Friday, May 30, 2008

NOAA Predicts Near Normal Or Above Normall Atlantic Hurricane Season

NOAA Predicts Near Normal Or Above Normal Atlantic Hurricane Season

ScienceDaily (May 24, 2008) NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center has announced that projected climate conditions point to a near normal or above normal hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin this year. The prediction was issued at a news conference called to urge residents in vulnerable areas to be fully prepared for the onset of hurricane season, which begins June 1.

“Living in a coastal state means having a plan for each and every hurricane season. Review or complete emergency plans now - before a storm threatens,” said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “Planning and preparation is the key to storm survival and recovery.”

The Climate Prediction Center outlook calls for considerable activity with a 65 percent probability of an above normal season and a 25 percent probability of a near normal season. This means there is a 90 percent chance of a near or above normal season.

The climate patterns expected during this year’s hurricane season have in past seasons produced a wide range of activity and have been associated with both near-normal and above-normal seasons. For 2008, the outlook indicates a 60 to 70 percent chance of 12 to 16 named storms, including 6 to 9 hurricanes and 2 to 5 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale).

An average season has 11 named storms, including six hurricanes for which two reach major status.

“The outlook is a general guide to the overall seasonal hurricane activity,” Lautenbacher said. “It does not predict whether, where or when any of these storms may hit land. That is the job of the National Hurricane Center after a storm forms.”

Bill Read, director of NOAA’s National Hurricane Center, said, “Our forecasters are ready to track any tropical cyclone, from a depression to a hurricane, which forms in the Atlantic Basin. We urge coastal residents to have a hurricane plan in place before the season begins and NHC will continue to provide the best possible forecast to the public.”

When a storm forms in the tropics – and even before that stage – NOAA forecasters at the Miami-based National Hurricane Center are in continuous monitoring mode – employing a dense network of satellites, land- and ocean-based sensors and aircraft reconnaissance missions operated by NOAA and its partners. This array of data supplies the information for complex computer modeling and human expertise that serves the basis for the hurricane center’s track and intensity forecasts that extend out five days in advance.

The science behind the outlook is rooted in the analysis and prediction of current and future global climate patterns as compared to previous seasons with similar conditions.

“The main factors influencing this year’s seasonal outlook are the continuing multi-decadal signal (the combination of ocean and atmospheric conditions that have spawned increased hurricane activity since 1995), and the anticipated lingering effects of La Niña,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “One of the expected oceanic conditions is a continuation since 1995 of warmer-than-normal temperatures in the eastern tropical Atlantic.”

“Americans in hurricane-prone states must get serious and be prepared. Government – even with the federal, tribal, state and local governments working perfectly in sync – is not the entire answer. Everyone is part of the emergency management process," said FEMA Administrator R. David Paulison. "We must continue to develop a culture of preparedness in America in which every American takes personal responsibility for his or her own emergency preparedness.”

NOAA’s Atlantic hurricane season outlook will be updated on August 7, just prior to what is historically the peak period for hurricane activity.

Tropical systems acquire a name – the first of which for 2008 will be Arthur – upon reaching tropical storm strength with sustained winds of at least 39 mph. Tropical storms become hurricanes when winds reach 74 mph, and become major hurricanes when winds reach 111 mph.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 70 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.


Lightning strike raises awareness of severe weather safety

By Wade Hurst
Progress staff writer

May 28, 2008

Local residents may have a new found appreciation for the power of Mother Nature after a home on Redland Road was struck by lightning during re­cent severe thunderstorms, but luckily, no one was injured.

The strike led local officials to reiterate a call to observe weather warnings and take gen­eral precautions.

"You have to take thunder­storms seriously as they can in­clude high winds and even hail," said David Brunson, Dep­uty Director of the Elmore County Emergency Manage­ment Agency. "I would say we've seen an increase in severe weather from previous years. The storms also seem to begin earlier every year. We've been fortunate in Elmore County that we haven't seen more damage."

According to statistics from the National Weather Service, lightning was responsible for 246 injuries, 48 fatalities and $63.8 million in property dam­age across the United States in 2006.

Thousands of homes and oth­er properties are damaged or de­stroyed by lightning each year. It is also responsible for more deaths and property loss than tornadoes, hurricanes and floods combined, according to Allstate Insurance.

Insurance companies also advise that if struck by light­ning, a building will generally sustain more damage when there is no lightning protection system, which would allow the charge to enter or leave the earth without damaging non-conducting materials.

According to the Federal Emergancy Management Agen­cy, in the United States, approxi­mately 300 people are injured and 80 people are killed each year by lightning. Although most lightning victims survive, people struck by lightning often report a variety of longterm, de­bilitating symptoms.

Further facts about light­ning, according to the FEMA Web site:

  • Lightning's unpredictabili­ty increases the risk to individu­als and property.
  • Lightning often strikes out­side of heavy rain and may oc­cur as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall.
  • "Heat lightning" is actually lightning from a thunderstorm too far away for thunder to be heard. However, the storm may be moving in your direction!
  • Most lightning deaths and injuries occur when people are caught outdoors in the summer months during the afternoon and evening.
  • Your chances of being struck by lightning are estimat­ed to be 1 in 600,000, but could be reduced even further by follow­ing safety precautions.
  • Lightning strike victims carry no electrical charge and should be attended to immedi­ately.

  • US On Track To Break Record For Tornadoes

    - Another week, another rumbling train of tornadoes that obliterates entire city blocks, smashing homes to their foundations and killing people even as they cower in their basements.

    With the year not even half done, 2008 is already the deadliest tornado year in the United States since 1998 and seems on track to break the U.S. record for the number of twisters in a year, according to the National Weather Service. Also, this year's storms seem to be unusually powerful.

    But like someone who has lost all his worldly possessions to a whirlwind, meteorologists cannot explain exactly why this is happening.

    "There are active years and we don't particularly understand why," said research meteorologist Harold Brooks at the National Severe Storms Lab in Norman, Okla.

    Over the weekend, an extraordinarily powerful twister ripped apart Parkersburg, Iowa, destroying 288 homes in the town of about 1,000 residents, said Gov. Chet Culver. At least four people were killed there. Among the buildings destroyed were City Hall, the high school, and the lone grocery store and gas station. Some of those killed were in basements.

    The brutal numbers for the U.S. so far this year: at least 110 dead, 30 killer tornadoes and a preliminary count of 1,191 twisters (which, after duplicate sightings are removed, is likely to go down to around 800). The record for the most tornadoes in a year is 1,817 in 2004. In the past 10 years, the average number of tornadoes has been 1,254.

    "Right now we're on track to break all previous counts through the end of the year," said warning meteorologist Greg Carbin at the Storm Prediction Center, also in Norman.

    And it's not just more storms. The strongest of those storms -- those in the 136-to-200 mph range -- have been more prevalent than normal, and lately they seem to be hitting populated areas more, he said. At least 22 tornadoes this year have been in the top part of the new Enhanced Fujita scale, rating a 3 (for "severe") or a 4 ("devastating") on the 1-to-5 scale.

    The twister that devastated Parkersburg was a 5 -- the first in the U.S. since a tornado nearly obliterated Greensburg, Kan., just over a year ago. The Parkersburg tornado was the strongest to hit Iowa in 32 years.

    So far, more than 50 of the deaths this year have been in mobile homes, the wrong place to be during a tornado. They have been a factor in nearly half of all tornado fatalities in recent years.

    And if that's not bad enough, computer models show that the conditions that make tornadoes ripe are going to stick around Tornado Alley for about another week, according to Brooks.

    The nagging question is why.

    Global warming cannot really explain what is happening, Carbin said. While higher temperatures could increase the number of thunderstorms, which are needed to trigger tornadoes, they also would tend to push the storm systems too far north to form some twisters, he said.

    La Nina, the cooling of parts of the Central Pacific that is the flip side El Nino, was a factor in the increased activity earlier this year -- especially in February, a record month for tornado activity -- but it can't explain what is happening now, according to Carbin.

    Carbin explained the most recent tornadoes with just one word: "May." May is typically the busiest tornado month of the year.

    A short-term answer is that the nation's heartland is stuck in a tornado rut with usually temporary weather conditions that can lead to tornadoes parked over the Plains, said Adam Houston, a professor of meteorology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Cooler air at high altitudes and warmer moist air coming from the Gulf of Mexico are combining and settling over the region.

    "You get day after day of severe weather and day after day of tornadoes until the pattern changes," Houston said.

    But why that happens, Houston doesn't know. While scientists can forecast hurricane seasons, predicting their land-bound cousins is much harder, Brooks said. While tornadoes, like hurricanes, rely on large-scale weather phenomena, the crucial triggers are extremely local weather conditions.

    On top of that, tornadoes have a "Goldilocks" issue. To make a tornado, the conditions have to be just right. Too much or too little of one ingredient and there is no tornado. For example, wind shear -- when upper and lower winds are at different speeds or coming from different directions -- is crucial to create a funnel cloud. Too little and there is no spin. Too much and the tornado falls apart.

    And tornadoes form most often in late afternoon, between 5 and 9 p.m., so if a thunderstorm starts up early in the morning, it's far less likely to throw off a tornado, Brooks said.

    As for why so many people are getting killed, Brooks suggests thinking of the landscape as a dartboard: "We're throwing more darts and throwing bigger darts than normal."

    More people are living in mobile homes in the past few decades, and that has shown up in tornado fatality statistics. In 1970, about one-quarter of all tornado deaths were in mobile homes; now it's about half, Brooks said. In 1970, Census data showed that 3 percent of the U.S. population lived in mobile homes; now it is 7.6 percent, with a higher rate in the Southeast and other parts of Tornado Alley, such as Oklahoma, Brooks said.

    But as deadly as this year has been, it used to be far worse in the United States. In 1925, tornadoes killed 794 people. From 1916 to 1936, tornadoes killed an average of nearly 280 Americans a year. That's because tornado warnings were not as good, people couldn't hear them and housing was not as sturdy, Brooks said.

    Even with a busy tornado year, meteorologists are getting the word out. Of the 110 deaths so far this year, 101 came while there was a tornado watch in effect, according to the National Weather Service.


    (Little note to our naysayer at PANBO. If anyone is going to eat his words then, Mr. Ellison enjoy a full dinner. We will be updating the EPIRB story in a few weeks and all we can say at this moment without letting the cat out of the bag is, it will have international implications.)

    EPIRB Signal Traced to Trash Can

    LOG NEWS SERVICE — In a reminder it issued recently that older model Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs) will no longer be monitored by satellite after Feb. 1 of next year, the Coast Guard urged mariners disposing of their old beacons to first remove the batteries to avoid possible unintended activation that could result in unnecessary and costly search efforts.

    The Associated Press recently reported an incident that illustrates how accidental activation of unwanted EPIRBs can happen when mariners fail to heed the Coast Guard’s advice and leave a battery in an old EPIRB — those transmitting a distress alert on 121.5 or 243 MHz — when discarding them.

    Officials say that in this case a beacon was inadvertently thrown into the trash without removing the battery while remodel work was being done on a vessel docked at Reedsport on the Oregon coast.

    The signal from the beacon was picked up by satellite, sent to the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center in Virginia and relayed to Oregon.

    In Oregon, the information was sent to the Oregon Emergency Management Center, which, in turn, notified the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office in Roseburg.

    The Sheriff’s Office dispatched Amateur Radio Emergency Service volunteers to the Reedsport area, where they traced the signal to the trash can and recovered the discarded EPIRB.

    Expensive rescue leaves bad smell

    IT was an expensive trip to the dump.

    And what's more they came by helicopter and took the rubbish away.

    The item was an EPIRB and the trip was by Energex Rescue Helicopter from Bundaberg.

    Apart from the approximate cost of $8500 to taxpayers for the return trip with a crew of four and the inconvenience of tracking the activated rescue device to its smelly destination, it took a rescue helicopter out of service for two and a half hours.

    Two hours after the chopper returned to its Bundaberg base it was in the air again, this time to a real emergency on Fraser Island where a man was suffering chest pains.

    Late Tuesday afternoon, overflying aircraft picked up a distress signal from an EPIRB and relayed the message to AUSSAR in Canberra.

    A satellite pass and an alert to the Bundaberg had a rescue crew in the air for a destination 28 nautical miles east of Gladstone.

    But as the chopper drew closer the signal directed them to the Benaraby landfill south of Gladstone.

    A search by the crew with a hand held homer indicated the EPIRB buried in the landfill.

    Aircrew Officer Gary Craig said yesterday they were fortunate a Gladstone Regional Council dozer operator was still on hand.

    "We had him clear a few metres of rubbish and eventually there it was blinking at us," he said.

    The crew took the deactivated device back to Bundaberg.

    VMR Controller Jim Purcell said yesterday the first port of call for EPIRB disposable should be Battery World in Gladstone. If they are unavailable VMR will accept them. The dump is not an option.

    In November a new model EPIRB will become compulsory which allows individual identification of owners.

    Four man crew plucked from sinking fishing vessel

    Thursday 29 May 2008 17:25
    Maritime And Coastguard Agency (National)

    Four man crew plucked from sinking fishing vessel

    At 3.30 this afternoon Falmouth Coastguard were alerted to a sinking fishing vessel `Girl Patricia', an 18 metre Newlyn registered netter, with four crew aboard.

    The crew reported that they were taking water 28nm Nor' north west of Lands End and the weather on scene was clear with easterly winds with good visibility.

    A rescue helicopter from the Royal Naval Air Station at Culdrose was requested to launch to the scene, whilst Falmouth Coastguard rebroadcast a mayday signal into the area in the possibility for other vessels which have been close to the sinking vessel in order to respond and assist. Various vessels did respond and a number of them began making their way towards the stricken trawler.

    Sennen Cove all weather lifeboat was also requested to launch.

    By 3.50 pm the crew reported that the fish room on board was half full of water and that the engine room was awash. Twenty minutes later the rescue helicopter 193 was on scene and immediately began winching all four crew on board. They have now been flown directly to the Royal Cornwall Hospital at Truro suffering from cold and shock, although no other injuries have been reported.

    The Fisherman's Mission has also been alerted by the Coastguard and will meet the crew when they are released. The vessel sank shortly afterwards.

    Mick Quinn, Watch Manager at Falmouth Coastguard said

    "Fortunately all four men have been rescued and our thanks are due to the helicopter crew for responding so promptly.

    "The Trinity House vessel `Patricia' is also proceeding to the scene and the UK Hydrographer will be informed as to the wreck site. Some debris has been recovered and we are monitoring the extent of any pollution that may arise. The vessel's emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) has also been retrieved from the water when it began to emit signals after floating free from the wreck.

    "We have also informed the Marine Accident Investigation Branch of the sinking."

    Messing About In Ships Podcast

    Have a great weekend....

    Thursday, May 29, 2008

    Italian Satellites Monitor Earthquake Damages In Sichuan

    Italian Satellites Monitor Earthquake Damages In Sichuan

    ScienceDaily (May 16, 2008) — COSMO-SkyMed, the Italian satellite system for Earth observation, is being used to help the Chinese areas hit by the devastating earthquake of May 12. Yesterday, by request of the Chinese Government, the ASI satellites captured two images of the area surrounding the city of Guan Xian, close to the epicentre, thus proving to be able to operate on critical areas with very short response time.

    Moreover, due to the difficult weather conditions, only the Italian radar satellites could operate yesterday on Sichuan. The picture clearly shows a dam, that will be constantly monitored in the next days for damages.

    The images were processed at ASI's Data Acquisition Centre in Matera, southern Italy, managed for ASI by Telespazio.

    In the next few days, COSMO-SkyMed will continue providing useful data to the Chinese Gonvernment, to the Italian Civilian Protection Department (which is planning a mission in Sichuan) and to various NGOs. COSMO images will be used to detect damages to buildings and metal structures, including bridges and dams.

    COSMO-SKyMed is a satellite system for Earth observation by the Italian Space Agency and the Italian Defence Ministry. Telespazio (a Thales/Finmeccanica company) manages the ground segment, while the satelliets are built by Thales Alenia Space Italia. Once completed, the system will be made of four satellites, two of which are already in orbit and operational.


    Disaster preparedness meetings headed to libraries

    BY JOHN HOMAN, The Southern
    Tuesday, May 20, 2008 9:55 AM CDT
    MARION — A series of community preparedness meetings presented by the Williamson County Emergency Management Agency have been scheduled at local libraries.

    The meetings are designed to inform the public about safety measures that can be taken during disasters. The possibility of organizing Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) throughout the county will also be discussed at the meetings. Such teams would consist of community members trained to assist in disaster response.

    The first meeting is at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Carnegie Library in Marion. Meetings are also scheduled in Herrin (7 p.m. on May 28); Carterville (7 p.m. on May 29) and Crab Orchard (6 p.m. on June 10). Meeting dates have not yet been established in Johnston City and Pittsburg. The meetings are open to the public and will last for about an hour.

    National Hurricane Center Ready For Season

    The National Hurricane Center is getting ready for an active season and many of us don't know what the administration does or how they impact decisions in emergency preparedness.

    Bill Read, Director of the National Hurricane Center explains, "Well, our operational responsibility is to issue all of the advisories, warnings, and forecasts of tropical systems that could produce damage or threat to loss of life to the Caribbean, Atlantic, Gulf, and Eastern Pacific Ocean.

    The National Hurricane Center is based in Miami, Florida, but sends out information to all possibly affected areas.

    "Once an area of disturbed weather that has a closed low that we're actually going to start writing advisories on, we go through a 6 hour cycle. We're gathering data, running models, creating a forecast, briefing people, issuing the forecast and we start all over again every 6 hours," says Read.

    They are staffed with 45 government employees with extra staff contracted during busy times. A separate crew contacts hurricane hunters to investigate a storm. The information collected about the storm from hurricane hunters is sent to the hurricane center and then to the public. In the mean time, Bill Read is advising us all to be prepared for the upcoming season.

    "You all know what a hurricane can do here so I hope you all have kept up with your planning on that. Made correction for things that didn't work right for Katrina and are ready for this season."


    North Sea oil platform evacuated over leak

    OSLO, Norway (AP) -- More than 150 people were evacuated from an oil platform in the North Sea on Saturday because of an oil and gas leak that rescuers feared could result in an explosion.

    "Oil is leaking from one of the shafts of the Statfjord A platform in the North Sea," operator StatoilHydro ASA said. "The situation is serious and confused."

    Two people were exposed to gas during the incident, but none was seriously injured, said company spokesman Ola Morten Aanestad.

    Oil was being discharged into the sea from the platform for safety reasons and repair vessels were heading to the area to contain the spill, the company said.

    Aanestad said there was a small risk that gas released during the oil leak would ignite, so 156 of the 217 people on the platform were evacuated to nearby platforms Saturday morning. Sixty-one emergency workers remained on Statfjord A, he said.

    StatoilHydro said the oil leak occurred during maintenance work on a pipe in one of the platform's three shafts and that oil was leaking from one or several storage cells. The storage cells hold 1.3 million barrels of oil, the company said.

    Production was stopped immediately after the leak was detected, Aanestad said, adding it was not clear how long the platform would remain shut down. "We're primarily focusing on staff and environment right now," he said.

    The platform began production in 1979 and is one of three being operated by StatoilHydro in the Statfjord field, located about 125 miles (200 kilometers) west of the coastal city of Bergen.

    The company said Statfjord is one of the oldest producing fields on the Norwegian continental shelf and the largest oil discovery in the North Sea.


    Wednesday, May 28, 2008

    NOAA: 2008 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook

    NOAA: 2008 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook

    The 2008 Atlantic hurricane season outlook is an official product of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center (CPC), and is produced in collaboration with scientists from the NOAA National Hurricane Center (NHC) and Hurricane Research Division (HRD).

    Interpretation of NOAA’s Atlantic seasonal hurricane outlook

    1. Preparedness

    • This outlook provides the public with a general guide to the expected overall nature of the upcoming hurricane season. It is not a seasonal hurricane landfall forecast, and it does not imply levels of activity for any particular region.
    • Hurricane disasters can occur whether the season is active or quiet. Residents, businesses, and government agencies of coastal and near-coastal regions should prepare for every hurricane season regardless of the seasonal outlook. NOAA, FEMA, the NHC, Small Business Administration, and the Red Cross all provide important hurricane preparedness information on their web sites. It only takes one hurricane (or even a tropical storm) to cause a disaster.
    • This outlook may serve as a guide for large businesses, corporations, financial markets, governments, and industries to better prepare for and manage the potentially significant risk posed by hurricanes.

    2. NOAA does NOT make seasonal hurricane landfall predictions

    • NOAA does not make seasonal hurricane landfall predictions. Hurricane landfalls are largely determined by the weather patterns in place as the hurricane approaches, which are not predictable more than 5-7 days in advance.

    3. Nature of this Outlook and the “likely” ranges of activity

    • This outlook is probabilistic, not deterministic. New this year, we are providing probabilities for the stated likely ranges of named storms, hurricanes, major hurricanes, and Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE).
    • These likely ranges do not represent the total ranges of activity seen in past seasons having similar climate conditions to those expected this year, but are simply the most likely.
    • The outlook is based on predictions of large-scale climate factors known to be strong indicators of upcoming seasonal Atlantic hurricane activity, and takes into account uncertainties inherent in such climate outlooks (see item 4 below).

    4. Three major sources of uncertainty in the seasonal outlooks

    • El Niño and La Niña forecasts are presently the biggest source of uncertainty for the hurricane outlook. The period between March - July is referred to as the “springtime forecast barrier”, a period when predicting these phenomena can be difficult because the atmosphere is in a state of transition.
    • Many combinations of named storms and hurricanes can occur for the same set of climate conditions. One cannot know with certainty whether a given climate signal will be associated with several short-lived storms or fewer longer-lived storms with greater intensity.
    • Weather patterns that are unpredictable on seasonal time scales can sometimes develop and last for weeks or months, possibly affecting seasonal hurricane activity.

    2008 Atlantic Hurricane Outlook Summary

    The Climate Prediction Center’s 2008 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook calls a 90% probability of a near-normal or above-normal hurricane season. An above-normal season is most likely (65% chance), but there is also a 25% chance of a near-normal season, and a 10% chance of a below-normal season. See NOAA’s definitions of above-, near-, and below-normal seasons.

    This outlook is based on the analysis and prediction of two main climate signals:

    1) The ongoing conditions that have been conducive to above-normal Atlantic hurricane seasons since 1995 (called the multi-decadal signal), which includes above-normal sea-surface temperatures in the eastern tropical Atlantic Ocean.

    Even though the last two Atlantic hurricane seasons have been near-normal, there remains no indication the current active hurricane era has ended.

    2) Possible lingering effects from La Niña or ENSO-neutral conditions.

    Currently, La Niña seems to be waning, but its atmospheric impacts often persist even after Pacific Ocean temperatures have returned to normal. There is considerable uncertainty among the forecast models as to how strong the La Niña influence will be.

    Climate patterns similar to those expected this year have historically produced a wide range of activity, and have been associated with both near-normal and above-normal seasons. Allowing for uncertainties, we estimate a 60%-70% chance of occurrence for each of the following ranges of activity:

    • 12-16 named storms,
    • 6-9 Hurricanes
    • ,
    • 2-5 Major Hurricanes,
    • An ACE range 100%-210% of the median

    These likely ranges have been observed in about two-thirds of past seasons having similar climate conditions to those expected this year. They do not represent the total ranges of activity seen in those past seasons.

    Most of the 2008 activity is expected to take place during August through October (ASO), the peak months of the Atlantic hurricane season.

    The Climate Prediction Center will issue an update to this outlook in early August, at the start of the peak months of the Atlantic hurricane season.


    1. Expected 2008 Activity

    This Outlook is a general guide to the expected overall activity for the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season. It is not a seasonal hurricane landfall forecast, and it does not imply levels of activity for any particular area

    The expected conditions during the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season are related to two main climate signals: 1) the continuation of conditions (called the multi-decadal signal) that have been conducive to above-normal Atlantic hurricane activity since 1995 , including above-normal sea-surface temperatures in the eastern tropical Atlantic Ocean, and 2) a possible La Niña influence or ENSO-neutral conditions during the peak months (August-October) of the season.

    Historically, seasons with climate patterns similar to those expected this year have produced a wide range of activity, and have been associated with both near-normal and above-normal seasons. This outlook considers the historical distribution of activity for these climate factors, uncertainties in the La Niña impacts, and the possibility of other unpredictable factors also influencing the season. Based on these factors, we estimate a 90% chance of a near-normal to above-normal 2008 Atlantic hurricane season. While an above-normal season is most likely (65% chance), there is a significant 25% chance of a near-normal season and a 10% chance of a below-normal season. See NOAA definitions of above-, near-, and below-normal seasons.

    An important measure of the total seasonal activity is NOAA’s Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) index, which accounts for the collective intensity and duration of named storms and hurricanes during the season. Based on the above factors, we estimate a 60%-70% chance the 2008 seasonal ACE range will be 100%-210% of the median. This range can be satisfied even if the numbers of named storms, hurricanes, or major hurricanes fall outside their likely ranges. If La Niña persists, the probability increases that the activity could be at or above the high end of the indicated ACE range.

    The likely (60%-70% chance) ranges of activity for 2008 (each of which is seen in about two-thirds of similar seasons in the historical record): are 12-16 Named Storms, 6-9 Hurricanes, and 2-5 Major Hurricanes. Most of this activity is expected during August through October, the peak months of the Atlantic hurricane season.

    2. Expected Climate Conditions – Active multi-decadal signal, La Niña impacts possible

    a. Expected continuation of active Atlantic hurricane era

    Atlantic hurricane seasons exhibit prolonged periods lasting decades of generally above-normal or below-normal activity. These fluctuations in hurricane activity result almost entirely from differences in the number of hurricanes and major hurricanes forming from tropical storms first named in the Main Development Region (MDR), which spans the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea between 30oW-87.5oW and 10oN-21.5oN (Goldenberg et al. 2001).

    The current active hurricane era began in 1995. Hurricane seasons during 1995-2007 have averaged 14.5 named storms, 8 hurricanes, and 4 major hurricanes, with an average ACE index of 167% of the median. NOAA classifies nine of the thirteen seasons since 1995 as above normal, with seven being hyperactive (ACE > 175% of median). Only four seasons since 1995 have not been above normal. These include the three El Niño years (1997, 2002, and 2006) and the 2007 season.

    This high level of activity contrasts sharply to the 1971-1994 period of generally below-normal hurricane seasons (Goldenberg et al. 2001), which averaged only 8.5 named storms, 5 hurricanes, and 1.5 major hurricanes with an average ACE index of only 75% of the median. One-half of those seasons were below normal, only three were above normal (1980, 1988, 1989), and none were hyperactive. Time series of key atmospheric wind parameters highlight the dramatic differences between these above-normal and below-normal hurricane eras.

    The regional atmospheric circulation anomalies that contribute to these long-period fluctuations in hurricane activity are strongly linked to the tropics-wide multi-decadal signal (Bell and Chelliah, 2006). A change in phase of that signal accounts for the transition in 1995 from the below-normal era to the above normal era. The multi-decadal signal is again a major factor guiding the 2008 outlook. Three key features of this signal associated with the current active hurricane era are: 1) a stronger West African monsoon system, 2) below-average convection in the Amazon Basin, and 3) warmer than average tropical Atlantic sea-surface temperatures.

    Other ongoing regional features expected during the 2008 hurricane season include 1) lower surface air pressure and increased moisture across the tropical Atlantic, 2) an amplified ridge at upper levels across the central and eastern subtropical North Atlantic, 3) reduced vertical wind shear in the deep tropics over the central North Atlantic, which results from an expanded area of easterly winds in the upper atmosphere (green arrows) and weaker easterly trade winds in the lower atmosphere (dark blue arrows), and 4) weaker easterly winds in the middle and lower atmosphere, resulting in a configuration of the African easterly jet (wavy blue arrow) that favors hurricane development from tropical waves moving westward from the African coast.

    b. Possible La Niña influence

    The second key predictor for the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season is the possibility that the La Niña-related patterns of tropical convection and winds will persist, and therefore may be conducive to increased Atlantic hurricane activity. As discussed by Gray (1984), La Niña favors more Atlantic hurricanes and El Niño favors fewer hurricanes. The combination of La Niña and an active hurricane era increases the probability of an above-normal season.

    Presently, La Niña is indicated by below average sea-surface temperatures across the central and east-central equatorial Pacific. La Niña is dominating the atmospheric convection and low-level winds in these regions as well, with suppressed convection over the central and eastern Pacific and enhanced convection over the western Pacific. There has been a tremendous tropics-wide response in the upper-level (200-hPa) atmospheric winds to this anomalous convection, with easterly anomalies extending across the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, the tropical Atlantic Ocean, and northern Africa. If these anomalies persist through the summer, they would reinforce the multi-decadal signal and increase the probability of an above-normal and even hyperactive season.

    In the latest ENSO Diagnostics Discussion released 8 May 2008, NOAA forecasters stated that La Niña has weakened since February, and that a transition to ENSO-neutral conditions is possible during June-July just prior to the peak months of the Atlantic hurricane season. This evolution is typical for La Niña, which often dissipates during the late spring or summer.

    There is considerable spread and uncertainty among the climate models regarding how strong the La Niña influence will be on the Atlantic hurricane season. Most models are predicting ENSO-neutral conditions (neither El Niño nor La Niña) during the summer, with sea-surface temperature anomalies in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific between -0.5oC to 0.5oC. However, most of these models have historically shown little-to-no skill at this time of the year.

    Historically, we have almost never (only once in 100 years) seen a La Niña transition from its current present strength to an El Niño by ASO. Therefore, there is a likelihood that the current La Niña patterns of tropical convection and winds will persist and affect the hurricane season, even if La Niña dissipates.

    c. Atlantic Sea-surface temperatures (SSTs)

    We also expect above-normal sea-surface temperatures (SSTs) in the eastern tropical Atlantic Ocean during 2008. SSTs are already well above average in that region and along the west coast of northern Africa.

    In contrast, SSTs over the central and western MDR were below average during the last several months in association with the combination of La Niña and a persistent pattern of anomalous northeasterly and easterly surface winds. This wind pattern recently ended, and the SSTs quickly returned toward normal in these regions. Consistent with past La Niña episodes, and with the ongoing tropical multi-decadal signal, above-average temperatures are expected to return in the central and western MDR as the summer progresses.

    3. Uncertainties in the Outlook, and a look back at 2007

    The likely (60%-70% chance) ACE range for the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season reflects three inter-related sources of uncertainty: 1) When La Niña will dissipate, 2) the likelihood that the current La Niña patterns of tropical convection and winds will persist into ASO, even if La Niña dissipates, and 3) the likely strength of those patterns. These reflect the considerable spread in forecasts from the available ENSO prediction models.

    Promising new climate models that can explicitly predict seasonal tropical cyclone activity in the Atlantic are also suggesting an active season. However, these new methods tend to have limited skill at this time of year because of the large uncertainties in the ENSO predictions being utilized.

    Another uncertainty is the possibility of lesser climate factors also influencing the seasonal activity. Bell et al. (2008) identified two features that led to less-than-predicted seasonal hurricane activity in 2007. First, despite a strengthening La Niña during ASO 2007, the typical La Niña signal in the upper-tropospheric circulation was notably absent across the tropical North Pacific and MDR. As a result, La Niña did not weaken the upper-level trough and reduce the vertical wind shear in the MDR as expected. Second, that upper-level trough was enhanced in association with a very persistent ridge over eastern North America. This circulation led to increased vertical wind shear and anomalous mid-level sinking motion across the central and western MDR, two factors known to inhibit hurricane formation.

    The analysis by Bell et al. (2008) shows that the lack of a La Niña signal was due in part to suppressed convection over Indonesia and the eastern tropical Indian Ocean. They state “These anomalies are opposite to the typical La Niña signal, and indicate that the total La Niña forcing and resulting upper-tropospheric circulation anomalies were much weaker than would normally be expected for the observed Pacific cooling. These conditions were associated with a record-strength pattern that also included enhanced convection over the western equatorial Indian Ocean, and enhanced convection across India and the Southeast Asian monsoon regions. This entire pattern is more typical of El Niño, as was seen in 2006. The observations suggest this climate signal may have overwhelmed the upper-tropospheric circulation anomalies normally associated with La Niña, thus negating La Niña’s normally enhancing influence on the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season. Conversely, this same pattern may have enhanced El Niño’s suppressing influence on the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season (Bell et al. 2007)


    Climate Prediction Center
    Dr. Gerry Bell, Meteorologist;
    Dr. Jae Schemm, Meteorologist;
    Dr. Tingzhuang Yan, Meteorologist;

    National Hurricane Center
    Eric Blake, Hurricane Specialist;
    Todd Kimberlain, Meteorologist; Todd
    Dr. Chris Landsea, Meteorologist;
    Dr. Richard Pasch, Hurricane Specialist;

    Hurricane Research Division
    Stanley Goldenberg, Meteorologist;


    Bell, G. D., and M. Chelliah, 2006: Leading tropical modes associated with interannual and multi-decadal fluctuations in North Atlantic hurricane activity. J. Climate. 19, 590-612.

    Bell, G. D., and Co-authors 2007: The 2006 Atlantic Hurricane Season: A Climate Perspective. State of the Climate in 2006. A. M. Waple and J. H. Lawrimore, Eds. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 88, S1-S78.

    Bell, G. D., and Co-authors 2008: The 2007 Atlantic Hurricane Season: A Climate Perspective. State of the Climate in 2007. A. M. Waple and J. H. Lawrimore, Eds. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 89, S1-S78.

    Goldenberg, S. B., C. W. Landsea, A. M. Mestas-Nuñez, and W. M. Gray, 2001: The recent increase in Atlantic hurricane activity: Causes and implications. Science, 293, 474-479.

    Gray, W. M., 1984: Atlantic seasonal hurricane frequency: Part I: El Niño and 30-mb quasi-bienniel oscillation influences. Mon. Wea. Rev., 112, 1649-1668.


    The day after, meteorologists become storm chasers

    May 26, 2008

    Todd Krause's work began at 10 a.m. Monday in the parking lot of a Lowe's store in Coon Rapids, the westernmost point of Sunday's tornado outbreak.

    From there, Krause and fellow meteorologist John Wetter would poke their way eastward in a white government van, comparing what happened on the ground to what forecasters detected on radar the day before.

    Were utility poles tipped, or snapped? Did hardwood as well as softwood trees get damaged, and how extensively? How had the damaged houses been anchored to their foundations?

    "I hope to learn something about the storm for the next time one comes along," said Krause, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service office in Chanhassen.

    Though radar glimpses, eyewitness accounts and radar had left little doubt there was a tornado, Krause found proof right across the street from Lowe's. Small trees in a cluster had been bent, tipped and snapped inward, suggesting rotating forces of a tornado rather than straight-line wind.

    Krause and Wetter, the weather service's coordinator of Skywarn radio operations, were noting and mapping damage but also taking close looks required by the new "EF" tornado damage scale, the rating that would become part of official weather history.

    The process combines many elements: matching damage reports to locations, driving around fallen trees, taking pictures, waiting for escorts into high-damage zones and using diplomacy with homeowners whose homes and lives have been upended.

    Krause and Wetter finally entered the most devastated part of Hugo at 3:15 p.m.

    The sickening jumble of broken lumber, kitchen utensils, broken trees, a boat in a tree and pieces of glass lodged like knives in a soft foundation wall -- they all meant something to the assessors.

    Where houses had been swept away, they noted that the structures had been made vulnerable by having attached garages facing the wind or walk-out basements away from the wind, or questionable ways of anchoring walls to foundations. Krause also noted that the peak of one house, otherwise wiped out, lay intact about 100 yards away. That lowered the damage rating.

    In the end, Krause declared that Hugo had been hit by an EF3 tornado because the damage was consistent with winds between 138 and 167 miles per hour. But the Coon Rapids damage they'd seen earlier in the day was more consistent with an EF1, or winds of 86 to 109 mph. In between was an area of uncertainty -- an undeveloped area of Blaine from which there were no storm reports and no roads to get a closer look. So the official verdict Monday: two tornadoes, the first of Minnesota's 2008 season.

    Krause said the weekend's tornadoes are no indication that the unusually destructive weather to the south this spring might be moving this way. Humidity levels might not stay high or the jet stream could leap suddenly northward, taking storm fronts away from Minnesota, he said.

    From Hugo, Krause and Wetter were to continue east in Washington County on Monday night, then continue trying to confirm damage reports in Wisconsin today.

    Before they left Hugo on Monday, Krause asked the owner of an obliterated house for permission to take pictures. The homeowner, Marcel Linders, gladly gave his permission.

    "We heard your siren," Linders told the weather officials. "I think it saved our lives."



    Since PANBO wants to play its little games here is another question for you Ellison? Besides the failure rate. What is the false alarm rate on EPIRBs? Can this be from both human error and as well shoddy mnfacturing by some in the industry? Go ahead Ellison make our day.... Tell us we have no clue? Oh yeah I keep forgetting you said that there isn't enough marine electronics on the market to establish failure or false alarm rates.....

    You should be ashamed of yourself......Some service you provide your readers...... How about it Ellison .... How about a report on EPIRB false alarms and there associated costs that waste millions of taxpayer dollars and Coast Guard resources? Or you afraid that your buddies will get mad at you?

    As far as we are concerned closing the gaps in a system that provides a fantastic service to all mariners is very well worth the time, effort and your wrath!

    KPT rescues Panama registered coal ship in open sea

    KARACHI, May 26 (APP): The karachi Press trust (KPT) rescued a Panama-registered ship ‘AI-Fullq-7” at open sea when she developed a hole in its forward hold and came towards Karachi seeking help.

    A statement here on Monday said that the ship carrying 2,676 metric tons coal ash was on voyage to Doha.

    Her last port of call was Kandla Port, India. Due to heavy weather her conditions deteriorated and worsened by creation of another hole in the same area threatening her and crew’s safety.

    The ship has a crew of 13 Pakistani and four Indians with Captain Javed Baloch as Master.The Captain reported during early hours of the morning that the ship was listing and is likely to sink. The sinking could have spelled a material as well as environmental disaster. The KPT staff immediately came for rescue on the direction of Chairman KPT Vice Admiral Ahmad Hayat and mobilized resources to help the stricken vessel. A team of experienced officers and pilots reached the ship and assessed the situation.

    The vessel was boarded by KPT Pilots at the fairway buoy and after employing necessary safeguards it was safely brought to the Port for repairs. The cargo is completely sealed and there exists no chance of its spillage in seawaters, the statement added.


    Tuesday, May 27, 2008



    Well Ellison I guess I am not the only one that makes mistakes. As of 11:00 AM CST the USCG has verified that the EPIRB in the Sav-A-Buck incident has NOT been found as you reported.

    So I guess you either mis-read the newspaper article that you cited or again just did not follow up and do your homework, because the subject matter is just not important to you and that is not really what your after anyway..

    Of course I doubt we will ever see a correction coming form you. That makes two confirmed mistakes in your reporting. The rest is subject to opinion. In the meantime, the question that we posed still remains. How many EPIRB's fail?


    Looks like PANBO and Ellison are blowing more smoke than a raging forest fire. To quote a famous President who once said. "there you go again"....

    Flame war? No Mr. Ellison no flame war except for the one you started and continue to propel Now you drop to the next level... personal insults....

    Yes unfortunately the mistake I did make in my last posting was misidentifying the Ellie B as the F/V Adriatic. Though the Ellie B's EPIRB was reported as failed. I have inquired into what ever records there are regarding the Ellie B and will report back as soon as possible.

    For that I stand corrected and will always note when I am wrong.

    No I am not perfect and I am not a professional writer. Unlike Mr. Ellison who rather blow more smoke and throw insults instead of admit his own errors and biased one sided reports and views and continue playing games just to add more hits to his website and play up to his advertisers and electronics masters.

    The point here is that there are few officially reported EPIRB failures making it difficult to hammer down. Many go unreported for various reasons. Many are not followed up on for various reasons.

    If Ellison is so sure of himself why is he opposed to any official inquiry? You would think someone so confident of himself would relish any inquiry. Bring it on?

    No matter my error or not that does not change the meat of the subject. We do not know what the failure rate of EPIRBs are. We don't, the USCG does not, NOAA does not, and neither does Ellison. To argue over how the COSPAS-SARSAT system works or does not work is why many times "parties investigations" get dragged out.

    No Ellison a EPIRB signal can be received in a matter of minutes and up to 90 minutes dependent on a number of factors. Though today more than 50% of the emergency beacons sold today are actually GPIRBs.

    Ellison say's that the USCG investigates these reports they deem worthy. Well Ellison that is not what the regulations says and that is not what is done. Its says that when there is a report of a failure of life safety equipment that is certified and inspected by the United States Coast Guard. It must conduct a informal hearing. Not when they deem it worthy to conduct one. Most reports are not investigated unless there is a loss of life......and if the device can be salvaged for investigation.

    Its evident that Ellison just does not want to know nor does he care to know to what extent there might be problems with EPIRBs . All he seems to be bent on is keeping the USCG off the backs of his advertisers and masters. Ellison seems to be part of the gang that just loves to keep the USCG MSO's in check and not what they once were.

    Answer the question Ellison... How many EPIRBs fail?

    All we care about is closing any gaps that might exist to save more lives. You have a problem with that?

    Lastly for those like Ellison who believe I made a fool of myself in public over my last posting as one anonymous gutless poster sent to me. ....

    "Get over yourself. And, learn a little about your subject before you pontificate. You have made a total fool and laughingstock of yourself in public."

    Here is a quote for you....

    “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checked by failure...than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”


    Report: CG safety inspectors unqualified

    Report: CG safety inspectors unqualified

    (Robin's Note: The following article misses one of the main points of the OIG's report. The difference between inspections and investigations.

    I have always believed that merging the USCG with DHS was a huge mistake and while the Coast Guard comes to some of the same conclusions as the OIG much of this has to do with the shifting new priorities that the USCG now has and the lack of experienced field level management people.

    Here is the actual Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General OIG-08-51 report).

    By Philip Ewing - Staff writer
    Posted : Wednesday May 21, 2008 8:24:22 EDT

    The Coast Guard’s maritime safety inspection program is staffed by unqualified personnel who don’t follow proper procedures and mismanage their backlog of thousands of unfinished investigations, according to an internal report by the inspector general of the Department Homeland Security.

    The findings, which could have broad implications for the future of U.S. maritime oversight, were unveiled Tuesday before a House panel.

    Among a sample of 22 safety investigators, 15 were not fully qualified under U.S. regulations and four were not qualified at all, the investigation found, although a senior Coast Guardsman defended the service’s 136 maritime investigators as a group.

    Coast Guard inspectors did not give hundreds of maritime accidents, known as “casualties,” the formal inspections they warranted under official rules, the report says. And in 2006, when the backlog of old investigations got too cumbersome, the Coast Guard closed 3,848 cases it deemed “low risk” even though DHS inspectors found many were worthy of “high risk” treatment, according to the report.

    Members of the House Transportation subcommittee on the Coast Guard and maritime transportation and the chairman of the full House Transportation Committee lambasted the Coast Guard about the findings of the investigation during the hearing. They were especially upset because its findings were similar to previous reports from 10 years ago and as far back as 1981.

    “I find it to be a disservice to the American people when government kicks around the same issues year after year — or, in this case, decade after decade,” said Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, the Democratic chairman of the Coast Guard subcommittee.

    Minnesota Rep. James Oberstar, the Democratic chairman of the full committee, said it was time to re-examine the Coast Guard’s maritime oversight powers from the ground up.

    The inspector general’s findings and Oberstar’s comments revived a congressional debate, in limbo for several months, over whether the Coast Guard’s maritime inspection and rule-making powers should be given to another federal agency or an altogether new one.

    A new twist on that question is a legislative bid by the National Transportation Safety Board to increase its power in investigations of major maritime accidents. Currently, the Coast Guard and the NTSB collaborate on investigations using an unofficial “memorandum of understanding,” but the agreement puts neither one in charge.

    Coast Guardsmen defended their oversight powers Tuesday.

    The Coast Guard’s director of prevention policy, Rear Adm. James Watson, told committee members that “your alarm has reverberated throughout the Coast Guard.”

    But he said the service wants to keep its maritime oversight powers, even after gaining a slew of new post-Sept. 11 security responsibilities. Ceding high-level maritime investigations to the NTSB could have many unintended consequences and be seen worldwide as a “demotion of the authority of the commandant” of the Coast Guard, Watson said.

    Watson said that, for the most part, the Coast Guard agreed with the findings of the report.

    The Coast Guard has agreed to increase its number of maritime inspectors, change its personnel management to encourage longer port-security tours and adopt more stringent rules for vessel inspections. The service already asked for 276 new sector-level billets in its fiscal 2009 budget requests. All those changes, top Coast Guardsmen say, will strengthen the service’s ability to make sure ships are safe.

    Even with those changes, the NTSB wants Congress to make it the automatic lead investigative agency in major marine incidents, said board member Kathryn O’Leary Higgins, who also appeared before the subcommittee.

    Maritime casualties are the only type of transportation accident over which the NTSB doesn’t have automatic authority, she said. In the case of accidents such as air crashes or bridge collapses, the NTSB investigates alongside other federal agencies, such as the Federal Aviation Administration or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

    But Congress didn’t give the NTSB authority in maritime accidents, so it uses the memorandum of understanding with the Coast Guard and informal personal ties between officials.

    Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad Allen “is a good friend of mine,” Higgins said.

    Officials from both the Coast Guard and NTSB agreed that the agencies work well together in inspecting most major maritime casualties, except the most recent one — the November accident in which the freighter Cosco Busan rammed the San Francisco Bay Bridge and spilled 58,000 gallons of oil into San Francisco Bay.

    In that case, Higgins said, NTSB investigators didn’t respond to the spill for three days because the first Coast Guardsmen on the scene erred in assessing the size of the spill, believing it was too small to warrant NTSB involvement.

    The lost time meant the NTSB couldn’t immediately secure the Cosco Busan’s voyage data recorder — the ship’s “black box” — or test the ship’s crew for alcohol or drugs.

    Ohio Rep. Steve LaTourette, the ranking Republican on the subcommittee, defended the relationship between the Coast Guard and the NTSB, pointing out that even though it criticized the Coast Guard, the DHS report did not look into the qualifications of NTSB inspectors as potential replacements. And since there has never been a serious deadlock over which agency would take the lead on a casualty investigation, LaTourette said, there’s no need to change the system.

    Cummings disagreed, saying such a system can’t rely on the personalities of its participants.

    “I would hope that everybody who takes on the job as commandant would be as good as Adm. Allen,” Cummings said. “But what about when we’re all gone, having hearings up in heaven?”


    The US Coast Guard issued its Marine Safety Performance Plan. The goals of the plan are to: (1) reduce maritime casualties; (2) improve service to mariners, the industry, and the public; (3) improve program process and management; and (4) improve human resource capabilities. Note: These goals will not easily be achieved due primarily to capacity limitations (monies and personnel).

    While Congress has belatedly appropriated monies and authorized increased personnel for the marine safety program, it will take time to grow the talent and experience required to effect the planned improvements. The Coast Guard, though, has both the tradition and the attitude needed to accomplish this mission. The Plan is intended to be a living document and public input is important. Comments should be submitted within the next 60 days to: (5/22/08).


    One of my contacts who retired from the USCG and is familiar with these issues wrote to me recently with regards to this OIG report. Here is what he had to say...

    I concur with the OIG findings 100%, except I also understand the Coast Guard’s concerns. The Coast Guard does a fine job 95-99% of the time with its limited resources and increase in responsibilities.The problem is the lack of qualified personnel at the field and management levels.

    The Coast Guard has basically combined its major mission areas under one Mission Commander, the Sector Commander and has combined its’ Headquarters staff elements or diverted Marine Safety elements to other Directorates. While this provides ready access to resources for all missions, it has not effectively and sufficiently maintained a qualified workforce. How can it do so?

    Before last year’s reorganization and before I left the Coast Guard, I noted the following (these are similar to OIG’s findings in the report):

    (1) It takes 2-3 years to fully qualify an inspector to be a Machinery, and/or Small Vessel Inspectors; at least 1 year to fully train a field investigator.

    (2) There were is a limited number of quotas for Port Operations, Marine Inspections, and Basic Investigator Courses.

    (3) Qualified Inspectors and Investigators were either diverted to other higher priority mission areas, were transferred to another Sector/another Command (COMDT, Area/District Staff, Instructor duty, or retired prior to the arrival of a new investigator/inspector. This effectively stifled the training process for new inspectors/investigators.

    (4) New investigators had little prior experience or had not performed field investigative duties for several tours 6(when the training and qualification process was different).

    (5) Managers at the District or Headquarters levels often have less experience than their field counterparts (or no experience). The Coast Guard would regularly assign junior officers to Staff positions.

    (6) While some of the Inspections and Investigation functions have been civilianized. Job burnout, poor management, or other issues often hamper effective performance of some of these investigators/inspectors.

    Also, there are an insufficient number of civilian investigators to adequately prosecute existing investigations.

    (7) The Coast Guard, cognizant of its limited workforce, set the bar too high for which cases it would actively pursue. Often, smaller cases hide larger issues. This was a big problem when I was doing facility inspections in the late 70s and again in the late 80s.

    (8)Since 9-11-2001, many of the qualified enlisted and officer populations are prosecuting Homeland Security issues (L/E and immigration enforcement).

    Here are my recommendations:

    (1) Civilianization of inspection/investigation process would increase the numbers, but enforcement actions could not be performed because of legislative limitations. Only Coast Guard Officers/Petty Officers can perform law enforcement activities on vessels. See 14 USC 89.

    (2) One possible workaround is pairing of military and civilian personnel on inspections/investigations. This means you also have to increase the number of military as well as civilian inspectors/investigators.

    (3) You need career paths for inspectors/investigators. This means that inspectors and investigators would be have to be trained early on and retrained at regular intervals to maintain currency and continuity with respect to changing regulations and/or laws.

    (4) No one should be transferred to a staff position earlier than their mid-career point (i.e. after 8-12 years of field experience in a particular specialty, e.g. inspections, investigations, port control (international standards compliance), etc.

    (5) Lengthen the tour at each unit to 5 years for military inspectors/investigators. Rotate only 10-20% of your inspection force every year (but not internally to another Department). The rotation dates should overlap.

    (6) No personnel should be transferred to a field unit with less than 3 years remaining on their enlistment contract or with less than 3 years to mandatory retirement, unless they are needed to train less qualified personnel or head the Department. Heads of Departments should be 3rd tour in a particular specialty (that means they have no less than 8 years field experience).

    (7) Career incentives (i.e. advanced training, monetary rewards, etc.) should be given to those who display exceptional ability/mentoring skills.


    Twister season active, deadly

    The United States is experiencing its deadliest tornado season in a decade and may be on pace to set a record for the most tornadoes in a year. But are there really more twisters, or are we just getting better at counting them? And does global warming have anything to do with it?

    The numbers

    At least 100 people have been killed by tornadoes through mid-May, the highest number for that period since 1998. A preliminary tally shows 868 tornadoes were reported through May 18, a pace about equal to that in 2004, which saw an unprecedented 1,819 tornadoes, according to the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla.

    Early start

    This year, 136 tornadoes were reported in January and 232 in February. That's way over the 1953-2005 average of 19 tornadoes in January and 21 in February.

    Only on paper?

    In the 1950s, there were about 550 tornadoes recorded in a year. Now there are more than twice that number. . But experts say the increase probably is just on paper, the result of improvements in weather radar, better public awareness and the proliferation of video cameras that mean many more small tornadoes are officially tracked. "There's no trend," said Greg Carbin of the Storm Prediction Center.

    A double dose

    Don't try telling John Hill that twisters aren't getting worse. Hill, 31, lost his job Feb. 2 when a huge twister demolished the boat factory in Clinton, Ark., where he worked as a welder. Little more than three months later, Hill lost his house, cars and cash savings to another tornado. "I've lived in Arkansas most of my life, and I've never seen this many tornadoes," he said.

    Getting warmer?

    Scientists don't know whether global warming is a factor in this rough season for tornadoes. Robert Trapp, an associate professor of atmospheric science at Purdue University, has found that if human contributions to greenhouse gas emissions raised the global mean temperature by 3.6 to 10.8 degrees by the end of the century, the number of days with conditions that could create severe thunderstorms could double in cities in the South and along the Eastern Seaboard. But Trapp and other experts agree that there is not enough good data to link tornadoes and global warming.

    Severe Weather Leaves Death and Destruction in US Heartland

    26 May 2008

    Flakus report - Download (MP3) audio clip
    Flakus report - Listen (MP3) audio clip

    A band of storms stretching from the Texas Panhandle to Wisconsin has caused death and destruction in the central United States during the past few days. At least 7 people were killed in Iowa and Minnesota by tornadoes on Sunday. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, this is the worst storm season in a decade in the central plains states.

    According to the National Weather Service more than 100 people have died in tornadoes this year, the worst toll in a decade, and there may be many more storms to come.

    The worst tornado Sunday was the one that hit the town of Parkersburg, Iowa. Mayor Robert Haylock says about a third of the town of about 1,000 residents was destroyed. He said early warning sirens sent people scrambling to underground shelters.

    "We had real good notice," said Haylock. "Our sirens all went off well in advance. People were down in their basements waiting for it."

    Emergency crews arrived shortly after the storm struck. Some residents were able to visit the rubble of what had been their homes, but officials cautioned people to be wary of downed electrical lines and broken gas pipes.

    Iowa's governor and two senators toured the disaster site and say they plan to ask President Bush for federal help.

    In a VOA telephone interview, Emergency Management Coordinator Steve Ulrich said Parkersburg has been left uninhabitable for the moment.

    URLICH: "The whole town really has no place to stay. We have no water, electricity, gas or anything, so there is no place right now."

    FLAKUS: "What is being done for those people?"

    URLICH: "Being Iowans that we have here and hardy, and neighbor taking care of neighbor, and relative taking care of relative, a lot of them are going to their family, friends and staying with them. We are providing some shelter for those who do not have any of those resources."

    A tornado also hit the town of Hugo, near St Paul, Minnesota Sunday.

    On Saturday, severe thunderstorms and tornadoes raked across Oklahoma destroying some buildings and uprooting trees, but causing no injuries.

    In the neighboring state of Kansas, crews continue to clean up after a storm system that spawned 17 tornadoes last week and left two people dead. A tornado also killed one person in northern Colorado and damaged nearly 600 homes.

    Weather experts say there could be more destructive storms ahead because of atmospheric conditions this year that favor storm formation. Tornado activity typically peaks in early summer and then decreases until late fall, when there is often another spike in severe storms


    Skipper hit over grounding

    THE master of the Pasha Bulker was mainly to blame for the ship running aground on a Newcastle beach, a federal investigation has found.

    But the Australian Transport Safety Bureau has also criticised the Newcastle Port Corporation for acting too slowly and the masters of other ships in the area at the time for engaging in risky behaviour.
    Pic gallery: The Pasha Bulker story
    The 225m Panamanian-registered coal carrier turned into an instant tourist attraction when it became wedged on a sandbar off Nobbys Beach, near Newcastle, during wild storms in June last year. It remained stranded just metres from the shoreline for 25 days while a major salvage operation was planned and executed.

    The ATSB's final report into the incident found the ship's master ignored signs that a dangerous situation was developing and made a string of bad decisions.

    "The unwise decision not to ballast the ship for heavy weather and remain at anchor were the result of his inadequate knowledge of issues related to ballast, anchor-holding power and local weather," the report said.

    The ship's South Korean master had had too little sleep in the previous 24 hours, ATSB spokesman Peter Foley said.

    "He became increasingly overloaded by fatigue, anxiety and uncertainty and he had had little effective assistance from other members of the crew."

    But the Pasha Bulker's master had not been the only one who made poor decisions.

    "Only seven of the 57 ships in the anchorage at the time took the prudent course to leave the anchorage before the onset of the heavy weather," Mr Foley said. "In essence, the actions taken by most of the masters in the anchorage at the time, including Pasha Bulker's, were just too little, too late."

    Mr Foley also pointed the finger at the Newcastle Port Corporation.

    "It was found the port corporation was not sufficiently responsive to the increasing seriousness of the situation and, as a result, notifications to the Commonwealth authorities . . . was late," he said.

    Newcastle Vessel Traffic Information Centre did not provide weather advice to ships off the port until after weather conditions had already become extreme, the report also found.

    The report, which makes 11 recommendations, also found the queue of 57 ships off Newcastle at the time of the incident increased the risks of collision and grounding.

    Marine Safety Investigation Report - Final

    Independent investigation into the grounding of the Panamanian registered bulk carrier Pasha Bulker on Nobbys Beach, Newcastle, New South Wales on 8 June 2007

    On 23 May 2007, the Panamanian registered bulk carrier Pasha Bulker anchored 2.4 miles off the coast near Newcastle, New South Wales. The ship had sufficient water ballast on board for the good weather at the time, and was not expected to load its coal cargo for about three weeks.

    At midday on 7 June, Pasha Bulker's master veered more anchor cable after a gale warning was issued. The weather deteriorated and shortly after midnight, the wind had reached gale force.

    At 0500 on 8 June, the wind had increased to strong gale force and the weather was severe. At 0625, Pasha Bulker started to drag its anchor. The master decided to put to sea and at 0748, the anchor was aweigh. The ship was now 1.2 miles from the shore and, with the southeast wind fine on the starboard bow, it made good a north-easterly course. At 0906, the master altered the ship’s course to starboard to put the wind on the port bow in an attempt to make good a southerly course on a south-southeasterly heading. However, its heading became south-westerly and, with the wind on the port beam, the ship started to rapidly approach the coast.

    At 0931, with Nobbys Beach 0.8 of a mile away, the master attempted a starboard turn. The manoeuvre did not succeed and at 0946, with grounding imminent, he requested assistance from authorities ashore. At 0951, Pasha Bulker grounded on Nobbys Beach and the ship's momentum carried it further onto the beach. The crew were evacuated by helicopter during the afternoon.

    On 2 July, Pasha Bulker was successfully refloated. The ship was temporarily repaired in Newcastle and on 26 July, taken in tow to Vietnam to undergo permanent repairs.

    The report identifies a number of safety issues and issues recommendations or safety advisory notices to address them.

    Download complete report [4.6 MB PDF]

    Marine Safety Recommendations

    [MR20080009] [MR20080010] [MR20080011] [MR20080012] [MR20080013] [MR20080014] [MR20080015] [MR20080016] [MR20080017] [MR20080018] [MR20080019]

    Safety Advisory Notices

    [MS20080015] [MS20080016] [MS20080017] [MS20080018]


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