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Mon Feb 4, 2013, 02:31 PM

Former NHC director Bill Proenza fired

Former National Hurricane Center director Bill Proenza, 68, was fired from his position as director of the National Weather Service's Southern Region last week. The reason stated for his firing was his unauthorized transfer of $528,000 from a local forecasting account to pay for new radar equipment in 2012. The issue of moving money without authorization in 2012 also landed the director of NWS, Jack Hayes, in trouble, forcing him to resign.

Proenza laudably made a big push in 2007 for a new QuikSCAT satellite, but unfortunately made claims about the usefulness of QuikSCAT for improving hurricane track forecasts that were not supported by scientific research, an error that may have ultimately led to his downfall as NHC director. Proenza lasted only six months as director of NHC, from January - July 2007. While there is evidence that scatterometer data may improve hurricane track forecasts of some computer models, NHC uses many models to make hurricane track forecasts, and some of these models are not helped by scatterometer data. Scatterometer data is extremely valuable for many other aspects of hurricane forecasting, providing early detection of surface circulations in developing tropical depressions, and helping define gale (34 kts) and storm-force (50 kts) wind radii. The information on wind radii from scatterometers is especially important for tropical storms and hurricanes outside the range of aircraft reconnaissance flights conducted in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific basins, and for the regions where there are no reconnaissance flights (Central Pacific, Western Pacific, and Indian Ocean). Accurate wind radii are critical to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), Central Pacific Hurricane Center (CPHC), and Guam Weather Forecast Office (WFO) watch and warning process, since they affect the size of tropical storm and hurricane watch and warning areas. Between 2003 and 2006, QuikSCAT data were used at NHC 17% of the time to determine the wind radii, 21% of the time for center fixing, and 62% of the time for storm intensity estimates.


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