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 NiƱa,” 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....