50th Anniversary of TAFB

Dr. Bob Simpson, David Shideler and Miles Lawrence in the Tropical Analysis Center
(ESSA World July 1967)

In July of 1967, as part of a reorganization of the National Hurricane Center (NHC), the Tropical Analysis Center, predecessor of the Tropical Analysis and Forecast Branch (TAFB), was formed.  This reorganization, overseen by Dr. Bob Simpson who was scheduled to become NHC director the next year, also separated NHC from the Miami Weather Bureau office.  This allowed NHC to focus its efforts full-time on the tropics while the Weather Bureau office concentrated solely on local weather.

The TAC’s duties included analyzing the weather across the tropical belt (40°N to 35°S) of the Atlantic and eastern Pacific and forecasting the movement of disturbances in the normal trade-wind patterns.  This was a daunting task, since there were very few weather observations over vast stretches of this region.  To supplement the sparse island and ship reports, the TAC meteorologists had to rely on the new technology of satellite picture analysis.  To add to their difficulties, they also had to analyze the upper troposphere from a handful of radiosonde stations.

Their analyses were of upmost importance to NHC’s hurricane forecasters, since the disturbances they tracked often formed into tropical cyclones.  But their maps were also regularly radiofaxed to ships at sea and remote locations so that the general public could stay informed and be prepared for stormy weather.  David Shideler headed up the TAC staff of ten chartists and ten analysts.

TAFB logo

Over the years the name of the unit was changed and the data needed for its tasks improved, but its essential duties and importance remain unchanged.