Hurricane Sandy: NWS Assesses Itself os assessments pdfs Sandy13.pdf-1

The Weather Service just released its Hurricane Sandy “Service Assessment.” Publications like this aren’t unusual. Every named or numbered storm gets some sort of after-the-fact scrutiny. Of course, Sandy is a special case, having affected so many people and so much property. This is a beefy report touching lots of bases.

The Weather Service and Hurricane Center did a good job–not good enough. There were weak points. That’s me speaking, though the report acknowledged them too.

I was on-the-air at FoxCT for Sandy. We used lots of NWS/NHC raw data and forecast products. A huge part of my job was assimilating the immense treasure trove of data available. Some of what we used was so esoteric, co-workers didn’t know it existed!

If there’s ever been a time my years of experience and nerdy curiosity came in handy, it was during Sandy.

Once Sandy moved north of Cape Hatteras the National Hurricane Center passed off much of its responsibilities to local forecast offices. That was a big mistake which served to confuse more than inform. os assessments pdfs Sandy13.pdfI said it then. Even worse, I’d said it before, having complained loudly and traded emails with the Hurricane Center’s director Ed Rappaport after Hurricane Noel received the same pass-off in 2007.

This Hurricane Center policy will be changed going forward. It’s about time!

For future storms like Sandy, NHC should be the principal point of contact responsible for the event, including delivery of a consistent suite of products and a unified communications protocol within NOAA, to key NOAA federal partners, and the media. NOAA/NWS websites should consistently reflect all watch/warning/advisories on websites, regardless of organizational structure or office/center responsibility. Web page design should ensure the most important message is quickly evident.

The are other recommendations, including a some having to do with coastal flooding and the current lack of definitive storm impacts. Giving a tidal flooding range in feet is worthless to most people. More important would be to say, “Lower Manhattan will be under water,” or similar specifics.

The truth is most non-professionals need a trusted voice. There’s too much for you to wade through.

I hope I was your trusted voice, leading you in the right direction. If you were watching us on FoxCT you weathered the storm without any big surprises. It goes without saying I will miss being that voice for you in the future.

The NWS assessment and its findings and recommendations should help all of us do better next time. There will be a next time.

7 thoughts on “Hurricane Sandy: NWS Assesses Itself”

  1. Yes, there will be a next time, Geoff. CO2 levels are at 400 ppm, the oceans are warmer and more acidic, and those those two words that most meteorologists, unlike most scientists, seem loathe to utter aloud–global warming–it’s happening. My amateur prediction is for a major storm next October, as we had the past two years. Whenever the next one happens, I’ll be glued to your web site as long as the power stays on–you were, as always, the most accurate.

    1. From Thomas R. Knutson
      Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory/NOAA
      Sept. 3, 2008; Last Revised January 30, 2013

      It is premature to conclude that human activities–and particularly greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming–have already had a detectable impact on Atlantic hurricane activity. That said, human activities may have already caused changes that are not yet detectable due to the small magnitude of the changes or observational limitations, or are not yet properly modeled (e.g., aerosol effects).

      Anthropogenic warming by the end of the 21st century will likely cause hurricanes globally to be more intense on average (by 2 to 11% according to model projections for an IPCC A1B scenario). This change would imply an even larger percentage increase in the destructive potential per storm, assuming no reduction in storm size.

      There are better than even odds that anthropogenic warming over the next century will lead to an increase in the numbers of very intense hurricanes in some basins—an increase that would be substantially larger in percentage terms than the 2-11% increase in the average storm intensity. This increase in intense storm numbers is projected despite a likely decrease (or little change) in the global numbers of all tropical storms.

      Anthropogenic warming by the end of the 21st century will likely cause hurricanes to have substantially higher rainfall rates than present-day hurricanes, with a model-projected increase of about 20% for rainfall rates averaged within about 100 km of the storm center.


      The 2-11% rise would be 87 years from now, when it’s likely we will use none of the same fuel sources or transportation modes we use now. And, of course, it’s a prediction, not a certainty.

      1. Wow, he said anthropogenic warming will increase average storm intensity! Yes, indeed. That jives with what I’ve been reading in Journal of Climate and various NGO reports. Then he said 87 years from now, and that we’ll probably have switched over to new fuel sources by then–that sounds overly optomistic to me, to say the least. I can only hope he’s right.

  2. But why can’t you still be our trusted voice? Won’t you still have access to the important information? Please?

    1. By then he’ll be busy doing the California weather forecast. You know, the one that’s the same every day:

      “Warm, sunny, chance of the earth moving.”


      1. LOL. I remember a joke about California weather. Their seasons are Drouth, Mudslide Earthquake and wildfire.

  3. YOU’ll miss being our voice? Hell WE miss you being our voice! Even with the internet, during big storms I always wanted to know what YOU said about teh weather because you seemed to have the best handle on it. I think you still do you’re just not on TV to tell us what it is. Which is a shame. I think it was short sighted and stupid to take you off the air but bigwigs in the TV business rarely listen to viewers in these situations. I still won’t watch WTNH and never was a big fan of Fox 61 anyway. I’ll just get my news online like so many other people these days. And my weather too.

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