Here's a quick post in between sessions from the floor of this week's 2013 AMS Annual extravaganza in Austin, TX.
Last night's Hurricane Sandy Town Hall meeting was a full house and ran overtime as you might expect.
A host of great presenters dissected the event...from the NHC's highly successful forecast tracks up to a week in advance generated by the European Model... to some possible "messaging failures" as the NHC dropped hurricane warnings as Sandy became "post tropical" near landfall.
Listening to just a few of the 3,000 experts here at AMS...it's amazing how many brilliant minds have dedicated entire careers to enhancing our understanding of weather. It's immensely humbling to be a (very) small part of this incredible profession we call "meteorology."
Here are a few quick notes from the session. My apologies for the lack of analysis....I have to be back in session at 1:30pm and giving my little talk on the Duluth Flood of 2012 later this afternoon.
Notes from Hurricane Sandy Town Hall:
Louis Ucellini NOAA
-Sandy's official NHC 5-Day forecast was remarkably accurate.
-Sandy was the 1st hurricane to have "blizzard warnings" attached!
-Sandy's peak storm surge coincided with high tide...increasing destructive surge to 11 feet in NYC area as she accelerated and came ashore at high tide.
-The storm produced the "surge of record" for Long Island, NYC and New Jersey.
-Sandy's storm surge was under forecast by 3 feet.
-The Euro model was far superior on Sandy's track beyond 84 hours.
-Sandy produced the first coordinated launch of weather balloons at non routine times of 06Z and 18Z in U.S. history.
-The GFS was the best performing model overall during the 2012 Hurricane Season. The 2 worst storms for the GFS in 2012 were Isaac & Sandy...both made landfall in the USA.
Rick Knabb - Director NHC
-NHC favored European (ECMWF) forecast track early on for Sandy over GFS.
-NOAA is very aware...and seems defensive about European models success over GFS (my observation...not a quote from Rick)
-NHC is wrestling with decision to drop hurricane warnings and transition to "post tropical" status for Sandy. (Again, my observation from talk)
-NHC working on proposal for future to keep hurricane warnings up when needed.
Melvyn Shapiro, NCAR
-Sandy was a remarkable "hybrid" system that combined both tropical and mid-latitude characteristics.
-Colder air and jet energy fed into Sandy just before landfall...causing a brief intensification at landfall.
-Sandy maintained a narrow "warm core" tropical center up to landfall as high as 200mb ...
Bryan Norcorss -The Weather Channel
-TWC was focused on clear and consistent "messaging" during Sandy
-So many local warnings....TWC came up with teir own descriptions like "high wind warnings" and "flood warnings" to cover variety of local NWS warning types.
-Norcross was stunned to have just finished NBC Nightly News with Brian Willimas...then hear NYC Mayor Bloomberg's statement indicating to New Yorkers that the storm did not appear to pose such a high threat due to cancellation of "Hurricane Warnings."
My take in discussions with Norcross....NWS did an excellent job with an accurate life-saving forecast for Sandy...but made serious "messaging errors" by dropping hurricane warnings at landfall.
Jason Samenow Capital Weather Gang
-Social media was an extremely effective tool during Sandy
-Tweets as far as 7-8 days out highlighted potential treat from Euro forecast track
-Tweets during the storm provided real time photos and accounts traditional news media could not gather due to storm conditions
-There were some erroneous tweets...like 3 feet of water on NYSE floor that had to be weeded out
I'd be interested to know what you think as Updraft readers.
How well do you think NHC handled Sandy's forecast track & early alerting?
Should they have kept "hurricane warnings" up longer?
As a weather consumer, what kind of "weather messaging" works best for you?
Thanks for any feedback!
I lived in Miami for around 9 years, during which we had Katrina and Wilma pass through locally. I was an avid reader of every discussion the NHC put out and it was really a hobby, keeping eyes peeled every season for anything developing. So, I can only comment on how I saw other people consume weather warnings/data which would be more the norm. I don't think it really needs to be specific to Sandy as the same behavior repeats over and over with so many storms.
Regarding forecast tracks and early alerting, tracks can change a *lot* within 5 days, I think it's good to get some word out of awareness that there's something brewing that might head our way but isn't concrete. Even in a hurricane-prone area like Miami though, people usually were not paying attention within a couple days out. Generating excess panic of course can be a problem as well, and increase distrust in the forecasts when too much attention is paid early to a track that is likely to shift. Forecasts are only getting better and better and it's truly amazing how much we know now compared to 20 years ago. But getting the trust of the general population sometimes feels insurmountable. All I can really think is more informational awareness without the hype and drama forced by some media would help.
NWS has that proposal out to reword warnings and I think that kind of thing could help some. Putting in that Dangerous keyword to warnings may get the message across better. But also having the people who talk to the population (politicians, etc) deeply understand the situation is quite important as well. Going door to door telling everyone to write their SSN in permanent marker on their arm so they can identify their bodies afterwards isn't terribly practical.
And I also would like to see the track line in forecasts gotten rid of completely, there was always so much repeating by forecasters to pay attention to being In The Cone since things can shift last minute and that line can suddenly be directed right your way.
Meanwhile I try to spread the word in my little circle about how impossibly complex weather truly is and the forecasting we have is pretty great, and it only continues to get better. :) And... When thunder roars, go indoors!
Thanks for the blogging during the conference, Paul!
First a question: "Sandy produced the first coordinated launch of weather balloons at non routine times of 06Z and 18Z in U.S. history." Do you mean the first *national* coordination? There have been 18Z launch requests by SPC before.
Second: The NWS does need to create some kind of agency and products (yay, more NWS products) to handle these big or high-impact events such as Sandy which cover more than one "season" (summer/winter) or region (Southern/Eastern) or one theater (tropical/midlatitude). As much as it's nice to categories things as a hurricane or midlatitude cyclone so the proper office can handle it, sometimes storms transcend natural or man-made or bureaucratic boundaries.
Third: Would you be interested in your presenting your impressions of the AMS national meeting at a meeting of the Twin Cities Meteorological Society?
I recall one instance in my NWS career when a strong low pressure system moving over Minnesota was referred to as an "inland hurricane."
Hurricane force winds accompanied Hurricane Sandy on shore. While Super Storm Sandy strayed outside the weather box, meteorologists could not bring themselves to think outside the box.
Your original observation as the storm was moving onshore is valid. Storm surge, destructive winds and flooding rain seem like all the ingredients of a hurricane to me.