/16/07. It will be restored to service when it can be worked into the schedule. When the date is known, it will be posted...

But the public is showing declining concern about hurricanes. About one in three are planning to ignore evacuation orders.

About one in three people living in Southern coastal areas said they would ignore hurricane evacuation orders if a storm threatened their community, up from about one in four last year, a poll released Tuesday shows.

The survey found the most common reasons for not evacuating were the same ones that topped last year's Harvard University poll: People believe that their homes are safe and well-built, that roads would be too crowded and that fleeing would be dangerous. Slightly more than one in four also said they would be reluctant to leave behind a pet.

Robert Blendon, the Harvard professor who directed the survey, said the mild 2006 Atlantic hurricane season probably put more coastal residents at ease.

"It just shows how people can become complacent if they're not immediately threatened," Blendon said.

Presently Gulf Stream waters off of Miami and the warm Gulf of Mexico waters are capable of supporting a category 5 hurricane in south Florida. This model gives a maximum potential, so it almost always sets an upper limit for hurricane strength. No storms are present, so there is no reason for immediate concern. However, the chaos at the NHC, the failed buoys and the complacent public are major reasons for concern.

Please email Brad Miller (Link gets your Rep. too) your views about this situation. Congress will be considering appropriation of funds for a replacement to the QuikScat satellite this fall. These are non-partisan safety issues that affect all Americans, so please consider contacting your local representatives and your senators regardless of party affiliation.

Originally posted to FishOutofWater on Wed Jul 25, 2007 at 01:29 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

    •  The country needs their support. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Randall Sherman

      Too bad that isn't recognized as it should be.

      "We're all in this together" -- Harry Tuttle, legendary plumber

      by bablhous on Wed Jul 25, 2007 at 01:27:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  as I understand it (4+ / 0-)

      Proenza was undone by the science people at NHC.

      QuikSCAT is very useful but none of the scientists have said it is irreplacable. It's most critical for deep sea & marine forecasting, not landfalling hurricane track forecasting.

      See the following consecutive entries at Jeff Masters' blog: one, two, three, four.

      AFAIK the staff rebellion was not prompted from the outside. Proenza cited an unpublished study claiming QS will cause landfalling hurricane tracks to be off by 16% without QS, which is evidently untrue.

      •  I am so confused ... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        chigh, wayoutinthestix

        ... about this story.  It just doesn't make sense that the staff wouldn't want the satellite, for whatever reasons.

        I'd like to know more about what happened and why it happened.  There's something about the story that makes me think there's a missing piece.

        •  Read the bold section carefully a Cheney Mole (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Set this "staff rebellion" up.

          It's a hit job on Proenza that Brad Miller is exposing.

          "It's the planet, stupid."

          by FishOutofWater on Wed Jul 25, 2007 at 02:00:03 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'm not so sure that's the case (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            nota bene, Hoya90

            If you read the blogs at you'll get a fuller picture of the goings on at the NHC.  The forecasters rebelling against Proenza are very well regarded civil servants who have years and years of experience at the NHC.  Chris Mooney has also blogged about this and concluded that it wasn't a political hit job.

            Sometimes a person gets the boot because they um suck.  

            OTOH the persecution of James Hansen is very real as is the systemic defunding of National Academy of Sciences projects as the government contracts come for renewal.  Gosh what a coincidence -- suddenly a wide variety of government agencies after years and years no longer want to work with the NAS despite the protestations of the science folks at the agencies.

            This is an issue near and dear to my heart as my dad is a retired meteorologist, went to college on an Air Force ROTC scholarship and service in the Pacific chasing typhoons (17 in all).

            •  I left the speculation for the comments (0+ / 0-)

              I do not claim to know how Bill Proenza managed the NHC.

              However, there is a mole in the NHC. Brad Miller has made that clear.

              Civil servants do some pretty hard core things when they are threatened with funding cuts for their programs.

              There are many possibilities here.  I'll put the tinfoil away for now.

              "It's the planet, stupid."

              by FishOutofWater on Wed Jul 25, 2007 at 02:18:58 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  What I do know firsthand is this... (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                nota bene, FishOutofWater

                There has been political pressure at NOAA like so many other agencies to cut funding for research and to cut ties to the NAS but the NOAA head backed his scientists and in one case I know of personally a major contract was renewed.  But this was in 2005.  The talk was that NOAA head was successful in keeping the wingnuts at bay in his agency unlike NASA.

                The wingnuts at NASA OTOH yanked a contract from the office I worked for (and NASA had a relationship with for 50 years) as punishment for the organization's President defending James Hansen.  So I now work somewhere else. SIGH.

                •  The argument is over NASA satellites (0+ / 0-)

                  So this is your problem taken over to the NHC.

                  The NASA earth observation program is in tatters. Maybe you can give us the inside scoop on the situation at NASA.

                  I'm sorry you got hurt by the politicization of science at NASA.

                  "It's the planet, stupid."

                  by FishOutofWater on Wed Jul 25, 2007 at 03:18:05 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I was never a NASA employee (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    But my organization was a big supporter of NASA since it's founding -- they were the folks who pushed for NASA's founding in the first place.  No real inside poop save for the fact that high up in management were Heritage Foundation refugees.  These folks (along with then head Sean O'Keefe) demanded that ties be severed to our organization over the protests of the science folks.  

                    The science folks were under intense pressure to stop talking to my organization but we knew that our 50 year relationship was, "being put out to bid".  Those brave folks that dared tipped us off that the fix was in.  Sure enough the organization awarded a contract to run a newly revamped (and far less prestigous) program had a board of directors comprised of folks who were on record with the FEC as donating to GOP candidates including Bush/Cheney 2004. SIGH.

                    Now I hear from folks remaining that more layoffs are in the offing as funding environmental programs are now being yanked too.

        •  it's not that they don't want the QS (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          it's that it's not this life-or-death thing it's being made into.

          I don't pretend to know what's been going on, but I've been reading the Masters blog for a long time now and I believe the guy.

          •  Masters doesn't forecast Hawaii or Guam (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Nightprowlkitty, wayoutinthestix

            His blog is fine for Atlantic hurricanes. I lived in Hawaii before moving back to NC.

            This satellite isn't critical for forecasting Atlantic hurricane landfalls. It's critical where they don't have hurricane hunter planes and lots of other observations.

            From the BBC article cited in the diary.

            However, the satellite is more important for tracking hurricanes far offshore, beyond the reach of aircrews, in the tropical Atlantic and Pacific where the planes don't fly.

            The scatterometer aboard QuickScat helps detect changes in wind speed and direction that lead to the formation of a hurricane. Unlike ground-based instruments, it provides a global picture of the world's oceans.

            "Out here in the Western Pacific Ocean, I don't have an aircraft," said Roger Edson, a tropical meteorologist at the Noaa weather forecast office in Guam.

            "Having satellite data from a scatterometer is an incredible advantage," he said.

            It is particularly useful for determining wind distribution throughout a storm's structure where speeds can vary by over 100km/h, Dr Edson added.

            "It's the planet, stupid."

            by FishOutofWater on Wed Jul 25, 2007 at 02:24:45 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  we're not disagreeing there (0+ / 0-)

              AFAIK Masters (agreeing with the NHC staff) has called for QS not to be scrapped but to be upgraded. Again AFAIK Proenza wanted the QS program to continue as is. Correct me if I'm wrong.

              I am making no claims about (and don't pretend to know anything about) Proenza's motives.

              •  QuikScat must be replaced - it's failing (0+ / 0-)

                QuikScat has a sensor that covers a broad swath of ocean so the the whole planet is covered in a day.

                Proenza is arguing for an improved broad swath sensor. The Windsat sensor covers a narrow swath so it doesn't get good coverage. Proenza is arguing against the Windsat narrow coverage.

                In my personal surf forecasting I have found Windsat almost useless. the patchy coverage is inadequate for predicting open ocean swells.

                Everyone wants a new satellite with better equipment.

                "It's the planet, stupid."

                by FishOutofWater on Wed Jul 25, 2007 at 02:51:35 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

      •  that's almost true but incorrect (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Proenza was undone by the forecasters who are a fairly arrogant bunch about their skills. Part of the problem was Proenza was hired somewhat as an outsider. Previously he was head of the southern region of the National Weather Service. Six insiders, including some forecasters, were passed over for the job and they were not too happy about it.

        True, hurricane forecasts can be made without that satellite's data (I was told particularly the wind speed info, surface?) but not available from other satellites or sources.

        My source sided with Proenza in respect to the satellite, the forecasts will be less accurate without it.

        "I suppose it's never any surprise that a sham, when it falls apart, falls apart so quickly and thoroughly." - from Sea of Tranquillity by Paul Russell

        by wayoutinthestix on Wed Jul 25, 2007 at 02:19:52 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm (0+ / 0-)

          getting all of my information from Masters. If Masters is biased, then my information is biased, but I have a hard time believing that in the absence of any evidence.

          QS measures surface wind speeds underneath clouds, obviously very useful, and extremely valuable in forecasting when the hurricanes are in the open ocean, out of range of land-based radar, buoys, and Hurricane Hunter flights. The closer a hurricane gets to land, however, the more useful these other (far more accurate) instruments QS has a tendency to give incomplete or corrupt data (rain throws it off, for example).

    •  Calling the White House IMMEDIATELY (0+ / 0-)

      Bushies! grrr

    •  An Inconvenient Bush (3+ / 0-)


      Click on the image to get your own fair-use copy and other mpeachy images.

  •  No satellite data, no accountability (4+ / 0-)

    "no one could have anticipated".

  •  Excellent diary - recommemnded! (4+ / 0-)

    However, I suspect this news will not sit well with Republican Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi.  As you recall, his home was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, so irregardless of his political leanings, I doubt if the Senator will be pleased at this news.

  •  Proenza was a reformer (7+ / 0-)

    I heard he was trying hard to reform internal practices, including not allowing them to be bullied by the Bush Admin- and that is where the revolt is coming from.

    Bush will be impeached.

    by jgkojak on Wed Jul 25, 2007 at 01:31:26 PM PDT

  •  Sounds like... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jrooth, Tigana, kyril

    ...the sky is falling!

    "No weapon in the arsenals of the world is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women."

    by pere on Wed Jul 25, 2007 at 01:38:40 PM PDT

    •  When a Force 3 hits, the sky (3+ / 0-)

      does indeed fall.  Here's a chart of Hurricane Diana that dropped 7 huge pine trees in my yard and two on my house back in the 1980's.  I live in the little curleycue! Image is courtesy of the National Hurricane Center website.  I wonder--per this article--how long it will be before their wonderful website is jeopardized?

      Check it out for your self. Us coastal NC folks have this site hotlinked from June through October!

      "It is up to the most conscious member of the relationship to create the space for the relationship to grow." Ram Dass

      by bosuncookie on Wed Jul 25, 2007 at 02:15:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  How the heck is money getting diverted from (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tony the American Mutt, Tigana

    hurricane warning systems? Were Republicans really that freakin' nuts last cycle as to let that happen even after Katrina? Of the areas of the country in danger from hurricanes, pretty much the only ones represented by Democrats are the very northernmost [well, actually, I guess with global warming, things could easily be serious up even farther], the Congressional districts are almost entirely represented by Republicans.

    Or is this our party's fault?

    Join the College Kossacks on Facebook, or the Republicans win.

    by DemocraticLuntz on Wed Jul 25, 2007 at 01:38:59 PM PDT

  •  Great diary! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tigana, FishOutofWater

    I have to admit I haven't read the whole thing yet. I am at work and it is too long to read right now. Wanted to give due where earned though.

    Frodo failed....Bush has got the ring!

    by Alohaleezy on Wed Jul 25, 2007 at 01:40:03 PM PDT

  •  Will you be attending YKOS? n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    We Changed The Course! Now we must hold their feet to the fire.

    by hcc in VA on Wed Jul 25, 2007 at 01:45:42 PM PDT

  •  What an excellent diary! (4+ / 0-)

    This diary combines storytelling with reporting with ways to get involved.  This is one of the best-written and most compelling diaries I've seen on DailyKos in quite awhile.

    As someone from the Cape Fear area of NC--often a target of hurricanes that make landfall--I can speak to how much we rely on NHC forecasts.  For those of us who have lived around here a long time, the decision to evacuate is based primarily on close reading of NHC information.  

    I will write and call Brad Miller.  

    Thanks for this diary!

    "It is up to the most conscious member of the relationship to create the space for the relationship to grow." Ram Dass

    by bosuncookie on Wed Jul 25, 2007 at 01:49:37 PM PDT

  •  It's really not so clear-cut (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nota bene, akeitz

    Proenza's statements regarding the effect of losing QUIKSCAT on hurricane track forecasting were simply false.  He based them on an as-yet unpublished study of the effect of QUIKSCAT data on the GFS model - only one of a number of models used by the TPC forecasters to make their forecasts.  And when storms are withing a few days of landfall, they have the recon aircraft flying in there, which more than compensates for the loss of QUIKSCAT data.

    I'm not dismissing the value of QUIKSCAT for deep ocean storms (and for other basins, since recon only flies in the Atlantic) but I'm entirely sympathetic with the forecasting staff who took exception to his claims.

    Inhofe has it dead wrong - The alleged science of economics is the biggest fraud ever perpetrated on mankind.

    by jrooth on Wed Jul 25, 2007 at 02:15:37 PM PDT

    •  As I understand it, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      the unpublished study (2004) was the only study available although another study is in the works. Some of the QuickScat data is NOT available from other places, so it's like having nine tools at your disposable instead of ten. I was told the prediction of storms that approach the coast at a tangent will be most affected without the satellite.

      "I suppose it's never any surprise that a sham, when it falls apart, falls apart so quickly and thoroughly." - from Sea of Tranquillity by Paul Russell

      by wayoutinthestix on Wed Jul 25, 2007 at 02:33:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, it was the only one available (0+ / 0-)

        but Proenza badly misrepresented what it says.

        The study looked at the performance of the GFS model on a handful of storms with/without QUIKSCAT data in the initialization.  Proenza took that result and represented it as what would happen to the accuracy of hurricane track forecasts if QUIKSCAT is lost.

        That's not even close to an accurate representation.

        Inhofe has it dead wrong - The alleged science of economics is the biggest fraud ever perpetrated on mankind.

        by jrooth on Wed Jul 25, 2007 at 02:37:26 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  If every person that oversold his case got fired (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          There would only be yes men and total bureaucrats in government.

          He made a dumbed down presentation for politicians. That's commonplace. He got shot down because the administration nixed the satellite which provides key data on ice melt in Antarctica and the Arctic.

          QuikScat is critically important to surf forecasting. It's not that important to forecasting hurricanes near shore in the Atlantic basin.

          I look at QuikScat almost every day to forecast swells.

          "It's the planet, stupid."

          by FishOutofWater on Wed Jul 25, 2007 at 02:43:42 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'm sorry (0+ / 0-)

            False does not equal dumbed down.

            Inhofe has it dead wrong - The alleged science of economics is the biggest fraud ever perpetrated on mankind.

            by jrooth on Wed Jul 25, 2007 at 02:45:55 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Experts disagree over what he said (0+ / 0-)

              If this is the worst mistake he made in his new job, he's not doing a bad job, in my opinion.

              Look how incompetence is rewarded in this administration and tell me with a straight face that Proenza was fired for incompetence. It's a joke. Look at Iraq. Look at New Orleans. The issue here is not technical competence.

              It's very hard justifying a budget to Congress and the executive branch. Have you gone through the government budgeting process? I have. It's Hell. If he made a mistake, so be it. The NHC is now in chaos regardless of Bill Proenza according to several of the references I cited.

              "It's the planet, stupid."

              by FishOutofWater on Wed Jul 25, 2007 at 03:14:45 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  but they're NOT in chaos (0+ / 0-)

                because the cause of the chaos (Proenza) is no longer there!

                •  I think he was Swiftboated (0+ / 0-)

                  And I think you bought into the Swiftboating. The chaos is still there because they don't have enough money in the budget and they're fighting over scraps.

                  The forecasters are now fighting with the researchers. The researchers are in tough shape. I know. I interviewed them. This isn't just a story of a bad manager or a guy who made exaggerated claims.

                  "It's the planet, stupid."

                  by FishOutofWater on Wed Jul 25, 2007 at 03:42:39 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I don't see it as that at all (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    but it appears this will all come out one way or the other when there are hearings on it in November or December.

                    I know one of the researchers at HRD...and agree, that program is not being funded the way it should be, but I blame NOAA's inferiority complex and spending money on an anniversary that doesn't exist and not the Hurricane Center.

                  •  also as for bureaucratic infighting (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    as a government employee...this happens alllll the time.

                    the outside world forgets that us bureaucrats are humans too, complete with irrational emotions, ambitions,'s much deeper then politics. I personally stay in my cube and stay out of it.

                    •  Cubes and I are not compatible (0+ / 0-)

                      The comment down towards the bottom by the NWS employee is most enlightening.

                      I gave tons of information to try to make the point that there is a huge problem here with the administration's cuts of research on climate science.

                      The personality issues can be better left to the MSM.

                      They handle catfights and dogfights well.

                      "It's the planet, stupid."

                      by FishOutofWater on Wed Jul 25, 2007 at 03:58:01 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                  •  I don't know Proenza (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    and I have no particular animus towards him.  Nor am I by any stretch of the imagination a fan of the Bush administration's record with regard to science.

                    But whatever all the facts are, Proenza did play some significant role in creating the chaos you're talking about and I doubt it would have abated with him there.

                    Ed Rappaport is a good guy and a capable administrator.  If he had not refused consideration because of a health situation in his family, I'm fairly sure he would have got the job when Max Mayfield left.  In my opinion, it's best for NHC/TPC to have him at the helm through the season.  Then by all means sort it all out.

                    Inhofe has it dead wrong - The alleged science of economics is the biggest fraud ever perpetrated on mankind.

                    by jrooth on Wed Jul 25, 2007 at 04:15:49 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  The Insider's Comment down below (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:

                      (by txscorp, I believe) is consistent with your conclusion here. Rappaport can get the forecast office through the season. The situation for the hurricane researchers looks a little less rosy to me.

                      "It's the planet, stupid."

                      by FishOutofWater on Wed Jul 25, 2007 at 04:21:03 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

          •  And I said ... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            nota bene

            I'm not discounting the value of QUIKSCAT.  I'm merely disputing Proenza's original statements.

            Inhofe has it dead wrong - The alleged science of economics is the biggest fraud ever perpetrated on mankind.

            by jrooth on Wed Jul 25, 2007 at 02:46:55 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  I shouldn't type when excited. (0+ / 0-)

        Make that disposal, not disposable.

        "I suppose it's never any surprise that a sham, when it falls apart, falls apart so quickly and thoroughly." - from Sea of Tranquillity by Paul Russell

        by wayoutinthestix on Wed Jul 25, 2007 at 03:14:42 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  His statememts were not false (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      He was making specific reference to staff reports according to my references.

      His statements have been taken out of context to make them look false, in my opinion.

      If you read the diary carefully, you will see I stress the importance of the satellite for many other purposes than hurricane track forecasting. I am quite aware that the hurricane hunter planes including the Gulfstream jets provide huge amounts of data for Atlantic basin storms that are nearing landfall.

      I do not claim that the QuikScat data are that important to forecasting landfall when those data are available. I don't think that Bill Proenza was claiming that either. He was trying to make a case to Congress.

      As I see it he's damned if he makes a strong case and he's damned if he doesn't. Cheney didn't want the data on ice melting in my opinion.

      "It's the planet, stupid."

      by FishOutofWater on Wed Jul 25, 2007 at 02:34:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The staff revolt is significant IMHO (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        nota bene, jrooth, kyril

        One staff concern I heard was that senior forecasters felt that Proenza's was undermining public confidence in their work with his repeated statements about the the reduced accuracy of Hurricane forecasts absent Quikscat.  The recent poll of Floridians about whether or not to evacuate from a hurricane appears to support their point.  1 in 3 Floridians would stay put compared to 1 in 4 a few years ago.  

        There was equal concern that if he was successful in getting a change on Quikscat, it would come at the expense of other critical hurricane forecasting needs (e.g. money would be taken from hurricane aircraft). Proenza was hoping for additional money, but wasn't necessarily thinking it through.

        When I saw names like Lixion Avila and Jim Franklin on the letter, I took notice.  Those guys have been working hurricane forecasts for ages.  If they feel something is getting in the way of their work, I'm gonna listen.

        - "You're Hells Angels, then? What chapter are you from?"

        by Hoya90 on Wed Jul 25, 2007 at 02:44:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  QS measures winds (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Hoya90, jrooth, kyril

        how could that possibly have anything to do with global warming?

        As for this....

        I don't think that Bill Proenza was claiming that either

        I haven't run down all the links yet, but this is a long section of a longer post from Masters on 7/9:

        A political storm engulfed the National Hurricane Center this week, with a majority of the senior hurricane forecasters calling for Bill Proenza's removal as director. The most visible issue revolved around the extraordinary focus on the aging QuikSCAT satellite. The public argument put forth by Mr. Proenza was that QuikSCAT data was so vital to hurricane track forecasting that without it, track forecast errors would increase significantly, leading to larger warning areas and increased costs for evacuation and emergency planning.

        Focus on QuikSCAT--out of proportion?
        On March 16th Proenza went public with the QuikSCAT concerns and associated statistics for the first time, stating that "two- and three-day forecasts of a storm's path would be affected. The two-day forecast could be 10 percent worse while the three-day one could be affected up to 16 percent," with the conclusion," that would mean longer stretches of coastline would have to be placed under warnings, and more people than necessary would have to evacuate." As a result of these comments, a perception arose in the public and among lawmakers that without QuikSCAT, NHC would not be able to provide accurate hurricane forecasts. Legislation was hastily introduced into both the House and Senate to provide an immediate replacement for the $375 million satellite.

        Proenza's statements raised several questions: 1) Why the focus on track forecast errors in landfalling situations, when QuikSCAT was widely known to be used in intensity forecasting and for tropical cyclones too far at sea to be accessed by the Hurricane Hunters? 2) Could such specific and significant gains in track forecast error truly be attributed to QuikSCAT? Where did these numbers come from, and why was no uncertainty being attached to them?

        Since QuikSCAT data became available, starting in 1999, average track errors for 48-hour and 72-hour forecasts have been reduced by 43 miles and 62 miles respectively. Fully one quarter of this improvement was being attributed by Proenza to QuikSCAT. This was an extraordinary performance increase to attribute to one satellite, and seemed doubtful.

        [emph mine]

        I still want to get a direct cite on Proenza saying those things, but I have no reason to suspect that Masters does not speak for the NHC people.

      •  Yes he did (0+ / 0-)

        He claimed that loss of QUIKSCAT would affect the 3-day hurricane track forecasts by as much as 16%, if I recall correctly.  Worse, he implied that this would even apply to landfall forcasts.

        That's simply false.

        Inhofe has it dead wrong - The alleged science of economics is the biggest fraud ever perpetrated on mankind.

        by jrooth on Wed Jul 25, 2007 at 02:45:09 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Very well, Washington Monument syndrome (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          could be the diagnosis.

          That, however, is not my main point.

          This is not about Bill Proenza or one satellite.

          The hurricane hunter plane is 32 years old.

          They are fighting for dollars to do research.

          Have you heard of the Republican war on science?

          That's the issue here as is public safety.

          Have you heard of hurricane Katrina?

          Have you heard of FEMA?

          That's what I'm talking about - the gutting of an effective government agency.

          "It's the planet, stupid."

          by FishOutofWater on Wed Jul 25, 2007 at 03:05:17 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Interesting, but no. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nota bene, akeitz, bosuncookie

    I haven't a clue as to where to begin so I'll just dive right in. However so many more have said more then I ever could, and I've been following this from the beginning, and I'm still pretty miffed that I fell for Proenza's sob story early on (I blame the Miami Herald, which has had a fearmongering agenda in its coverage and has not been 100% accurate).

    It's an important issue, so don't get me wrong there. While the WMO and the IPCC and the AMS and other organizations all say the jury's more or less still out on the global warming=more hurricanes link (there have been several papers as of late for the against, such as :Donnelly, J.P., and J.D. Woodruff. 2007. Intense hurricane activity over the past 5,000 years controlled by El Niño and the West African monsoon. Nature, 447, 465-468. and another one whose name I cant' recall but it was in the March or April AMS Bulleten, not to mention the extensive work by Kam biu-liu at Louisiana State University, and the work of Kerry Emmanuel et. al. for the for) the fact is there's been massive coastal growth and in 1995 the Atlantic switched into one of its periodic active cycles. Massive coastal growth + new active cycle = mucho hurricane damage. That's not climate change, that's too many people in the way.

    However, you are being very, very misleading in your insinuation that the Hurricane Center will be blind if QuickSCAT fails (and that insinuation is what caused the staff revolt that got Proenza correctly fired. Yes, I am aware that Proenza was not fired due to the bad science he used about QuickSCAT, but because he was a sucky manager and was highly disruptive. And they said the same thing at Southern Region where he came from, also in the congressional testimony from last week.)

    I am really bothered by that. That in itself is way more dangerous then one satellite (which will be replaced and does have something already in place in the event it does fail this year, a European Satellite named ASCAT, not as good but it'll do till the new replacement goes up after '08). We all know that Congressional leadership reads Daily Kos. And after Proenza made all the noise regarding QuickSCAT (based on an as of yet unpublished study that was based on limited observations using ONE forecasting model, one that isn't in my experience tracking these things for the 16 years i've been doing it as a hobby, particularly good in the tropics), there was noise in congress to expand the satellite program and shrink the aircraft recon program. That would cost thousands of people their lives, plain and simple. That is NOT hyperbole.

    You are insinuating that they cannot do their jobs without one satellite when there are many in orbit from the US and European nations and Asian nations, all of which we have agreements with to share data, including a brand new GOES satellite that went up at the beginning of this very month. The HURRICANE CENTER IS NOT BLIND AND WILL NOT BE BLIND WITHOUT QUICKSCAT!

    You did a good job incorporating the Congressional Testimony from last week, but left out the part about QuickSCAT: PDF

    Current Research Studies of QuikSCAT in Models
    Studies have shown either negligible or slightly positive impacts of QuikSCAT observations on track. The major drawback of these studies is the small number of cases examined. A more systematic study using cases from a number of seasons should be performed to clarify the impact. To date there are no studies of the impact of QuikSCAT data on tropical cyclone intensity forecasts. The main problem is that until this season models that forecast tropical cyclone intensity relied only upon coarse resolution global data assimilation system for their initial conditions. The impact on intensity must be tested in the future using very high resolution global and regional models, where inner core observations can be assimilated.

    One study using the NOAA global data assimilation system and global forecast system tested the impact of QuikSCAT on track forecasts from two months of Atlantic storms in 2003 (Zapotocny et al., 2007). The study, conducted at the NOAA/NASA/DOD Joint Center for Satellite Data Assimilation, examined storms in August-September 2003 and showed that a degradation in the 48 hour track forecasts of 10% and in the 72 hour track forecast of 16% when QuikSCAT was removed. A drawback of this study was the number of cases (only 25 cases at 48 hours and 19 cases at 72 hours). Nevertheless, this study provides the best available estimate of the degradation of model track forecasts that might result from a QuikSCAT failure.

    A second study used the Navy Operational Global Atmospheric Prediction System and data assimilation system from two months in the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season (Goerss and Hogan, 2006). This study, using 8-10 times as many cases as the previous one, found little significant improvement in the track forecasts due to the inclusion of QuikSCAT observations of ocean surface vector winds beyond that at 24 hours, which showed a 3% improvement (2% improvement at 48 hours, and slight degradation at 72-120 hours. In my opinion, the impact of QuikSCAT data in this experiment was limited by the way in which the data was assimilated, and the results should apply only the Navy model used in the experiment.
    A third study by NASA and NOAA (Atlas et al., 2005) using the NCEP forecast system for two months of forecasts in 1999 showed a meaningful positive impact of QuikSCAT. In one case (Hurricane Cindy, 1999) the 60-hour forecast intensity and location with QuikSCAT observations of ocean surface vector winds was more accurate than the 24-hour forecast without them. This study should be considered in the context of two decades of numerical experiments with NASA models that have consistently shown improved predictions of storms over the oceans (Atlas et al., 2001).
    In summary, QuikSCAT provides vital data for a variety of important applications, including weather prediction for ships at sea, hurricane forecasting, atmospheric and oceanic research, and climate monitoring. NOAA has developed an effective mitigation plan that should reduce the impact of a QuikSCAT failure on hurricane forecasting while working with NASA to evaluate an advanced replacement for QuikSCAT.

    *the Bold is the study Proenza used.

    And the Air Force has always done hurricane reconnaissance, since the first penetration of a hurricane eyewall in July of 1943. So this is nothing new.

    The satellite has its limitations too. Us weatherweenies know its biggest one: the fact it only passes over an area once every 12 hours. NASA and NOAA want something new

    QuikSCAT science
    Enough of politics, let's talk science! I've communicated several times over the past few weeks with Dr. Paul Chang, a NOAA QuikSCAT scientist whose QuikSCAT web page I've linked to hundreds of times in my blogs over the past two years. He did not want to comment on the politics of the QuikSCAT issue (smart man!), but did ask me print these comments:

    The need for an operational ocean surface vector wind satellite system like QuikSCAT (or actually better) goes much further than the hurricane issue, and the push for it started long before Bill Proenza became the NHC director. NHC actually wants/needs something better so that it can provide them with reliable and accurate information (intensity and structure) within all hurricanes. A few other users of QuikSCAT data include: The Department of Defense's Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Pearl Harbor, which has a much larger area to forecast for. They have no Hurricane Hunter data and much less surface and upper air data to work with, and thus use QuikSCAT winds quite a bit. This is a similar situation for NOAA's Central Pacific Hurricane Center located in Hawaii. QuikSCAT has also had significant positive impacts at the Ocean Prediction Center, which issues the high seas marine forecasts and warnings for the North Atlantic and North Pacific. This has led to the introduction of a warning category for hurricane force winds for the most dangerous extratropical cyclones. I know of at least a few private marine weather companies that routinely use QuikSCAT. The Australians, French and many others use QuikSCAT routinely for tropical storm forecast/analysis, and for marine weather in general.

    The track degradation impact numbers that Bill Proenza has been stating publicly come from a limited data study for the 2003 season in the Atlantic with the GFS model only. I believe Bob Atlas did some earlier work studying the impact of QuikSCAT on Hurricane Cindy using an earlier version of the NCEP global model. Both of these studies did show promising positive impacts. They are of course limited studies, and a more in-depth study is warranted.

    The GFS model hurricane track forecasts are just one piece of guidance that the NHC human forecasters use to generate the official track forecast, so the impact in a particular model guidance package does not directly translate to the same impact in the actual NHC officially issued track forecast. Additionally, QuikSCAT data are also used directly by forecasters at NHC and elsewhere, but this impact tends to be more difficult to quantify.

    The aircraft are a very important hurricane operational and research tool, and no one involved in the QuikSCAT follow-on effort has ever said QuikSCAT (or its successor) should or could replace the role of the hurricane aircraft flights, just as no one has said that aircraft could replace the role of satellites. They are very complementary platforms, but they fulfill different roles.

    I'm just all over bothered by this, and the insinuation that Cheney did it to hide climate science data is just utterly paranoid.

    Do I have a bug up my ass about this? Yes! Bad science pisses me off no matter who's doing it and even if the end goal (to get a satellite that was already going to be replaced with something far better) was probably noble. He had to go, and he's gone, and I'm glad.

    And lastly, not even the IPCC, whose conclusions I agree with and accept, has said global warming will "run away" by 2015. If James Hansen is saying this I want to see the paper he wrote it in, otherwise I'm going to start tuning him out.

    •  satellite isn't going to be replaced for years (0+ / 0-)

      no matter what design we're talking about if the present schedule is followed.

      Other earth observation satellites are canceled as well. It's not me being paranoid because they are slashing all earth observations. It's not just an technical argument over one satellite.

      "It's the planet, stupid."

      by FishOutofWater on Wed Jul 25, 2007 at 02:58:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  that isn't entirely accurate either. (0+ / 0-)

        I believe you are referring to NPOESS. NPOESS is overbudget. What we perceive as slashing, well it is, but it's to get it back in its correct budget so it can be launched and the government can get to say it was a good steward of the taxpayer's money.

        Personally, I think there's too many fingers in the pot (there's three or four different agencies involved with this), which is why it's overbudget and late.

        •  Read this and weep (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          The earth observation satellite program is in tatters.

          NASA shelves climate satellites
          Environmental science may suffer

          By Beth Daley, Globe Staff  |  June 9, 2006

          NASA is canceling or delaying a number of satellites designed to give scientists critical information on the earth's changing climate and environment.

          The space agency has shelved a $200 million satellite mission headed by a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor that was designed to measure soil moisture -- a key factor in helping scientists understand the impact of global warming and predict droughts and floods. The Deep Space Climate Observatory, intended to observe climate factors such as solar radiation, ozone, clouds, and water vapor more comprehensively than existing satellites, also has been canceled.

          And in its 2007 budget, NASA proposes significant delays in a global precipitation measuring mission to help with weather predictions, as well as the launch of a satellite designed to increase the timeliness and accuracy of severe weather forecasts and improve climate models.

          The changes come as NASA prioritizes its budget to pay for completion of the International Space Station and the return of astronauts to the moon by 2020 -- a goal set by President Bush that promises a more distant and arguably less practical scientific payoff. Ultimately, scientists say, the delays and cancellations could make hurricane predictions less accurate, create gaps in long-term monitoring of weather, and result in less clarity about the earth's hydrological systems, which play an integral part in climate change.

          ``Today, when the need for information about the planet is more important than ever, this process of building understanding through increasingly powerful observations . . . is at risk of collapse," said Berrien Moore III, director of the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space at the University of New Hampshire.

          Moore is cochairman of a National Research Council committee that will recommend NASA's future earth science agenda later this year. It is unclear, however, whether NASA will follow those recommendations.

          ``NASA has canceled, scaled back, or delayed all of the planned earth observing missions," he said.

          "It's the planet, stupid."

          by FishOutofWater on Wed Jul 25, 2007 at 03:25:44 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Hey! Another storm2k member ... (0+ / 0-)


      I'm x-y-no (Jan).

      Inhofe has it dead wrong - The alleged science of economics is the biggest fraud ever perpetrated on mankind.

      by jrooth on Wed Jul 25, 2007 at 04:27:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  please rec this diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    NOAA/NWS/NHC don't get nearly as much attention as they deserve. There are a ton of hard-working people there - honest scientists doing work that saves lives, fighting against their political bosses' anti-science views in order to bring us quality research and predictions despite inadequate and aging equipment. My dad does sea ice research for NWS; his group's underfunded too, for the same reasons as NHC, because the government doesn't like their results. Help save the scientists who are working to save lives!

    We have never been at war with Eurasia. We have always been at war with Eastasia.

    by kyril on Wed Jul 25, 2007 at 02:52:46 PM PDT

  •  Great Diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FishOutofWater, wayoutinthestix

    I live in NOLA and appreciate the work you have put into this diary.  I am sharing with family, friends and media.

  •  my thoughts (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I work as a meteorologist with the National Weather Service and just wanted to toss out what I have heard through the grapevine. Some of this is simply rumor - so consider the source.

    1. When Max Mayfield retired, the associate director, Ed Rappaport declined to bid on the TPC (Tropical Prediction Center)directors job because he wanted to spend time with his family (small children). The directors job requires a great deal of travel during the off-season to promote hurricane safety and awareness. Bill Read, the Houston MIC (met in charge) was encouraged to bid on the directors job. Mr. Read is extremely qualified and has participated on several hurricane liason teams and was well liked by the hurricane center staff. What I was told (this is the rumor part), Mr. Proenza was asked to leave Southern Region and take the job as director of TPC. To my knowledge, he was not given a choice. Mr. Proenza can be abrasive at times and he was a member of the corporate board (policy makers for the National Weather Service). He blocked many initiatives that the corporate board wanted to implement and was regarded by many corporate board members as a pain in the a$$. The NWS wanted to close Southern Region several years ago and Mr. Proenza fought very hard to keep SR open. The corporate board has been looking for an excuse to dump this man. He has always been blunt in his approach and has always fought hard to protect his employees and give them the equipment and training required to do their jobs. FWIW, show him as a Bush supporter.
    1. Quickscat - As others have noted, it is most valuable in areas that don't have upper air data or other data void areas. I am not an expert on modeling but in my limited experience, I have found Quickscat useful but I don't think the forecast process would suffer should this function be removed. That said, Rick Knabb, formerly the SOO (Science Operations Officer) and now a forecaster at TPC authored or co-authored a paper that stated the utility of Quickscat winds and said hurricane forecasting would suffer if a new satellite was not implemented. He turns around and signs a petition to have Proenza removed and signs another petition dismissing the value of Quickscat. Why no follow-up on the change in Mr. Knabbs opinion?
    1. Buoys - To my knowledge, the buoys are maintained by the US Coast Guard. Locally, the forecast must state that winds are 10 knots or less for two consecutive days with seas at or below 3 feet.If these conditions are not met, the Coast Guard will not repair the buoy. These standards may have changed or may be different in other regions of the country - just not 100% sure.  
    1. Interim NWS director Mary Glackin - she is not a bad person. She has strong credentials and my understanding is that she is very fair. Conrad Lautenbacher is a not someone I would trust. Louis Ucellini - very strong credentials but not a person I would trust. Connie and Louis seem to have their own agenda.
    1. NOAA 200 anniversary - biggest joke since the Bush 2000 fraud election. NOAA began in 1970 (37 years ago). It is a gigantic waste of money. Every employee deletes these emails without even reading them - total waste of time and money.

    My thanks to the author of this very long and detailed diary. How do I recommend?

    •  Rec button is below menu up top right (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      on your screen. Thanks for your click.

      Your comments are most helpful. They are the best so far at making sense out of this situation.

      The buoy repairs haven't been made since January in many cases. It looks like they are saving money by leaving them down to me.

      The buoys that just went down are normal wear and tear, in my opinion.

      "It's the planet, stupid."

      by FishOutofWater on Wed Jul 25, 2007 at 03:49:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Katrina and Rita and probably Wilma (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        took several out in 2005. I believe that those were replaced but the others not being up and running is bothersome.

        This also makes no sense to me that they're not replaced, because they just spent a bunch of money to string tsunami buoys in the Atlantic and Caribbean. And Pacific too.

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