Thursday, July 05, 2007

Mutiny at NHC

This is not something that will warm one's cockles, whatever cockles are. :)

It seems the staff of the National Hurricane Center have firmly planted a knife in the back of their new director Bill Proenza.

While NOAA in Washington DC was dispatching an investigative team to Florida to find facts in regards to Proenza's stewardship of NHC and Proenza himself was out of town; 23 of the staff signed a document calling for Proenza to be removed, saying he was causing the center to lose focus while the hurricane season was heating up. How freaking courageous these people are, fearful of breaking federal law they agree to this document away from the center and then rush it to a local newspaper. All the while Proenza is being investigated remember and those results are not in.

Recently Proenza cast doubt on the viability of a weather sattelite called QuikSCAT that was launched in 1999 and was expected to last only five years. Well its three years later and still no replacement is in sight. Proenza said there was a risk in some circumnstances of a 16% degredation in forecast accuracy if QuikSCAT stopped working.

In their document calling for Proenza's ouster the signatories make the case that Proenza's statements on the demise of QuickSCAT casts doubt on the quality of their forecasts.

The interesting thing is, two of the guys who are now calling for Proenza's ouster, Rick Knabb and Hugh Cobb, last year spoke about how the demise of QuikSCAT could be detrimental.

“When QuikSCAT is gone, it will be like going back seven years in tropical cyclone analysis,” said Rick Knabb, a senior hurricane specialist at the hurricane center.
“QuikSCAT is our bread and butter,” said Hugh Cobb, another hurricane forecaster.

This raises questions about their honesty in this matter. Is the loss of QuikSCAT a danger to the forecast models or isn't it? What profit do they gain from Proenza's ouster? Some say it is because Proenza is an outsider from NWS Southern Region and no one inside NHC was promoted to replace Max Mayfield. QuikSCAT could be their tool of choice to oust Proenze because he dared to publically voice concerns that the veterans of NHC never dared voice so vocally while in reality they do it out of pure spite. Well by putting their names on that document, they have certainly shown just how loyal they are; which means even if Proenza does get the boot the new boss won't trust these people even if promoted from within NHC.

I am reminded of the adage of winning the battle but losing the war. I think that is what is going to happen with the NHC staffers. They are not doing just service to the public who pays their salaries and depends upon them to give the best forecasts possible.

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