Hurricane warnings, oldee style
Hurricane Katrina whacked south Florida fairly hard yesterday and now it looks likely that she’ll power up and smack the northwest section of the state early next week. Per usual, there’s an extraordinary amount of data and valuable prediction information at the National Hurricane Center’s web site. Hurricanes are truly meteorological loose cannon, but it is amazing how far our ability to forecast them has advanced. I got to tour the NHC facility in Miami in early 2004 and was bowled over by the high levels of technology, data i/o, and brain power. That was the year that NHC’s back testing program indicated that their forecasting was good enough to begin issuing 5 day track predictions, which have no doubt saved lives and property since. By contrast, observe above how hurricane warnings were delivered to sponge boats off St. Pete, Florida, in 1938 (from NOAA’s online photo library).
Now, no idiot U.S. Senator (carrying water for a few private weather companies) is going to stop NOAA from distributing hurricane information, but, as you likely know, Senator Santorum of Pennsylvania does have a bill in process that might severely limit its ability to share less critical information. BoatU.S. has just posted a good editorial on the issue. Following one of its links, I found and used an easy e-mail form to register opposition to the bill with my senators. Why don’t you?
Update, 8/28: Naturally I’m curious if Katrina could reach Maine with any force, and I now see that the NHC has a new series of ‘experimental’ wind graphics that are quite valuable. This one shows me that the models now predict a 5–10% probability of over 50 knot winds on Thursday. Hmmmmm. Note that it can be animated if you click on ‘loop’.