Gulf Coast Hurricane Tracker

A single source reference on tropical weather predictions. With a traditional focus on the upper Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast we've maintained links to track all Atlantic Basin, Caribbean and eastern Pacific storm systems. We are now expanding our view to tropical storms throughout the world intending to be a comprehensive global storm tracking resource.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

More storms due to different (better?) naming philosophy

Dr. Neil Frank is the chief meteorologist at KHOU Channel 11 in Houston. He is also the former head of the National Hurricane Center. Local radio host and Houston City Council member Michael Berry interviewed Dr. Frank this evening on his show regarding his comments on how storms are being named now as compared to when he was at the Hurricane Center.
Though it might seem he is trying to upstage the hurricane center, his real intent, Frank said, is to dispute that global warming has led to more active Atlantic tropical storm seasons, as several meteorological studies have asserted. Over the past decade, Frank maintains, numerous systems were classified as tropical storms and hurricanes that probably didn't warrant that status.

Winnow out those systems from the annual lists, and present-day tropical weather may be no more intense than in the past, he says.

"The historical records are not adequate to determine if global warming has affected number and strength of tropical systems," he said.

The inflation in the number of named storms has come about, Frank says, because the hurricane center has adopted different — and, in his opinion, looser — guidelines on how storms are named.

Until the mid 1990s, the hurricane center relied on central barometric pressure as the primary yardstick of a storm's strength. The lower the pressure, the stronger a system. Storms with readings of 1005 millibars or higher were deemed too weak to be named, Frank said.

If that standard were in place now, four of 2007's storms, including Erin, Gabrielle, Ingrid and Melissa, would be disputable, he said. Two, Chantal and Jerry, would not have been named at all because both formed in the Atlantic well to the north of the tropical region, even though their central pressures were relatively low, he added.

Further, Hurricane Felix, designated a ferocious Category 5, would have been deemed "a strong Category 4," according to central pressure measurements, said Frank.

Then came a change in philosophy in 1996, Frank said. Forecasters started to place more emphasis on satellite imagery to calculate a storm's sustained winds. Yet Frank maintains the central pressure method of naming storms is more accurate because with satellite imagery, forecasters estimate winds based on their reading of cloud patterns.

While Frank's assertions may seem academic, they raise questions whether the hurricane center is too quick to give storms names. And the number of systems per year is important for historic records and spotting trends.
I think this is a critical difference in philosophy. Dr. Frank emphasized that the push to name storms based on wind speed alone was not political - i.e. there was no political pressure to change the approach - but rather internal. The Air Force measures a windspeed of say 45 MPH and wants to know why the storm isn't named. Yet this change automatically results in more storms being named at a time when global warming alarmists are specifying that more storms will be the result of CO2 emissions.

This is the very point I was making in my previous post. A cascade of increased number of named storms comes about partly as a result of naming the storms in a manner than results in more named storms.

Dr. Frank discussed, this evening, how when a plane measured a windspeed of 45 MPH, they would look at the pressure and if the pressure was high they would wait until the next flight to see if the winds were still as high. Now a plan will read 45 MPH, the storm would be named and the next day there would be no more measurable winds. This is because if the pressure does not drop to the necessary level then the winds are not maintained and the storm dissipates.

Dr. Chris Landsea attributes the increased number of named storms to better technology and therefore better naming of those storms that should be named.
"Things have changed since Neil Frank's era," said Chris Landsea, the center's science and operations officer. "I would agree with him that we're naming more now than we did then. But I would also argue we're naming them correctly. We just have more tools to do it correctly."

Among those tools: geostationary and polar orbiting satellites, which, in addition to providing detailed imagery, allow forecasters to pinpoint the strongest tropical-force winds as well the temperatures in the atmosphere around them, he said.

Hurricane hunter aircraft have been equipped with stepped frequency microwave radiometers, which provide an accurate reading of wind speeds near the ocean surface, he said.

Landsea said the hurricane center, which is in Miami-Dade County, uses strict guidelines to name storms. A system must have sustained surface winds of at least 39 mph, cannot be near a cold front to ensure it's a "tropical cyclone, not a winter one" and must have organized thunderstorm activity around its core.

"If it has all of those, we name it," he said.
Both scientists agree that global warming likely is not responsible for any increase in the number of storms.
Landsea said it's possible other eras and other years were just as active. He noted that in 2005 (with 28 named storms), 17 systems made landfall. In 1933, previously the most active season on record with 21 named systems, 19 made landfall.

"So if you just look at ones that made landfall, 1933 was busier," he said. "The years were probably fairly comparable in overall activity."
Where this really hits home is how the insurance company determines what insurance premiums should be.
Those trends, in turn, are factored into how insurance companies set premiums for homeowner coverage, Tom Zutell, spokesman for the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, said. Specifically, trends are entered into computer models as one of the elements that determines rates, he said.

"That is one tool that insurance companies use," he said. "But it's not the only tool that they use to actuarially arrive at rates they need to pay clients."

So with an increase in the number of named storms due to a change in the philosophy in how storms are named including subtropical storms as we have seen before and after this past season, increased insurance premiums are almost a certainty due to the perceived increase in storms that correspond to the calls for cutbacks in CO2 emissions and claims of human induced global warming. Is this contributing to the cascade effect? I think so.

Linkfest Haven, the Blogger's Oasis

Trackposted to Right Pundits, Rosemary's Thoughts, 123beta, Right Truth, Adam's Blog, Shadowscope, Leaning Straight Up, Cao's Blog, Big Dog's Weblog, The Amboy Times, Conservative Cat, Adeline and Hazel, Faultline USA, Allie is Wired, Woman Honor Thyself, The Crazy Rants of Samantha Burns, The World According to Carl, Pirate's Cove, The Pink Flamingo, Celebrity Smack, and Right Voices, thanks to Linkfest Haven Deluxe.

2010 Atlantic Hurricanes (courtesy of

NOAA Gulf of Mexico Radar (courtesy of

NOAA West Atlantic & Caribbean Radar (courtesy of

NOAA East Atlantic Radar (courtesy of