HURRICANE SPECIALIST STRESSES PREPARATION
The unusually high frequency and intensity of hurricanes that made landfall in the United States in 2004 and 2005 should be a wakeup call, a Weather Channel meteorologist and executive said in a lecture Thursday, April 20, presented by the Old Dominion University Consortium for Maritime Research and the Hampton Roads section of the Marine Technology Society.
Raymond Ban, who is executive vice president of meteorology Science and Strategy for The Weather Channel, said the scientific community will require more data before it can establish connections that have been proposed between hurricane activity and global warming. "In fact, I am not a global warming alarmist," he explained.
But he said Atlantic hurricane data for the last 10 years lead him to conclude, "that we're heading into dangerous territory." Storms such as Katrina, and many others, he added, "point up a real lack of preparedness on the part of this country and raise serious policy questions that we will have to face."
In the record-breaking year of 2005, there were 27 tropical cyclones in the Atlantic, 15 of which became hurricanes, and 7 of those were major hurricanes.
Ban called for more funding for hurricane research, for more infrastructure preparedness for the ravages of hurricanes, and for rational tax and building codes that take into consideration how much government must spend to help communities recover from hurricane damage. Money spent on preparedness gives us a "bigger bang for our buck" than money spent on cleaning up after a storm, he said.
Ban, who chairs a National Academy of Science committee studying weather predictions, shared with his audience one prediction of Atlantic tropical storm activity for 2006. It forecast more activity than usual but not a season as disastrous as the one in 2005. After presenting the prediction, however, Ban said he puts little stock in seasonal forecasts and that he is a proponent of weather forecasting that is not as "deterministic" as what we have at the present.
A deterministic forecast might call for a high temperature of 78 five days ahead, which Ban said, "is probably the one temperature you can bet on it not being." He suggested that forecasters "should tell people everything they know" and not try to be more precise than the hard data that they have. He said he hoped The Weather Channel could take the lead in using "probability distribution" to provide a broader picture of what the coming weather could be, and why.
Ban's lecture on campus, as well as his talk Thursday evening at a reception at Nauticus, the National Maritime Center, were coordinated by Larry Atkinson, eminent scholar and Samuel L. and Fay M. Slover Professor of Oceanography.
This article was posted on: April 21, 2006
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