A bit of unfortunate collateral damage: NOAA

(10 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

I just read an AP article, via Yahoo!– http://news.yahoo.com/irene-fo… — that congratulates NOAA for getting the track of Hurricane Irene exactly right, then points out at length that they got the strength of the storm wrong:

..WASHINGTON (AP) – Hurricane Irene was no mystery to forecasters. They knew where it was going. But what it would do when it got there was another matter.

Predicting a storm’s strength still baffles meteorologists. Every giant step in figuring out the path highlights how little progress they’ve made on another crucial question: How strong?

Irene made landfall Saturday morning at Cape Lookout, N.C. – a bull’s-eye in the field of weather forecasts. It hit where forecasters said it would and followed the track they had been warning about for days.

“People see that and assume we can predict everything,” National Hurricane Center senior forecaster Richard Pasch said.

But when Irene struck, the storm did not stick with the forecast’s predicted major hurricane strength winds.

NOAA probably didn’t get the strength projections wrong at all.  Nor they did get it wrong last year or the year before that. They simply had no way to predict or account for my interventions.

They’re the good guys, because they sincerely want to save lives:

“This is a gold medal forecast,” retired hurricane center director Max Mayfield said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt: I think they saved lives.”

Now comes the confusion:

On the negative side, the forecast after Irene hit the Bahamas had it staying as a Category 3 and possibly increasing to a Category 4. But it weakened and hit as a Category 1 storm and stayed that way up the coast until it faded into a tropical storm by the time it reached New York City. It lost strength as it moved north over land and cooler water.

Read said they will go back and figure out what happened, but noted they have made huge strides in projecting where a hurricane will hit. In past storms, they would have issued warnings for Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, but there were no evacuations there for Irene.

“We’re not completely sure how the interplay of various features is causing the strength of a storm to change,” Read said.

One theory is that a storm’s strength is dependent on the storm’s inner core. Irene never had a classic, fully formed eye wall – even going through the Bahamas as a Category 3. [Wince. That’s one of things I do to weaken a hurricane: damage the eye wall in various ways.]

“Why it did that, we don’t know,” Read said. “That’s a gap in the science.”

Christine Armario reported from Miami

NOAA is confused, and that is Not A Good Thing. I don’t blame them. I’ve been intervening in storms and screwing up their forecasts somewhat for three years. But without accurate information, their attempts to overcome their confusion could lead to some wrong turns. I don’t want that to happen. No one wants that to happen. I also don’t like them taking heat for something I’m doing–though I don’t know how to change that–and probably am going to continue doing because I believe it saves lives. We’ve made a pretty good team, NOAA and I, even if they don’t know we’ve been a team. I depend on them.

So, is it possible to let them know they don’t have to waste time and money trying to fix something that probably isn’t broken in the first place? (Unless I would be considered a problem. In which case, I don’t even want to think about the possible “fixes”.)

I could send an anonymous letter telling them not to worry, that their forecasts have been good, and that the sender has been weakening and/or tweaking the track of some hurricanes for the last little while. But I hate to think of their reaction. Derision would be the least of it. Even if I signed a letter (and I do not, emphatically not, want to “come out” to try to convince them) it probably wouldn’t do any good.  

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