National Hurricane Conference concludes in New Orleans

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The 2013 Hurricane Conference concluded today with the take home message being that advancements in early forecast warning and the lessons of the past season will help keep the public safer in the upcoming hurricane season.

Highlights of the conference included the National Hurricane Centers demonstration of a new method to show storm surge of a cyclone in a graphical way.  Storm Surge team leader Jamie Rhome expressed hope that, if the testing of the new technologies permit, the storm surge graphic will be ready to roll out this season and that it will deliver the expected height of the surge  to the public in a less technical, more straight forward way.  In the past it was required that storm surge and tide height be added together, with a requirement that important technicalities not be ignored, in order to obtain the height of the surge water.  In may instances this lead to confusion and could, in a worst case scenario, lead to loss of life.  Rhome said that never before has such effort gone into a Weather Service product to sure that information displayed is properly interpreted by the user.

Another important advancement in the warnings from the Hurricane Center will be the increased forecast period in the Tropical Outlook product.  In the past the Outlook looked at where possible tropical development might be possible in the Atlantic basin two days out.  Now it will look ahead five days. The chances for development of suspect systems will be given in percentages.

Longer range goals include surge watches and warning by to be introduced by the 2015 hurricane season. Development is still in the testing phase.  The need for this new warning was highlighted in the 2012 season when large and slow storms like Sandy caused high surge far away from hurricane winds.

Doctor William Gray, the famous hurricane prognosticator, spoke to a packed auditorium about the current conditions that may influence the development of tropical systems this year.  Teasing the announcement of the forecast on April 10th he stated that it can be expected that it will call for an above average season of tropical activity.  He also took opportunity to express his views about the media and the government who, he believes, is ignoring evidence that Global warming has little or no influence on the number or intensity of tropical cyclones. Contrary to majority view of climatologists, Gray holds that the science global warming itself rests on shaky ground. His belief is that the main driver of the climatology of hurricanes is a multi-decade cycle driven by large scale Atlantic Ocean currents.  There is a 40% less chance of Gulf of Mexico hurricanes making landfall according to his research. 

The four days of conference training included over a hundred classes in forecasting, emergency response, insurance issues, recovery, and techniques in increasing public awareness and was attended by nearly 1500 participants from across hurricane prone areas.