As is tradition for the Houston chapter, the final meeting of this year included a prominent speaker from the National Hurricane Center to speak to our group about past and future tropical seasons. This year we were very fortunate to get the new director of the National Hurricane Center, Mr. Bill Read return to Houston and speak to us.
Mr. Read gave a brief overview on the NHC facility in Florida, located in conjunction with Florida International University. The building is home to 46 full time employees in 3 specific levels: Hurricane Specialists, Tropical Analysis and Forecasting Branch, and the Technical Support Branch. Each group is responsible for specific operations to make the NHC function smoothly. Mr Read also gave a brief description of his first experience with the Caribbean Hurricane Awareness Tour, an outreach trip taking the hurricane hunter aircraft to Caribbean locations to increase awareness to the public and students in particular. This year the tour went to Manzanillo and Acapulco, Mexico; Guatemala City, Guatemala; Barbados and Ponce, Puerto Rico.
Mr. Read continued his talk with a brief review of the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season. The 2007 season, though relatively quiet for the United States was active for the Caribbean. Three names were retires last year: Dean, Felix and Noel; and will be replace with Dorian, Fernand and Nestor in the list.
A large part of Mr. Read’s discussion was geared toward the Hurricane Forecast Improvement Project. Forecast track errors have steadily improved over the past 20 years, coming down from ~100mi in 1990 to ~50 mi in 2007. Intensity errors have been largely unchanged in this time period, remaining steady at about a 10kt average error. Mr. Read stressed the need to further develop tools and the science of meteorology to further improve hurricane forecasts. The ten year project goal is to reduce track error by 50% for all lead times, increase skillful track forecast to 7 days, reduce intensity error by 50% and develop skills in forecasting rapid intensity changes.
Read also discussed storm surge for the US coast, pointing out that small changes in the actual path of a storm could lead to large changes in storm surge for the impact area. The SLOSH model is the preferred way to project storm surge at this time, utilizing a multiple track model to account for a variety of possibilities in the approach and eventual landfall of a storm.
Finally, Mr. Read discussed the 2008 hurricane season predictions with 12 to 16 named storms, 6-9 hurricanes and 2-5 major hurricanes. Statistics show a 65% chance the season will be above normal with 25% chance near normal. Read also stressed that it doesn’t matter how many storms are forecast, only how many of them have an impact.---Penny Zabel.
Summer Newsletter. ---Brian Hulse.
June Newsletter. ---Paul Gehred.
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