Big money for hurricane research?

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:08 PM GMT on October 27, 2006

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The National Hurricane Research Initiative (NHRI)
There's big money proposed to fund new hurricane research. The National Science Board, in a report issued September 29, 2006, calls for an increase of $300 million per year in hurricane research funding. That's a whopping increase in funding, when one considers that the average annual spending on hurricane research has been only $20 million the past six years. So, what is the National Science Board, and this a reasonable proposal?

National Science Board
The 24 members of the National Science Board are appointed by the President of the United States, and make budget recommendations for the National Science Foundation (NSF). The NSF has an annual budget of about $5.6 billion (fiscal year 2006), and funds approximately 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America's colleges and universities. So, this is a very serious proposal by a group which has real power to influence the Federal budget.

Major recommendations of the report
The primary recommendation of the report is the formation of a National Hurricane Research Initiative (NHRI), which will "provide urgently needed hurricane science and engineering research and education". As justification for this effort, the report notes that that hurricane damage is increasing, with annual total losses (in constant 2006 dollars) averaging $1.3 billion from 1949-1989, $10.1 billion from 1990-1995, and $35.8 billion per year during the last 5 years. $168 billion in losses occurred in 2004 and 2005 alone. Over 50% of the population lives within 50 miles of the coast, and the value of infrastructure in the Gulf and Atlantic coast areas is over $3 trillion, with trillions more in investment likely in the next few decades as the U.S. population continues to expand. This incredible investment will be increasingly affected by hurricanes, and scientists "know relatively little about the most important aspects of hurricanes including their internal dynamics and interactions with the larger-scale atmosphere and ocean; methods for quantifying and conveying uncertainty and mitigating hurricane impacts; associated short and long term consequences on the natural and built environment; and the manner in which society responds before, during, and after landfall." The study notes that "billions of tax dollars have been provided for rescue, recovery, and rebuilding after hurricanes strike", but more money needs to be spent minimizing losses from hurricanes before they strike. In fact, had the NHRI been funded two years ago, much of the devastation wrought by Katrina could have been avoided. The program funds engineering studies to evaluate the structural integrity of the entire coastal infrastucture including levees, seawalls, drainage systems, bridges, water/sewage, power, and communications. The flaws in the New Orleans levees that led to over 80% of the city's flooding could have been found and fixed before Katrina hit had such a program been funded earlier.

The report has many excellent suggestions on how to make a coordinated research effort that will pay big dividends over the coming years by reducing our vulnerability to hurricanes. For example, the report seeks funding for research on improving evacuation planning, so that we can avoid a repeat of the debacle that occurred during the evacuation of Houston for Hurricane Rita. Over 100 people died in the evacuation effort. Research on improved disaster communications technologies is proposed, so that we avoid the situation that arose in Katrina where FEMA had no idea what was going on at the Convention Center.

My only gripe about the report is the inclusion of funding for research on human modification of hurricanes to reduce their intensity or alter their movement. I don't believe we should be messing with these great storms until we understand better how they work. In addition, given the sheer size and incredible energy that storms have, modification efforts will likely be an ineffectual waste of time and money. Finally, I don't think the legal system in this country will allow hurricane modification to occur without a lot of lawsuits being filed. I don't know too many hurricane scientists who are in favor of hurricane modification research, and suspect it is being funded for political reasons.

Is $300 million a reasonable request?
To do a thorough job of reducing our vulnerability to hurricanes, $300 million per year is a reasonable amount to spend. However, the U.S. faces a number of threats that also require large outlays of dollars, such as bioterrorism and earthquakes. The framers of the report realize that getting a $300 million per year project funded in a time of "increasingly small non-defense discretionary budgets" is difficult. To put this number in perspective, the annual amount spent in the U.S. on meteorology operations and supporting research is $3 billion. About $1 billion/year of this goes to run the National Weather Service, with weather satellites consuming another big chunk of the costs. But consider the amount being spent on defending the country against bioterrorism. The federal budget for bioterrorism emergency preparedness has ranged between $3 and $6 billion per year since 2002. The request for FY 2007 is $4.3 billion. That's over 200 times what we spend on hurricane research, and over ten times the $300 million being proposed. While others will disagree, I believe that the threat of catastrophe from hurricane strikes on the U.S. is much higher than that from bioterrorism. If we need to find funding for the NHRI, the bioterrorism budget can suffer a 7% cut. Another hurricane as strong as Hurricane Katrina is certain to hit a major populated area in the future, while a bioterrorism attack is not certain, and hopefully not even probable. There are wiser ways to spend our disaster preparedness dollars than what we are doing.

National Hurricane Research Initiative Act of 2006
Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., introduced the National Hurricane Research Initiative Act of 2006, a bi-partisan bill that adopts the recommendations of the report. The proposed legislation puts NOAA and the National Science Foundation in charge of coordinating the research initiative. Not surprisingly, the bill is being co-sponsored by Florida's other Senator, Sen. Nelson (D-FL), and Louisiana's two Senators, Sen. Vitter (R-LA), and Sen. Landrieu (D-LA). Apparently, the Senators from the states hard hit by the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005 felt that $300 million per year wasn't enough, and ask for $435 million in funding per year through 2017.

Some historical perspective
In 1898, the United States fought the Spanish-American War. With the U.S. Navy heavily committed to operations in the Caribbean during the height of hurricane season, Willis L. Moore, Chief of the Weather Bureau, saw the need set up an improved hurricane warning system. Moore took a long view through the history of naval warfare and discovered that more armadas had been destroyed by weather than by the enemy. He placed his findings before President McKinley, and proposed that the U.S. spend money to establish a new hurricane warning service, despite the fact that budgets were tight in a time of war. McKinley responded to Moore: "I am more afraid of a West Indian hurricane than the entire Spanish Navy. Get this [hurricane warning] service inaugurated at the earliest possible moment!"

The Spanish are no longer our enemies, but the threat of hurricanes remains and will worsen if we do nothing. I hope today's politicians will emulate President McKinley, and take the long view of history. In the words of the report's conclusion:

Can we as a Nation continue to remain vulnerable to hurricanes that are an inevitable part of our future, that have demonstrated the capacity to inflict catastrophic damage to our economy, and that kill hundreds of our citizens? The hurricane warning for our Nation has been issued and we must act vigorously and without delay.

I urge you to write your Senators to support S, 4005, the National Hurricane Research Initiative Act of 2006. Those of you in Louisiana and Florida probably do not need to write your Senators--they are definitely on board on this one!

Jeff Masters

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222. Skyepony (Mod)
2:20 AM GMT on October 28, 2006
nice cloudsat pass on Cimaron, well except he's 20kts & 1004mbs at the time. He's 65 kts & 976mb now. Was only a TD less then 24hrs ago.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 161 Comments: 37353
221. Skyepony (Mod)
2:07 AM GMT on October 28, 2006
kman here's your Quickscat on 93L~it's a little over 4 hrs old, won't see another till around 9am gmt tomarrow.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 161 Comments: 37353
220. hurricane23
10:03 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
ABNT20 KNHC 272102
TWOAT
TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
530 PM EDT FRI OCT 27 2006

FOR THE NORTH ATLANTIC...CARIBBEAN SEA AND THE GULF OF MEXICO...

A WESTWARD-MOVING TROPICAL WAVE...ACCOMPANIED BY A SURFACE LOW
PRESSURE SYSTEM...IS LOCATED ABOUT 80 MILES NORTH OF BARBADOS AND
ALSO ABOUT 110 MILES EAST OF MARTINIQUE IN THE CENTRAL LESSER
ANTILLES. SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS HAVE INCREASED AND BECOME A
LITTLE MORE CONCENTRATED NEAR THE CENTER...AND UPPER-LEVEL WINDS
ARE FORECAST TO BECOME SOMEWHAT MORE FAVORABLE FOR SOME ADDITIONAL
DEVELOPMENT DURING THE NEXT DAY OR SO
. THIS SYSTEM COULD PRODUCE
LOCALLY HEAVY RAINS AND GUSTY WINDS AS IT MOVES ACROSS MUCH OF THE
LESSER ANTILLES AND ADJACENT WATERS TONIGHT AND TOMORROW.

ELSEWHERE...TROPICAL STORM FORMATION IS NOT EXPECTED THROUGH
SATURDAY.

$$
FORECASTER STEWART/BLAKE
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13626
219. 1900hurricane
10:02 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
Hello? I guess there is no one here.

HELLO!!!(word echeos)
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 46 Comments: 11666
218. ryang
9:49 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
ok i am going off
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 329 Comments: 12415
217. 1900hurricane
9:39 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
Season isn't over yet!

Big storms during November!
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 46 Comments: 11666
216. 1900hurricane
9:34 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
Looks like we could have a big one in the W. Pac.
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 46 Comments: 11666
215. kmanislander
9:32 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
bb in a while
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15725
214. 1900hurricane
9:32 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
Link
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 46 Comments: 11666
213. ProgressivePulse
9:31 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
Highest cloud tops still on the way ryang.
Member Since: August 19, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 5043
212. kmanislander
9:30 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
careful there ryang !
stay off the comp.
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15725
211. 1900hurricane
9:29 PM GMT on October 27, 2006

Intensity
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 46 Comments: 11666
210. ryang
9:29 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
fORK LIGHTING
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 329 Comments: 12415
209. 1900hurricane
9:27 PM GMT on October 27, 2006

Early

Late
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 46 Comments: 11666
208. kmanislander
9:27 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
ryang

I ahve always been the one to say that systems just don't get it together in the E Caribbean but of the 6 that did in the last 28 yrs three got TD status in the month of Oct. !

Thats about all I can tell you
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15725
207. Patrap
9:27 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
Invest page..Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127559
206. ProgressivePulse
9:27 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
Usually fully updated around 9:30 or so Kman maybe a little later.
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205. ryang
9:27 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
Outside getting worse by the second
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 329 Comments: 12415
204. kmanislander
9:25 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
that works
I would really like to see a QS pass.
Anyone know when the next pass is ?
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203. 1900hurricane
9:25 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
I got in there no problem...
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 46 Comments: 11666
202. ryang
9:25 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
will 93L survive
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 329 Comments: 12415
201. ProgressivePulse
9:24 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
Or TRY THIS
Member Since: August 19, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 5043
200. kmanislander
9:23 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
Pulse
access forbidden ! LOL
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199. ryang
9:22 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
lol
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198. ProgressivePulse
9:22 PM GMT on October 27, 2006

Member Since: August 19, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 5043
197. ryang
9:21 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
lol
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196. ryang
9:19 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
taz shear so high
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 329 Comments: 12415
195. 1900hurricane
9:19 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
Link
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 46 Comments: 11666
194. HCW
9:18 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
Latest model runs on 93L . Have a good weekened :)

Link
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193. ryang
9:18 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
hi chaser
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192. Tazmanian
9:17 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
this 93L has no ch at all to make it to the gulf the wind shar is way to high like 65kt to 100kt of wind shar you are all safy from 93L
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114728
191. 1900hurricane
9:17 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 46 Comments: 11666
190. ryang
9:17 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
weatherguy03 is right
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189. stormchasher
9:16 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
HI yall Hi ryang!!!!
Member Since: July 30, 2006 Posts: 40 Comments: 1295
188. kmanislander
9:16 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
ryang

well you get to enjoy the rain lol
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187. ryang
9:16 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
lighting and thunder heavy now
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186. Tazmanian
9:16 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
pin hole eye?
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114728
185. weatherguy03
9:15 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
Lets wait to see if we can get a good QuikScat on this tonite. The one this morning still showed a open wave. It really only has about 24 to 48 hours of low wind shear. After that its done. So maybe a TD or weak TS, if it can get itself together? But, thats about it.
Member Since: July 5, 2005 Posts: 590 Comments: 29698
184. ryang
9:15 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
kman had to cancel
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 329 Comments: 12415
183. MTJax
9:14 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
also I look for the words "TROPICAL STORM FORMATION IS POSSIBLE WITH THIS AREA" about the same time. Sunday.
182. ryang
9:14 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
kman but you see that heavy convection just east of us
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181. kmanislander
9:14 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
ryang

what happened to the Miami trip ?
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179. ryang
9:13 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
lol
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 329 Comments: 12415
178. kmanislander
9:12 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
hi ryang

I told you so last night. the center of 93L now 80 miles N of you
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15725
177. ryang
9:12 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
winds are not strong
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 329 Comments: 12415
176. MTJax
9:12 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
Sheer for 24 hours, sheer reduction for 48 hours, build to TD, TS, then off north of Cuba and west FL Nov 6. Same as I guesscasted earlier today.
The TWDAT should reflect the changes by Sunday with a Special interest area. I think this one might have to tie us over till next season but it could be an interesting storm. I want to see the models start picking this up solid before I will totally buy into the possible TS. I dont expect a massive hurricane but i do expect a TS.
175. ryang
9:11 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
Also some flooding
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 329 Comments: 12415
174. kmanislander
9:11 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
1900hurricane

yes it does. The obs from the islands as well as the sat appearance bear that out. If it organises a bit more and takes on a less ragged appearance we could see a TD classification as early as 11 am tomorrow IMO
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15725
173. 1900hurricane
9:11 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
You are on the outer fringes of that invest. It looks like things will get progressively worse for you...
: (
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 46 Comments: 11666
172. ryang
9:10 PM GMT on October 27, 2006
hi everyone.IT is pouring in barbados.Winds are WNW at 6mph.
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 329 Comments: 12415

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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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