July 9, 2007

Director of National Hurricane Center given the boot

From CNN:
National Hurricane Center director leaves position
National Hurricane Center director Bill Proenza left his position Monday, just days after nearly half of the NHC staff signed a petition calling for his ouster.
(that's ousting -- ouster is the person who ousts - I know; pickey...)
Proenza is still employed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration -- a parent organization of the NHC -- but he is currently on leave, said NOAA spokesman Anson Franklin.

Deputy Director Ed Rappaport has been temporarily placed in charge.

Proenza, 62, became the director in January after the retirement of Max Mayfield.

Proenza caused an uproar last month with comments about a key hurricane satellite called QuikSCAT. The satellite is five years beyond its life expectancy and operating on a backup transmitter. Proenza said if it were to fail, forecast tracks could be thrown off by as much as 16 percent.

He said Washington reprimanded him for the remarks: "They wanted me to be quiet about it."

But one of the center's longtime forecasters said Proenza's comments were misguided.

"QuikSCAT is another tool that we use to forecast," Lixion Avila said. "The forecast will not be degraded if we don't have the QuikSCAT."

Last week, the Commerce Department launched an unscheduled review of the hurricane center after word of the staff's dissatisfaction started to become public.

His staffers on Thursday issued a petition calling for him to step down.
The QuickSKAT uses microwave scattering to determine wind velocities at the surface of the ocean. It was launched in a polar orbit and scans about 90% of the earth's surface every day. Here is the JPL website for their WINDS project of which QuickSKAT is a component. My thought is that since QuikSKAT (who thought up that acronym?) was a replacement for an earlier satellite:
The SeaWinds on QuikSCAT mission is a "quick recovery" mission to fill the gap created by the loss of data from the NASA Scatterometer (NSCAT), when the satellite it was flying on lost power in June 1997. The SeaWinds instrument on the QuikSCAT satellite is a specialized microwave radar that measures near-surface wind speed and direction under all weather and cloud conditions over Earth's oceans.
if it was not important, why was it launched (and supported over a ten year lifespan) in the first place. To announce to the public that it's imminent failure would affect forecasts by 16% would be a good call if you wanted to get funding for its replacement. If you didn't need to have it replaced, again, why the funding and support. I think that Proenza was being an excellent administrator. The job of a scientific administrator is to support the people working under you by getting grant money and funding wherever possible. Proenza was spinning the importance of the satellite and this is what was needed if they wanted to get a replacement. I don't know about his personality, he may be a royal dickhead to work with and this was viewed as an opportunity by his staff to do a lateral arabesque on his career but I don't think so. Surface temps and surface winds are the two key elements for weather forecasting and getting the remote data over the ocean can only be done by satellite. Storms develop in the matter of a few days and the cell will be forming before an imaging satellite shows the vortex. Posted by DaveH at July 9, 2007 9:55 PM
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