Bob Simpson passes away at 102

Bob Simpson and Cecil Gentry at the Research Operations Base, West Palm Beach, April 1956

Bob Simpson and Cecil Gentry at the Research Operations Base, West Palm Beach, April 1956

It is with a heavy heart that we note the death of HRD’s founding director, Dr. Robert H. Simpson at the age of 102. Born and raised in Corpus Christi, Texas, Bob Simpson survived the 1919 hurricane that struck his hometown when he was just 6 years old.

After receiving a Master’s degree in Physics from Emory University, Bob taught music in several Texas high schools before obtaining a position as weather observer with the Brownsville Weather Bureau office in 1940.  After a stint at the remote weather station on Swan Island in the Caribbean Sea, he came to the attention of Dr. Francis Reichelderfer, Chief of the the Weather Bureau, who assigned him to the New Orleans office as a hurricane forecaster.  He then moved to the Miami office to understudy Grady Norton and was then assigned as a tropical weather instructor at the US Air Force’s meteorology school at Howard Air Force Base in Panama.  Using one of the school’s instructional C-47 aircraft, he flew into a tropical storm south of Hispanola in 1945.

Following the war he was assigned as Reichelderfer’s assistant in Washington, DC.  During the summers, he would use his annual leave to fly a series of “piggyback” missions on Air Force Hurricane Hunter flights into Atlantic storms.  In 1948, he was assigned to Honolulu to oversee the peacetime transition of Pacific weather assets to Weather Bureau control.  During this time he helped establish a short-live summit observatory atop Mauna Loa (he also helped establish a later, permanent observatory on the slope) and also flew a piggyback mission into Typhoon Marge in 1950.

Upon returning to duties in Washington, DC in 1952, Simpson again resumed summertime piggyback missions, culminating in a flight into Hurricane Edna in 1954 with Edward R. Murrow on board.  The 1954 hurricane season drastically affected the northeastern United States which prompted Congress to increase funding for the Weather Bureau to conduct research on hurricanes.  Reichelderfer appointed Simpson to direct the National Hurricane Research Project, which he did for the next three years.  Operating out of Morrison Field in West Palm Beach using instrumented Air Force planes, the Project gathered unique in situ observations inside Atlantic hurricanes.  Once the Project was assured a continuation after 1959, Simpson left to finish his doctoral degree at the University of Chicago.

Bob and Joanne Simpson in retirement

Bob and Joanne Simpson in retirement

Simpson became the Weather Bureau’s Deputy Director for Research (Severe Storms) in 1962 where he helped establish the National Severe Storms Project (later the National Severe Storms Laboratory.)  He was also the founding director of Project STORMFURY during this time.  In 1965, he married Joanne Malkus and moved over to the operational side of the Weather Bureau to avoid a conflict of interest since Joanne was director of the Environmental Meteorology Laboratory.  The couple moved to Miami in 1967 where Bob became Deputy Director of the National Hurricane Center in anticipation of the retirement of his friend, Gordon Dunn.  Bob Simpson was NHC director from 1968 to 1974 where he oversaw the transition of the Center into the computer age and the increased use of satellite data.  His skillful use of reconnaissance and satellite information helped avoid a tremendous disaster with the landfall of Hurricane Camille in 1969.  Along with his long-time friend Herb Saffir, he established the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale that came into operational use in 1972.

After retiring from Federal Service in 1974, Bob and Joanne established Simpson Weather Associates (SWA) in 1979, which provided expertise in weather modification experiments to world governments.  Both he and Joanne were very active in mentoring meteorology students throughout their lifetimes.  Bob became director emeritus of SWA in 2000.  Joanne passed away in 2010.  His autobiography “Hurricane Pioneer” is scheduled for publication by the AMS next year.

1944  Subtropical rain showers from stable cloud forms. Bull Amer. Meteor. Soc. 25,367.
1946  On the movement of tropical cyclones. Trans. Amer. Geophys. Union 27,641-55.
1947  A note on the movement and structure of the Florida hurricane of October 1946. Mon. Wea.Rev. 75, 53-58.
1947  Some aspects of the intertropical convergence near central and south America. Bull Amer. Meteor. Soc. 28,335.
1948  On the slope of low-pressure axes as a criterion for deepening in the  tropics. Bull.Amer.Meteor.Soc. 29, 9-15.
1951  Exploring the eye of typhoon Marge. Bull. Amer. Meteo. Soc., 33, 286 98.
1952  Evolution of the Kona storm, a subtropical cyclone. J. Meteor. 9 24, 35.

1953  Comments on the Impulsive generation of certain changes in the tropospheric circulation.  J. Meteor., 5, 404-405.

1954  Hurricanes. Scientific American, June, 32-7. On the structure of tropical cyclones as studied by aircraft reconnaissance.
1954  Proc. UNESCO Symp. on Typhoons, Tokyo, 129-50. Structure of an immature hurricane. Bull.Amer.Meteor.Soc. 35, 335-50.
1955  Further studies of hurricanes by aircraft reconnaissance. Bull. A mer. Meteor. Soc. 36, 459-68 (with L.G. Starrett).
1955  A survey of the hurricane problem. Trans. N. Y Academy 0/Sciences 17,346-52 (with J. Namias and G. Dunn).
1956  Operation of the National Hurricane Research Project. Weatherwise 9,  111-20 (with A.W. Johnson and R.C. Gentry).
1957  Asymmetries in the hurricane. Proc. 9th Pacific Science Congress, Bangkok, 13, 213-17.
1957  Hurricane cloud forms surveyed by reconnaissance aircraft. Proc. 9th Pacific Science Congress, Bangkok, 13,218-19.
1957  Hurricanes. Smithsonian Rept.for 1956, 301-28 (with R.C. Gentry).
1957  The West Indies rawindsonde network: A laboratory for problems in analysis and prediction of tropical weather. Proc. 9th Pacific Science Congress, Bangkok, 13, 182-89.
1963  An experiment in hurricane modifications: Preliminary results. Amer.Soc. Advancement o Science, 3591,498.
1963  An experiment in hurricane modifications: Preliminary results. Science 142 (with J. S. Malkus).
1963  Liquid water in squall lines and hurricanes at air temperatures lower than -40 C. Mon. Wea. Rev., 91,687-93. Wexler Memorial Volume

1963  Comments on “Condensed Water in the Free Atmosphere in Air Colder than −40C.”  J.  Appl. Meteor., 5, 684-685.

1964  Experiments in hurricane modification. Scientific Amer. 211, 27-37 (with J.S. Malkus).
1964  Modification experiments on tropical cumulus clouds. Science 145, 541-48 (with J.S. Malkus).
1964  Note on the potentialities of cumulonimbus and hurricane seeding experiments. J Appl. Meteor., 3, 470-475 (with J.S. Malkus).
1965  Experimental cumulus dynamics. Rev. ofGeophysics 3, 387-431 (with J.Simpson, D.A. Andrews, and M.A. Eaton).
1965  Project STORMFURY: An experiment in hurricane weather modification. Geojisica International S, 63-70.
1966  STORMFURY cumulus experiments: Preliminary results 1965. J Appl. Meteo., 5, 521-25 (with J. Simpson, J.R. Stinson, and J.W. Kidd).
1966  Why experiment on tropical hurricanes. Trans. NY Academy of Sciences 28, 1045-62 (with J. Simpson).
1967  STORMFURY cumulus seeding experiment, 1965: Statistical analysis and main results. J Atmos. Science 24, 508-21 (with J. Simpson and G.W. Brier).
1968  Atlantic tropical disturbances, 1967. Mon. Wea. Rev., 96, 251-60 (with N. Frank, D. Shideler, and H.M. Johnson).
1969  Understanding ocean weather. Oceanology International Nov/Dec, 42-5.

1969  Atlantic disturbances of 1968. Mon. Wea.Rev 97, 140-55.

1970 The Atlantic hurricane season of 1969. Mon. Wea. Rev., 98, 293-306 (with A.L. Sugg and National Hurricane Center Staff).

1971  Mean-layer analyses for tracking and prediction of disturbances in the tropics. Proc. Amer. Meteor. Soc. Symp. on Trop. Meteor., Honolulu, June, 17. 1971

1971  The Atlantic hurricane season of 1970. Mon. Wea. Rev. 99, 269-77 (with J.M. Pelissier).

1972  The tropical analysis program of the National Hurricane Center. Weatherwise 24,164-73 (with C.w. Wise).
1972  The Atlantic hurricane season of 1971. Mon. Wea. Rev. 100, 265-75 (with J.R. Hope).

1973  The Atlantic hurricane season of 1972. Mon. Wea. Rev. 101, 323-33  (with PJ. Hebert).

1973 Evacuations, horizontal versus vertical. Nation’s Cities, May, 44-6.

1974  Hurricane prediction: Progress and problem areas. Science 181, 899-907.
1974  Pilot plan for ‘canes. Museum, June, 46-52.
1974  Hurricane prediction skill: Progress and prospects. Proc. International Tropical Meteor. Meeting. Nairobi, 145-50.
1975  The complex killer. Oceanus 17,22-4.
1975  On the design and evaluation of tropical cyclone seeding experiments. Proc. WMO Tech. Conf., Manila, 121-32.
1975  GARP topics: The GATE dropwindsonde program. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 984 (with P.K. Govind and R. Holle). (4th ed.) McGraw-Hill: New York, 589A-90 (with J. Simpson).
1975  Implications from the GATE dropwindsonde program regarding Ascale circulations. GATE Rept. No. 14, Tech. Vol. I, WMO, 1-11 (with J. Simpson).
1975  Natural hazards. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc. (Book review) 56, 478.
1975  On the structure and organization of clouds in the GATE area. GATE Rept No. 14, Tech. Vol. II, WMO, 160-167 (with J. Simpson).
1976  Hurricane development and movement. Appl. Mech. Rev., 601-09  (with R.A. Pielke).
1977  Tropical cyclone warning systems and their impact on industrial decision making. Proc. Symp. Impact of Tropical Cyclones on Oil and Mineral Development in NW Australia, Canberra, 429-54.
1978  Hurricane prediction. In Geophysical Prediction, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C., Chap. 12.
1978  On the computation of equivalent potential temperature. Mon. Wea. Rev., 106, 124-130.
1979  Tymod: Typhoon Moderation. Tech. vol. prepared for the Philippine Government, 128 pp. (with A. Miller, J. Simpson, and B. Fagan).
1979  Impact of tropical cyclone winds. Proc. International Con! on Tropical Cyclones, Perth, Australia.
1980  Vertical evacuation: A viable alternative? Proc. International Hurricane Conf, New Orleans.
1980  Rodgers, Golden and Halpern: Final report to City of Sanibel on planning for hurricane emergencies. (Collaborated with)
1981  Changes in the Monsoon circulation of the South China Sea imposed by the moderate surge of 10-12 December 1978. Proc. International Conf. on Early Results of FGGE and Large-Scale Aspects of Its Monsoon Experiments.
1981  Structure and dynamical milieu of monsoon eddies in the South China Sea and the related penetrative convection: The case of 16-17 December
1978  Proc. International Conf. on Early Results of FGGE and Large-Scale Aspects of Its Monsoon Experiments, Tallahassee (with C. Warner, BJ. Morrison, and J. Simpson).
1981  The Hurricane and Its Impact, 398 pp. LSU Press: Baton Rouge (Principal, with H. Riehl).
1982  A hurricane hazard analysis for Longboat Key, Florida. Simpson Weather Associates, Inc., Washington, D.C., 54 pp.
1984  A risk analysis and preparedness decision system for use by coastal communities. Proceedings of 15th Conference on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology, January 9-13, 1984, Miami, Florida. pp. J22-124.
1985  Timing of Hurricane Emergency Actions (senior author with B. Hayden and M. Garstang). Environmental Management, Vol. 9, No.1 , pp 61-70.
1989  Hurricane. For new edition of Encyclopedia of Science and Technology; McGraw-Hill, New York, (Principal,with G. Holland and J. Simpson). 1992 Cumulus Mergers in the Martime Continent region. Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics (with J. Simpson et al)

1998 Stepping stones in the evolution of a national hurricane policy.  Wea. Forecast., 13, 617-620.

2007  Tropical cyclone destructive potential by integrated kinetic energy.  Bull. Amer. Met. Soc., 88, 1799-1800.  (with H. Saffir)

1955  The hurricane fang and its importance to the middle Atlantic and New England states. Paper presented to Woods Hold Oceanographic Inst. Assoc., New York City.
1955 The Weather Bureau sizes up the hurricane problem. Bell Telephone Magazine 34,145-152.
1956  Objectives and Basic Design of the National Hurricane Research Project. National Hurricane Res. Proj. Rept. 1, Dept. of Commerce, Washington (with N.E. LaSeur, R.C. Gentry, L.F. Hubert, and C.L. Jordan).
Some aspects of tropical cyclone structure. Paper No.8. Tropical Cyclone Symp. Brisbane, Australia.
1957  Hurricanes. Paper presented to Royal Canadian Inst., Toronto.
Midtropospheric ventilation as a constraint on hurricane development and maintenance. 1st Tech. Con! on Hurricanes, Miami Beach (with H. Riehl).
1957  Details of Circulation in the High-Energy Core of Hurricane Carrie.  National Hurricane Res. Proj. Rept. 24, Dept. of Commerce, Washington (with National Hurricane Res. Proj. Staff).
1962  Cloud-Seeding Experiment in Hurricane Esther, 1961. National Hurricane Res. Proj. Rept. 60, Dept. of Commerce, Washington (with R. Ahrens and R.D. Decker).
1962  On the Dynamics of Disturbed Circulation in the Lower Mesosphere.  National Hurricane Res. Proj. Rept. 57.Dept. of Commerce, Washington.
1963  Measurement of heat and momentum flux at the air/sea interface. Paper presented at the 3rd U.S.-Asian Military Weather Symp., John Hay Airbase, Philippine Islands, Feb.
1963  The unique development of the severe Atlantic coastal storm of March, 1962. Paper presented to the 211th National Meeting of the Amer. Meteor. Soc., Jan. (with J. Simpson).
1965  Hurricane modification: Progress and prospects, 1965. Paper presented at

1967  Search for more adequate tools to describe circulation in tropical and equatorial latitudes. Paper presented to Naval Post-Graduate School, Monterey, Aug.
1968  Role of the air/sea interface in the growth of hurricanes. Paper presented at the WMO Symp. on Investigations and Resources of the Caribbean Sea, Curacao, BWI, Nov.
1969  Curbing hurricanes–The chances. (Interview) Us. News and World Rept., Sept. 1, 34-6.
Disturbances in the tropical and equatorial Atlantic. ESSA Tech. Memo. WBTM-SR47, Dept. of Commerce, Washington.
1969  A reassessment of the hurricane risk. Paper presented to National Red Cross Conf., Atlanta, May.
Synoptic analysis models for the tropics. Paper presented to Meteor. Tech.Exchange Conf., Colorado Springs, July.
1969  Your risk in hurricanes. Paper presented to Corpus Christi Rotary Club, May. 1970 The decision process in hurricane forecasting. NOAA Tech. Memo. NWS-SR53, Dept. of Commerce, Washington.
1969  Don Franklin on–Weather. (Interview) Florida Afloat, Apr. 14-5.
1969  The hurricane as a machine of destruction. Paper presented at the Hurricane Foresight meeting, New Orleans, Apr.
1969  Hurricane peak: Mid-September. (Interview) Us. News and World Rept., Aug. 10, 16.A reassessment of the hurricane prediction problem. ESSA Tech. Memo. WBTM-SR50, Dept. of Commerce, Washington.
1969  The Satellite Applications Section of the National Hurricane Center. ESSA Tech. Memo. WBTM-SR51, Dept. of Commerce, Washington (with D.C. Gaby).
1969  Tropical storms: Hurricanes. Nebraska Educational Television Council for Higher Education, Lincoln, Mar.
1971  Atlantic hurricane frequencies along the U.S. coastline. NOAA Tech. Memo NWS-SR58, Dept. of Commerce, Washington (with M.B. Lawrence).
1971  The decision process in hurricane forecasting. NOAA Tech. Memo. NWSSR53, Dept. of Commerce, Washington.
1971  The hurricane: Perennial but increasing threat to our coast. Paper presented to Council of State Governments, Atlanta.
1971  Hurricane, yes or no. (Interview) NOAA Magazine 1, 12-21.
1971  Review of “Forecaster’s Guide to Tropical Meteorology” (G.D. Atkinson, 225 pp.) Trans. Amer. Geophys. Union 52, 708-09.
1972  The hurricane risk and its potential impact. J Miami Academy of Sciences, May, 1-12.
Hurricane vulnerability. Paper presented to Rotary Club of Miami (Jul.) and New Orleans Press Assoc. meeting (Oct.)
1973  Evacuation of coastal residents during hurricanes. Rept. of Miami Fed. Exec. Board’s Hurricane Shelters Committee (R.H. Simpson, Chairman) to U.S. Office of Management and Budget, Washington, May. If hurricanes hit. (Interview) US News and World Rept., Aug. 14,32-5. A decision procedure of application in predicting the landfall of hurricanes.
1973  NOAA Tech. Memo. NWS-SR71 , Dept. of Commerce, Washington (with B.R. Jarvinen).

1973  The neutercane: Small hybrid cyclone. Paper presented at Amer. Meteor.
1975  Assessing the impact of hurricanes on coastal structures. Paper presented at Amer. Meteor. Soc. Coastal Eng. Conf., Houston, Oct.
1975  The GATE dropwindsonde program. Proc. 9th Can! Hurricanes and Trap. Meteor., Key Biscayne, May (with P.K. Govind).
1976  A circulation analysis system for GATE area tropical disturbances. Proc. 10th Can! on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteor., Charlottesville, VA. (with J. Cunningham, M. Zimner, and E. Hill).
1976  Coastal hazard potentials. Coastal Meteor. Conf., Virginia Beach, Sept. (with J. Freeman).
1976  Transitions in African disturbances over the eastern Atlantic Ocean. Proc. 10th Corif. on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteor., Charlottesville, VA.
1977  Synoptic-scale disturbances in the eastern Atlantic Ocean. Proc. 11th Conf. on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteor. Miami Beach.
1979  Monitoring of the ocean-atmosphere environment to detect, understand, and predict hazardous weather and seas. Paper prepared for Computer Sciences Corporation, Bay St. Louis, MS (with W. Frank).
1979  Physical nature and disaster potential of the hurricane. Lecture delivered at Pennsylvania State University.
Will coastal residents reach safe shelter in time? Proc. 13th Corif. on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteor., Orlando.
1980  Book review of Disasters and the Mass Media. AMS Bulletin.
1980  Implementation phase of the National Hurricane Research Project; 19551956. Proc. 14th Can! on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteor., Miami.
1980  The quality of progress in predicting extreme events. Potomac Geophysical Soc. Meeting.

70th Anniversary of Halsey’s encounter with Typhoon “Cobra”

Typhoon Cobra as represented on ship's radar Dec. 18, 1944

Typhoon Cobra as represented on ship’s radar Dec. 18, 1944

On December 17, 1944, the U.S. Navy’s Third Fleet, engaged in refueling operations 300 miles (500 km) east of the Philippines, blundered into the teeth of a deadly typhoon. Although he was aware of the storm in his vicinity, Admiral William “Bull” Halsey thought the storm would pass to his east and ordered his fleet to hold course and continue refueling.  One of the ships in the vanguard picked up the approaching storm on radar, but since the technology was new no one knew how to interpret the image.  As the fleet traveled further into the storm, aircraft on combat air patrols were unable to land due to adverse winds and were forced to ditch into the ocean.  Luckily, all the pilots were rescued by destroyers.  Eventually the storm winds exceeded 100 knots (185 km/hr) and three destroyers,  the Spence, Hickox, and Maddox, capsized and sank in the high seas.  Nine other ships were substantially damaged and over 100 aircraft were lost.  790 men were killed in the typhoon, but 93 sailors were rescued from the sea.

The Navy’s Fleet Weather Center in Pearl Harbor had analyzed the sparse data in the area to show the typhoon much further east than it was and forecast it to move northward, avoiding the Fleet.  However, the US Army Air Force forecast center on Saipan sent a reconnaissance flight and found the storm heading toward Halsey and with estimated winds of 140 knots (260 km/hr).  Capt. Reid Bryson tele-typed the observations to Pearl Harbor, but the Navy forecasters didn’t believe him and did not forward the information to the Third Fleet.  Halsey’s chief aerologist, Cmd. George Kosco, who would later dub the storm “Cobra”, also believed the typhoon was closer than Pearl Harbor was depicting but still thought their southeastern course would avoid the worst of the storm.  An inquiry was held later and found that Adm. Halsey had been in error in keeping the fleet on course, but did not recommend any substantial punishment.  Six month’s later, Halsey would again sail the Third Fleet into another such storm, Typhoon Connie east of Okinawa, again causing significant damage to the ships.

  • Reid A. Bryson, (2000) “Typhoon Forecasting, 1944, or, The Making of a Cynic”, BAMS, Vol. 81, No. 10, p. 2393-2397
  • Hans Christian Adamson and George F. Kosco, (1967), “Halsey’s Typhoons”, Crown Publishers, New York, pp. 206

HRD Monthly Science Meeting of December 2014

December’s Science meeting had 2 presentations:

  1. Paul Reasor:  The Radar Re-analysis Project: Overview and Status
  2. Joe Cione: The relative roles of the ocean and atmosphere as revealed by buoy air-sea observations in hurricanes

The presentations are available on the anonymous ftp site at:

HRD seminar – Amitabh Nag and Ryan Said, Vaisala, Boulder, CO– 8 December 2014

Dr. Nag presented a seminar on “Performance Characteristics of Lightning Locating Systems with Focus on U.S. NLDN”.


Ground-based or satellite-based lightning locating systems are the most common way to geolocate lightning. Depending upon the frequency range of operation, such systems can also report a variety of characteristics associated with lightning events (channel formation processes, leader pulses, cloud-to-ground return strokes, M-components, ICC pulses, and cloud lightning pulses). We will summarize the various methods to geolocate lightning, both ground-based and satellite-based, and discuss the characteristics of lightning data available from various sources.

Updates were made in 2013 to the U.S. National Lightning Detection Network (NLDN) that has led to performance improvements. Vaisala’s LS7002 sensors have been deployed, replacing the older generation LS7001 and IMPACT sensors. The detection efficiencies, location accuracy, and other performance characteristics of the updated NLDN will be discussed.

 A video recording of the presentation is available on the anonymous ftp site:

Dr. Said presented a seminar on “The GLD360 Dataset: Methodology and Performance Preview”.


The Vaisala GLD360 dataset is generated by a global network of sensors sensitive to the Very Low Frequency (VLF; 3–30 kHz) range. Using a combined time-of-arrival and magnetic direction finding technique, the location, time, peak current, and polarity are reported for individual lightning flashes. Challenges intrinsic to long-range lightning detection are discussed in the context of the methodology behind this long-range network. An upcoming refinement to the location algorithm is previewed. Estimates of the detection efficiency, location accuracy, and peak current estimation performance using precision network data as a reference are given using real-time data and reprocessed lightning data generated with the new location algorithm.  

 A video recording of the presentation is available on the anonymous ftp site:

Paper on the relative roles of the ocean and atmosphere in maintaining hurricanes released online in Monthly Weather Review

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 9.54.31 AM


Until now, it was believed that hurricanes are maintained by the ocean alone.  Observations from 62 hurricanes during 32 years support a different, nuanced conclusion.  Besides the ocean, near-surface air temperature and moisture play a large, often dominant, role in maintaining a hurricane.

Important conclusions:

1.  The long-held belief that an ocean surface temperature of at least 26 degrees C (80 degrees F) is required to maintain a hurricane was not supported in 6% of the cases studied.  Atmospheric moisture conditions in areas of high wind speeds are what cause the “80-degree F threshold” for hurricanes.

2.  For hurricanes within 29 degrees of the equator, the atmosphere, not the ocean, was found to be the most important factor in maintaining the hurricane.


The full paper can be accessed at

70th anniversary of women’s names used for typhoons

Reid Bryson while attending the Institute of Tropical Meteorology in 1943

Reid Bryson while attending the Institute of Tropical Meteorology in 1943

As a typhoon named Hagupit rages in the western Pacific, we are reminded that the tradition of naming typhoons began 70 years ago.  In the midst of World War II, the United States Army Air Force established a forward weather forecasting unit on Saipan to support the 20th Air Force’s bombing campaign against the home islands of Japan.  Among the meteorologists assigned to the unit were Major E. B. Buxton as well as Captains Reid Bryson and Bill Plumley.  Bryson was assigned the difficult task of tracking any tropical cyclones in the area of operations, a daunting effort since there were few weather observations over the vast ocean.  Prior to his assignment, he had read the novel “Storm” by George R. Stewart in which a junior meteorologist in the San Francisco Weather Bureau office has a habit of naming Pacific ocean storms after the women in his life.  This inspired Bryson to use the names of the wives and girlfriends of his fellow officers to identify the typhoons he was tracking.  Unfortunately, there are no surviving records of the storm tracks, but in a 1986 interview he mentioned that he used his own wife’s name Franny to tag one storm and for another the name of Plumley’s wife Donata.

Clement Wragge

Clement Wragge

Prior to the war, Buxton had worked in New Zealand forecasting for Pan American Airways.  There he had learned about an eccentric Englishman named Clement Wragge.  Wragge had established a weather bureau for Queensland in Australia in the late 19th Century and had begun the practice of designating tropical cyclones with women’s names.  But the bureau had closed and the practice stopped in the early 20th Century, and Wragge eventually retired to New Zealand.  Subsequently, Buxton had tried his hand at also naming ocean storms, telling Ivan Tannehill in the book “The Hurricane Hunters” that he’d once used the name “Chloe” for a particular tempest.  Whether Buxton ever relayed this information to Bryson or if it influenced the decision to revive the practice is not known.  But it is known that Wragge’s efforts directly influence Stewart in his writing of the novel “Storm”.

Highlights from the 2014 hurricane season

The Atlantic hurricane season will officially end November 30, and will be remembered as a relatively quiet season as was predicted.  Still, the season afforded NOAA scientists with opportunities to produce new forecast products, showcase successful modeling advancements, and conduct research to benefit future forecasts.

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 9.06.40 AM Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 9.06.29 AM

Despite the quiet Atlantic season, NOAA, and especially HRD, had an extremely productive research year.  With the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center, they conducted 34 P3 and 15 G-IV missions in the Atlantic, East Pacific and Central Pacific Oceans.  The data collected in Hurricanes Arthur, Bertha, and Cristobal will be useful in better understanding the problem of hurricane intensification in storms that are undergoing shear, something previously thought to be relatively uncommon.  Extensive oceanographic data were collected in Hurricanes Edouard and Ana that will help us to understand how the ocean fuels hurricanes and how the hurricane in turn impacts the ocean.  One highlight was the first-ever successful release of the Coyote, an unmanned aircraft system released from hurricane hunter manned aircraft, to collect wind, temperature and other weather data in hurricane force winds during Edouard.  The Coyote flew into areas of the storm that would be too dangerous for manned aircraft, sampling weather in and around the eyewall at very low altitudes.

NOAA also participated 11 missions with the NOAA Sensing Hazards with Operational Unmanned Technology (SHOUT) and NASA Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3) Global Hawk aircraft, and with the Office of Naval Research and NASA HS3 high-altitude manned WB-57 aircraft.  These missions provided valuable real-time data that was used by forecasters at the National Hurricane Center and will also be studied by NOAA, NASA, and university researchers to help advance the prediction and understanding of tropical cyclone track, intensity change, and storm structure.  The data will be used to assess the impact of the data on forecast models and design aircraft sampling strategies that optimize model forecasts of tropical cyclone track and intensity.  These strategies will be used during NOAA SHOUT Global Hawk missions that are planned for the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season.   The WB-57 missions sampled Hurricane Gonzalo’s upper-level outflow with a prototype dropsonde system, its 3-dimensional wind field with a dual-frequency radar, and its surface winds with an advanced microwave radiometer.  These observations will help advance the understanding and modeling of the rarely sampled hurricane upper-level outflow layer.

40th Anniversary of Navy Hurricane Hunters disbandment

VW-4 Hurricane Hunters' patch

VW-4 Hurricane Hunters’ patch

At the end of the 1974 hurricane season, the United States Navy disbanded VW-4, its Hurricane Hunter squadron.  While the Navy had been flying hurricane reconnaissance since 1944, the predecessor of VW-4 was Navy Weather Squadron Two (VJ-2) established in 1952 and based at Jacksonville Naval Air Station.  Over the next twenty-two years, they shared hurricane reconnaissance duties with the Air Force Hurricane Hunters (WRS-53 and WRS-54) as well as providing support to Project STORMFURY experiments.  During this time the squadron used a variety of airframes, most notable P2V Neptunes, C-121 Super Connies, and during the last two years of operations, P-3 Orion airplanes.

US Navy Hurricane Hunter C-121 Super Connie participating in Project STORMFURY.

US Navy Hurricane Hunter C-121 Super Connie participating in Project STORMFURY.

At the end of each hurricane season, the Hans Brinker Silver Skate Award would go to either the Navy or Air Force hurricane squadron whichever had flown the fewest sorties that year. The “award” was an ice skate, spray painted silver, mounted on a board and signified which unit had managed to ‘skate’ through the season doing the least work.  With the end of VW-4, the award went permanently to the Air Force squadron, which also took over primary hurricane reconnaissance duties.

10th Anniversary of Tropical Depression Winnie

Winnie's track (Wikipedia)

Winnie’s track (Wikipedia)

On November 29, 2004, Tropical Depression Winnie made landfall on Luzon in the Philippines.  It actually intensified after landfall with peak winds reaching 35 mph (55 km/hr).  But the main destructive force of Winnie was the heavy rainfall. The peak amount was 6.22″ (158 mm) recorded in Cabanatuan.  The flash floods and landslides resulting from the downpours killed over 1500 people.  The circulation of Winnie dissipated while it hovered at sea still near Luzon.  To add to the misery, Winnie was just one of a quartet of tropical cyclones that affected the Philippines during a two week period.