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April 6, 2010 / Dave Gorham

Wrap-Up: the 2010 National Hurricane Conference

Guest blogger Chris Hebert, ImpactWeather’s TropicsWatch manager, weighs in on what happened at the 2010 National Hurricane Conference which was held in Orlando last week.

[Hebert]  Hot topics at this year’s conference included an emphasis on storm surge impact, talk of a 7-day NHC forecast track and the outlook for the 2010 hurricane season.


Hurricanes Ike and Gustav (2008) were the source of a renewed interest in communicating the storm surge threat.  Up through 2008, the National Hurricane Center discussed storm surge as a height above a particular datum (let’s call that mean sea level).  The problem with that approach is that few people know their elevation.  So beginning last year, the NHC updated the SLOSH model (a storm surge model) to predict how deep the water could get at specific locations (inundation depth).  Fortunately, there were no significant landfalls in 2009, so we didn’t get a chance to see the new SLOSH model output.  In addition, greater attention to storm surge inundation values will be placed in the public advisories.

There was also talk of issuing storm surge-specific warnings independently of hurricane watches/warnings (for wind).  With significant sea level rises often occurring 24-36 hours ahead of a hurricane’s landfall, it’s possible that such warnings may go out well ahead of any hurricane watches.  We won’t see any surge warnings issued in 2010 and probably not in 2011, but they may be coming in 2012-2013.

Another frequently discussed topic was the 7-day forecast track.  Currently, the track forecasts extend out to 5 days.  Prior to 2001, track forecasts only extended out to 3 days.  National Hurricane Center (NHC) director Bill Read was talking about the 7-day track forecasts in one session.  He couldn’t really come up with a good reason for adding the extra two days onto the 5-day forecast when he saw me in the audience and asked me about the need in the private sector.  I explained that some of our clients, particularly those working in the deepwater areas across the northwest Gulf, need as long as 6 or 7 days to fully prepare for shutdown and evacuation.  So there is definitely a need for a longer range track forecast.  The forecasters at the NHC will begin experimenting with 7-day tracks in 2011-2012 with a goal of possibly implementing them around the 2015 hurricane season.

Probably the most anticipated presentation at any National Hurricane Conference is the outlook for the coming hurricane season by Dr. Bill Gray and Dr. Phil Klotzbach.  Unfortunately, this year’s conference was held a week earlier than normal, so we didn’t get to hear Dr. Klotzbach’s revised outlook for the upcoming season.  That revised outlook is scheduled for release on Wednesday, April 7th.   In his presentation, Dr. Klotzbach indicated that conditions across the tropics are forecast to become considerably more favorable for development than back in December when he predicted from 11-16 named storms.

I got a chance to speak with Dr. Klotzbach in private to go over some of the model projections for the upcoming season.  Though I didn’t press him for a new forecast number, I did get the impression that his April 7th forecast will be in the range of 15-16 named storms, and that may even be a bit conservative if some of the current model projections pan out.  It certainly looks like the 2010 hurricane season will be considerably more active than last year.

Speaking of Dr. Klotzbach, he’ll be presenting his updated 2010 Atlantic Tropical Season Update at the 21st Annual Hurricane Seminar for Business and Industry in Houston on May 21st.  For more information about the seminar, visit hurricaneseminar.com

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