Tropical Storm Irene

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

When is a hurricane not a hurricane? Well, when it doesn’t blow 64 knots (33 m/sec, 74 mph), because then it’s only a tropical storm. Inspired by a post over at the Cliff Mass Weather Blog, I’ve been trying to find a single report of sustained hurricane force winds anywhere along Irene’s path at or near landfall … no joy. I knew exaggeration was the order of the day for some folks in the climate debate, but I hadn’t realized that the illness had infected the Weather Service itself.

Figure 1. The path of Tropical Storm Irene over the mainland of the US. Symbols with a yellow center to the black storm symbol indicate a (claimed) hurricane. SOURCE ibiseye

We were fortunate in that we have very good records of the wind speed when Irene made landfall. It went almost directly over the wind recording station at Cape Lookout, at the bottom of Figure 2.

Figure 2. A closeup of Irene’s landfall. There are four wind recording stations in the area, at Beaufort (below the “70” marker at lower left), at Cape Lookout (bottom left) and at Cape Hatteras (upper right). The Onslow Buoy is located offshore, southwest of Cape Lookout.

The wind record at Cape Lookout is quite interesting, as the eye of the hurricane passed right over the anemometer there. Figure 3 shows the wind dropping as the eye went over, coincident with the deep plunge of the barometric pressure to 950 hPa.

Figure 3. TS Irene wind (light blue) and barometric pressure (violet) at Cape Lookout before, during, and after landfall. Green line at the top shows the minimum wind speed for a storm to be classified as a hurricane (64 knots).

Figure 3 shows the classic pattern of a hurricane passing directly overhead. The “eye” of the hurricane has almost no wind, and is at the center of the low pressure area. You can also see the “calm before the storm. But what you can’t see is any trace of hurricane force winds.

Not finding hurricane force winds at the eye, I looked at the other nearby stations as well. The weather station at Cape Hatteras is in the “dangerous semicircle”, the right hand side of the storm track (Fig. 2) where the speed of the storm is added to the speed of the winds circulating around the eye. Beaufort, on the other hand, is in the safer half of the storm, where the speed of the storm is subtracted from the circulating speed of the winds. The Onslow Buoy is also in the safer semicircle, on the left of the storm track in Figure 2. Figure 4 shows those records.

Figure 4. Winds at TS Irene landfall for Cape Lookout, Beaufort, Onslow Offshore Buoy, and Cape Hatteras.

As you can see, although Irene definitely qualifies as a solid tropical storm (winds greater than 35 knots), it does not reach or even really approach the 64-knot threshold for hurricanes. Other than at the eye itself, the winds did not exceed 50 knots, much less reach 64 knots.

After crossing over the land near Cape Hatteras, Irene headed back out to sea again. I thought perhaps it might have picked up steam when it went out over the ocean again. It made a second landfall in Atlantic City and went along the coast to New York.

Figure 5. Second landfall for Irene.The nearest stations to Irene’s track are Costeau (near Mystic Island above Atlantic City), NY Harbor Buoy (outside the mouth of the harbor, in the dangerous semicircle), Sandy Hook (hook shaped peninsula just above Long Branch and central hurricane symbol) and Kings Point (near New Rochelle above New York City). Note that the storm is claimed to be a hurricane until it gets well into New York State.

It appears from an examination of the station data shown below in Figure 6 that it did not pick up strength over the water. By the time Irene reached land a second time, it barely qualified as a tropical storm, much less a hurricane.

Figure 6. Wind speed from Tropical Storm Irene as it made the second landfall.

So, despite looking at Irene before, during, and after both landfalls, there is no hint of a hurricane anywhere. By the time it got to New York the eye of the storm had dissipated, what was left were huge bands of rain clouds.

Is there a moral in this story? Well, I can understand people taking extra precautions, better safe than sorry is a good rule. And I certainly imagine that when the Weather Service re-examines the records, the error will be corrected.

But that doesn’t help in making the decisions. As soon as Irene hit land, it should have been downgraded immediately to a tropical storm. That’s what it was, not a hurricane making landfall but a tropical storm. As far as I can tell, we still haven’t had a hurricane make landfall during Obama’s presidency, a historical oddity.

Individuals and city mayors and the people in charge of the emergency response can call for any level of reaction to storm threats. They may decide an exaggerated response is appropriate.

But they need accurate information to do that, not exaggerated claims. They need the actual facts, the best estimates with no exaggeration on either the high or low side.

In this case, it appears that people got so wrapped up in the question of the winds, and the fear of the winds, that they overlooked what actually made Irene unusual. This was not the wind speed, but the size of the storm. Combined with Irene’s generally slow movement over the ground, Irene’s huge dimensions meant that any given area would get rained on for a really, really long time.

And in turn that meant that the cities and towns along the coast, the ones receiving all of the attention from the fear of high winds and attendant storm surges, weren’t the towns in danger. Unlike the coastal cities, the vast expanses inland were not able to have the rainwater just flow back into the ocean. Inland, the water piled up and overflowed the banks.

And so, because of the overestimation of the wind speeds, our attention was diverted from the real threat. Because of the claimed hurricane-force winds, a storm surge up to eight feet was predicted in New York Harbor. But in the event, the storm surge was barely three feet, a non-event … and meanwhile, New England was getting badly flooded.

So the moral to me is, honesty is the best policy for a National Weather Service. Don’t exaggerate the possible effects to be on the “safe side”, don’t minimize the possible effects. Just give us the best information you have, and let us make up our own minds. As Sergeant Friday used to say … “Just the facts, ma’am” …

w.

NOTE: All wind data is from the NOAA National Buoy Data Center http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/.

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205 thoughts on “Tropical Storm Irene

  1. Just to play devil’s advocate, aren’t there a myriad of factors that go into determining if a storm is a “Hurricane of Category [x]” or just simply a “Tropical Storm”?

    -If so could you elaborate on how many of those criteria a storm has to meet or exceed?
    -Is it possible it met enough criteria elsewhere?

    And finally, there was talk that meteorologist were pushing for certain metrics based on barometric pressure to be added to the list of factors, was this “creative labeling” maybe a bit of inside politics on their part to push for a change in the assessment of these storms?

    Any constructive replies appreciated.

  2. “Just the facts, Ma’am. Nothing but the facts.”

    Excellent post, Willis. Our federal weather guys have a lot of explaining to do,

  3. Fellow I know who rode out the “hurricane” on the Jersey shore in his condo 100 yds from the water says he has been fishing in more windy conditions.

  4. Thank you! As I posted before Irene hit landfall, it would move east and be insignificant. However, it did quite a bit of damage and produced flooding from heavy rain.

    Maybe if a forecast is understated, they risk losing their job. Better for job security to over state a certain degree of possibility than to sleep under a bridge after the blame game ends.. :)

  5. In the US, aren’t former presidents formally addressed as Mr President? Maybe it’s just a case of once an hurricane always an hurricane .

  6. The thing is, the media was all set up along the coast for a big surge, etc. You could practically see Anderson Cooper drooling over a Katrina repeat. In order for them to cover the rain/ flooding they had to move inland and follow the track. Whole lotta hassle, and money to do that, and far less dramatic watching the creek rise. The NWS was just catering to the newsies.

  7. If Al Gore and Bill Nye the Anti-Science guy are claiming that global warming causes more quantity and severity of Hurricanes, then doesn’t that same logic prove that global warming must have ended the past 3 years?

  8. I was discussing this on another forum, and have some suspicions about what happened. First, the semantics. To be classified as a hurricane, a tropical cyclone must have maximum sustained winds of at least 74 mph. A couple of things about that. Note that it doesn’t specify surface winds. Secondly, the only way to find the maximum wind is to traverse the hurricane at altitude with an aircraft, which is what NOAA does to find the maximum, which may not fall over a surface weather station or weather buoy.

    It’s my suspicion that NOAA takes these winds aloft readings and converts them to “surface winds” by some algorithm. If that’s the case, there algorithm may be busted, or the maximum winds never passed over a weather station.

    Since hundreds of millions of dollars (at least) were spent preparing for Hurricane Meh, I think NOAA owes the world an explanation.

  9. Did you account for wind speed average times which may be different for different locations? Also, did you account for meter height at each location. I’m not disagreeing with the general idea of the story only wanting to make sure the data is being correctly reported before comparing different station locations.

  10. In 1972, I was living in Western Pennsylvania. Look up Hurricane Agnes on Wiki some time; that did the vast majority of its damage as a TS. My two vivid memories are pictures of the governor’s mansion in Harrisburg flooded to the second story, and my mother (the MN tornado veteran) herding us into the basement.

    Which is not to suggest that scientists and the media shouldn’t be getting it right in their reporting on the details, because of course they should.

  11. Gasp, I cant believe I would ever disagree with Willis. But just here me out.

    The damage done indicates this was a hurricane. You dont blow down that many trees on Long Island and have wind gusts to 91 mph at Sayville at 10 feet without hurricane conditions.

    By this logic, Houston did not have a hurricane with Ike as there were no sustained hurricane force winds anywhere within the city. Intercontinental gusted to 81 with a sustained of 56.
    Here look for yourself, the obs all through the city of Houston. All the glass, all the damage, etc should have been downgraded, right?

    http://www.srh.noaa.gov/hgx/?n=projects_ike08_pshhgx

    I have been through 4 eastern hurricanes. They are not as they are in the tropics. The winds come in fits and spurts and often the damaging winds come and go quickly not in a building crescendo, but in on and off fashion, multiple times and even while the storm is pulling away. This is because the turbulent transfer needed to bring the strong winds down to the surface is only left in bands as the storm weakens and the air cools around it. Still the flow on the eastern side of the storm aligned will do this, and behind the storm ( the sinking in the drier air often brings roaring west wind). On the northwestern side, the cooling from the trough picking up the storm is like a giant seeding experiment, spreading the rain out and forcing the condensation process to be rapid away from the center, spreading the energy out.. So you have to understand, its very different from the classroom donut of perfect wind everyone wishes to see. . I agree this is not the kind of hurricane you see in the tropics, but that kind of damage to the NC outer banks and the kind of major tree damage and storm surge to southern New England and Long Island is not caused by a tropical storm. There was more tree damage in Rhode Island than in Bob which hit as a cat two and blew away the anemometer at block island at gusts over 120 mph

    It is a reason for why the power scale I have gives a more accurate description of what the storm will do.

    think of it this way. Suppose you had an Anthony Watts tested anemometer every 25 feet on the beach from Montauk to JFK, 10 meters high , or across all of Long Island. Do you really believe, given the damage, which in some cases was worse than GLoria , you would not have found hurricane winds.

    heres what we can agree on.. if it was a tropical storm, it had the lowest pressure and did the most damage from wind that we have ever seen from a tropical storm on the east coast, since it did more tree damage than other hurricanes that we are NOT arguing about. 7 million people without power, 20-30% of trees damaged.. a 951 mb tropical storm, unloading a foot of rain,blowing down trees killing dozens and causing 7-15 billion dollars of damage.

    Sadly, this whole argument is probably finding its root with the maliciousness of the AGW crowd that wants to pump weather events up to emphasize global warming. And I understand our need to fight back. But against the backdrop of history, and previous storms and damage patterns, I think Irene belongs as a hurricane. And let not your heart be troubled, for history and facts are on our side in that fight, whether we wish to argue about this. I only ask that you ask yourself, well how did that house get pushed over and why were so many trees knocked down with this, but not with others. It cant all be because of the rain.

    Keep up the good fight. and please dont take this as anything else than what it is, bringing up other ideas to go along with the observations presented here.

    cheers

  12. Being from the west coast, I have heard people say the east coast blows, it’s good to know it doesn’t blow as hard there as some people say.

  13. Pointing out that Irene was actually a Tropical Storm — not a Hurricane — at landfall is like pointing out that the Recession ended in July of 2009. Could be technically correct, but the impact doesn’t feel like the it.

  14. The over exaggeration of all things weather or climate related has long been the standard for the media and has now become the same for government “science” organizations.

    I am sure there is way back from this precipice we have created, but I am sure we will get there soon. It seems every one who brings up the subject is shouted down with the precautionary principle argument.

  15. I think the push-back (against the great Hurricane Irene) is warranted and nice work Willis. Joe Bastardi makes an important point (wind speed alone doesn’t define a hurricane) but when the American President is on standby for a tropical storm (and nowhere to be seen on the economy) it makes me wonder if someone is waiting for a weather miracle (i.e. here we are to save the day, and oh by the way we told you so). If Irene turned into a Cat 3 they would be looking pretty good. Oh well, on to the next disaster in waiting..

  16. Thank you sir.

    I tried to follow this storm very closely as I have family in the Wilmington, NC area approx 5 miles from the beach. The NHC maps were so large scale that it was impossible to get any decent idea where the eye was. I had to use local weather forecasts (Accuweather, Wunderground, Intellicast, etc.) to try to follow what was happening. Using the local radar images, possibly originating from the Nat Weather Service, I would locate the center of circulation as best as possible and then check the local forcast but there were no major wind issues. I was baffled. The NHC was reporting hurricane force wind extending out +- 60 miles but I could not find anything close to it. I followed it up through Virginia and the same results. Took a break and Sunday morning (4:00 a.m.) began following it again. NWS radar was not available so I used the same technique using local weather reports and using the animate features I was able to determine that Irene was making landfall in NY about daylight. Local report at about that time at the big airport just to the east of NYC was reporting about 35+- mph and gusts to upper 40’s if I remember correctly. At that point I was confirming to those within my circles that I was certain someone was playing political games on a big scale.

    Through my observations of estimated rain storm totals derived from radar, I could see that 30-50 miles east of the center of the so-called hurricane, they were in the 10-12″ rain estimates. TV was still concentrating on wind, but that was not the real issue with this storm.

    There is a lot of lost credibility with regards to this storm. Does the public now need to take a boat offshore to determine what the reported status of a storm is? Do we trust the NHC? If the next one is the ‘real thing’, will anyone listen? Time will tell, but this one will be hard to sweep under the carpet. If this is defended as actions of the ‘Nanny State’ for our own good, then I want a new Nanny.

  17. Irene was not a hurricane on landfall-the facts undeniably speak for themselves-in terms of damage done, we have to remember that the East coast has not seen a tropical system of this strength in quite some time-its been since Gloria that Long Island has seen winds even near 60mph-thats a span of over 25 years-so there were likely many trees that had not even seen those kinds of winds-that combined with the wet ground would account for the seemingly worse damage. Before Gloria-which did contain much higher winds-there was Belle in 1976, and Doria in 1971 along with Donna in 1960. I am referring to this winds with the trees fully in leaf-there have been many noreasters with winds as strong-but with no leaves on the trees its a whole different ballgame.

  18. In reply to Joe B;
    It seems that the destruction your are describing can be attributed to the long duration of the high winds associated with the size of Irene as much as potentially higher localized winds. Would it not be better for future warnings to say “hey, look what a large tropical storm could do – you better leave for the next “true” hurricane”.

  19. Anyone who says Irene was not a hurricane has not lived through both tropical storms and hurricanes. I can tell you from experience that this was a hurricane. Barely a hurricane, but one nonetheless. The wind speed near the surface can be different than the wind speed higher up.

  20. Bloke down the pub says:
    September 1, 2011 at 10:37 am

    In the US, aren’t former presidents formally addressed as Mr President? Maybe it’s just a case of once an hurricane always an hurricane .

    This business of calling former presidents as “Mr. President” is relatively new. They used to be “Mr. Hoover” or “former president Eisenhower” to signify they were once again ordinary citizens.

    I could be wrong, but in my memory it is only in the post-Kennedy era, that the job descriptor senator became the title “Senator” and ex- presidents became “President” for life.

    I personally think it is sign of the trend in America to create a permanent elite class like the European nobility. Some perhaps see this as a way to keep the common rabble down. After all they know what is best.

  21. I was screaming exactly that at my television all day from here in Alberta, Canada – and turned to CNN and Holy Mother of Jesus Armageddon had struck the fatal blow to the US east coast. The CNN anchors and reporters were hysterical – running around looking for hurricane wind, and other assorted hurricane events. Was New York washed away or was it just CNN or is New York now missing under the flood?

  22. From satellite presentation, and from the location of wind reports, might Irene have been a subtropical storm of hurricane strength at landfall? Having been picked up by the trough, the cloud pattern resembled part tropical system, part extratropical frontal system. The winds presented here aren’t of hurricane strength, but a subtropical system doesn’t necessarily have its strongest winds in the centre/’eye’, and would be far from symmetrical, as was the case with Irene according to NHC.*

    NHC’s discussion comments regarding Irene having a much lower-than-normal ratio of surface winds to flight-level winds is also perhaps more indicative of a non-tropical or subtropical system, where 950mb would be expected to produce some hurricane-force winds somewhere but not necessarily across a broad area and not high up the Saffir-Simpson scale.

    Wind damage to structures will be good evidence of wind strength, but I’d be more cautious when looking at fallen trees in New England. Irene hit after previous rains had already made the ground softer and trees were in full leaf, so trees that may have stood up to a nor’easter in November would’ve been uprooted by Irene.

    Depending on where it goes (and it could be Louisiana, Mexico or Sydney Harbour at this rate), I suspect Lee will render the No Hurricanes Under Obama tag obsolete anyway.

    *On a cautionary note, look at the NHC report on Katrina and you won’t find any reported sustained winds that get close to Cat 3. Wind sampling can be very hit-and-miss, even by the Hurricane Hunters.

  23. As weak as this one was, it still managed to take out a section of Hatteras Island. Also, if memory serves, it appears to have tracked almost right over the sample site for the recently discussed paleo study that looked at sediments.

    Thanks for this post, by the way.

  24. Doug in Seattle says:
    September 1, 2011 at 11:11 am
    The over exaggeration of all things weather or climate related has long been the standard for the media and has now become the same for government “science” organizations.

    I am sure there is way back from this precipice we have created, but I am sure we will get there soon. It seems every one who brings up the subject is shouted down with the precautionary principle argument
    —————————————————————————–
    Agree totally. This Irene business – whatever the precise facts may be – is another example of media-overhype. Lies, basically. The media lie to us all the time and not just about this.

    Put it this way: if you knew somebody had definitely lied to you about one thing, would you trust them on another?

    Don’t be so sure about being allowed to back away from the precipice anytime soon though… And we didn’t create it, they did

  25. Chris D: might that have churned the layers a bit, rendering any further reconstructions or verification somewhat tricky?

    Good thing that no other paleo reconstructions have ever suffered from any issues or events that may have resulted in loss of resolution or blending of figures across time…

  26. My opinion is that if the NHC had downgraded Irene just before landfall to Cat. 1 (as it should have) and then downgraded it to a TS after landfall (instead of absurdly claiming then that sustained hurricane-force winds extended for hundreds of miles from the center), it would have embarrassed Mayor Bloomberg and other politicians who’d been whooping it up (like Obama). And they’d have been mad at it–in a period when the NWS is fighting against a 20% cut in its funding and it needs all the friends it can get. So it quailed and failed.

  27. Joe Bastardi says:
    September 1, 2011 at 11:02 am

    Gasp, I can’t believe I would ever disagree with Willis. But just hear me out.

    The damage done indicates this was a hurricane. You dont blow down that many trees on Long Island and have wind gusts to 91 mph at Sayville at 10 feet without hurricane conditions.

    Thanks, Joe. Certainly, if you have any evidence of sustained winds over 64 knots anywhere on the mainland or offshore, please let us know where they were recorded. I find nothing. There’s a buoy in Long Island Sound north of Sayville. The maximum wind there was just under 35 knots, with maximum gusts of 45 knots. In general, average gust speed is 5-10 knots faster than wind speed. The maximum gusts at landfall were about 15 knots more than the maximum wind speed. The maximum gusts at the NY Harbor Entrance Buoy were 12 knots faster than the wind speed.

    So I find nothing even remotely resembling 90 mph in any record of Irene’s landfall, including the gust records, but if you have it, I’d like to see it. The nearest land station record I can find to Sayville is Islip, with maximum sustained wind speeds of a whopping 27 knots, and gusts to 57 knots … so even the gusts in Islip didn’t reach hurricane speed, much less 90 mph.

    Is it possible there were gusts at ninety mph? Sure, anything’s possible, but we need evidence.

    Until then, I’m going to say that a 91 mph gust is an anecdote. In any case, as you know the speed of the wind gusts is immaterial to whether it is a hurricane or not.

    w.

  28. Peter H says:
    September 1, 2011 at 11:06 am

    Are the graphs of hourly wind speed? There look to be about 24 data points per day.

    The graphs show the maximum of 8-minute wind speed averages for each hour.

  29. I’m depressed. Here in Orkney, North Scotland, we had sustained wind of 50kts with gusts over 70 last sunday and nobody cared. :(

  30. Tony Raccuglia says:
    September 1, 2011 at 11:19 am

    Irene was not a hurricane on landfall-the facts undeniably speak for themselves-in terms of damage done, we have to remember that the East coast has not seen a tropical system of this strength in quite some time-its been since Gloria that Long Island has seen winds even near 60mph-thats a span of over 25 years-so there were likely many trees that had not even seen those kinds of winds-that combined with the wet ground would account for the seemingly worse damage.

    I was in Amherst, Mass, Saturday through Wednesday, arriving there just as the storm did, and leaving after it peaked. The town has an elevation of about 300 feet, and is a couple hours’ drive inland from Boston.

    Power failed Saturday night for an hour or so. On Sunday the skies were overcast with the storm clouds, which moved across the horizon from right to left at a good clip. Over time it was possible to imagine their circular direction, though we must have been on the outer edge of the vortex. The temps were hot and humidity rose into the 80 to 90 % range. The rain fell intermittently throughout the day.

    I’m not a regular in the area, but I thought this was a fairly serious storm, whatever name you give to it. As Mr. Raccuglia points out above, hurricanes usually spend their energy as they drive northwards, and as soon as they hit land. This one hit the Carolinas and kept on going, delivering enough wind and rain to the New England area to cause severe flooding more than a hundred miles inland along the Connecticut River, and as far north as Vermont. By now everyone has seen the video of cars being swept away in the river flooding with their drivers still inside. As we drove around on Sunday, I was pretty impressed with the downed limbs and whole trees, the flooding of several feet above flood stage, and (yes, even the MSM coverage of) the flooding and winds along the coasts.

    The point, I suppose, is that, “classifying” anything for political purposes is risky. I’m sure that emergency managers in various administrations have more to gain by hyping the state of emergency in order to prevent people from getting into trouble, and to bring in more emergency funds. From the perspective of some, it’s possible to consider this was “just another storm”. For others – especially people near the coast or living in river valleyes – it may have turned horrific. In either case, one can only be grateful for good, honest up-to-date reporting without any slant.

  31. alexwade says:
    September 1, 2011 at 11:21 am

    Anyone who says Irene was not a hurricane has not lived through both tropical storms and hurricanes. I can tell you from experience that this was a hurricane. Barely a hurricane, but one nonetheless. The wind speed near the surface can be different than the wind speed higher up.

    You may be able to tell us from experience. Unfortunately, your experience (and my experience as well) is meaningless in determining whether Irene was a hurricane. A hurricane requires sustained winds, not gusts but sustained winds of over 64 knots. If you can show me where such winds were recorded, then we’ll have something to discuss.

    w.

  32. Keith says:
    September 1, 2011 at 11:44 am

    From satellite presentation, and from the location of wind reports, might Irene have been a subtropical storm of hurricane strength at landfall?

    No, because the data to date clearly shows that Irene did not have “hurricane strength at landfall”.

    w.

  33. John Cooper says:
    September 1, 2011 at 10:52 am
    “Note that it doesn’t specify surface winds. Secondly, the only way to find the maximum wind is to traverse the hurricane at altitude with an aircraft, which is what NOAA does to find the maximum, which may not fall over a surface weather station or weather buoy.”

    Do you mean to suggest that NOAA is so confused about their basic mission that they are not telling the viewing audience the speed of the surface winds? Your defense of them makes them look downright moronic.

  34. Chris D. says:
    September 1, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    As weak as this one was, it still managed to take out a section of Hatteras Island. Also, if memory serves, it appears to have tracked almost right over the sample site for the recently discussed paleo study that looked at sediments.

    As the author of that post (actually two posts, here and here), I had to laugh remembering their claims.

    Thanks for this post, by the way.

    More than welcome.

    w.

  35. After four and a half days and still without power here in RI, I have to say you’re nit-picking, Willis. The damage was worse than Hurricane Bob in 1991 which passed right over rather than 100 miles to the west. Irene was a hurricane at one point and parsing wind speeds between category 1 and tropical storm hardly matters except for statistical analysis ex post facto. The surge was not a non-event along the southern New England coast. Coming with high tides it eroded beaches and damaged property even if only half as large as forecast. Although I think there was media over-hype at times, please don’t not get carried away with contrarianism.

  36. Others have made several cogent observations re: tree damage on the east coast – as a professional forester allow me to add my 2 cents worth.

    * the ground was saturated in many areas due to heavy rains within the preceding 10 days. Soggy wet ground makes trees inherently less windfirm.

    * trees with leaves make excellent sails, catching much more air than leafless trees

    *much of the area covered has been heavily developed over the years – streets, roads, houses, and shopping centers can wreak considerable havoc on the root systems of trees

    *the species of trees in the east, once you move out of the southern pine region, are heavy to hardwoods (oaks, hickories, maples, e.g.). Unlike southern pines, such species grow in a region that hurricanes and tropical storms rarely visit. Thus, these species are less adapted to such storm conditions when they do occur.

    *many of the communities hit very hard are older, with older trees. Trees do not live forever, and older trees become creaky and decadent just as do we – such trees will be much more easily damaged than younger trees

  37. Willis, your analysis is fine, but premature. Wait until all of the data is in before throwing the NWS/NHC under the bus.

    http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/Storm_pages/irene2011/wind.html

    Look at the H*WIND site and see the maximum 1-min wind swaths for NC and NY. Then cross-reference the individual maps to get the correct snapshots. Only 12-hours before landfall in NYC, 62-knot winds were analyzed off of the DelMarVa peninsula — which could easily to 64-knots due to sampling issues.

    So if you wish to give the NHC/NWS the benefit of the doubt, then you are quibbling over 2-knots of wind between the definition of TS and HURR, which is well within the 5-knot reporting thresholds in the best-track dataset.

  38. Willis Eschenbach says:
    September 1, 2011 at 12:25 pm
    “The graphs show the maximum of 8-minute wind speed averages for each hour.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maximum_sustained_wind#Definition

    “The United States National Weather Service defines sustained winds within tropical cyclones by averaging winds over a period of one minute, measured at the same 10 metres (33 ft) height. This is an important distinction, as the value of a one-minute sustained wind is 14% greater than a ten-minute sustained wind.”

  39. I suspect John Cooper is correct… according to what I’ve read they’re supposed to measure winds at a height of 10 meters for 10 minutes to get an average wind speed when classifying hurricanes, but that’s rather impractical. Surface stations aren’t suspended 10m up in the air, and aircraft cannot measure that low to the ground (nor for 10 minutes). They must use some sort of algorithm to translate from aircraft and/or ground readings to get *estimated* wind speeds at 10 meters.

    As long as the methods they’ve used to measure hurricane strength have been consistent over recent history (the past few decades)… we have a common point of reference, and this can properly be considered a class 1 hurricane when it made landfall. If those methods have changed, bumping the classifications up artificially – that might warrant closer scrutiny.

  40. The graphs show the maximum of 8-minute wind speed averages for each hour.

    In the U.S., 1-minute sustained winds are used to classify tropical cyclones.

  41. Joe Bastardi says:
    September 1, 2011 at 11:02 am

    Living in the southwest corner of Houston, I can assure you that Ike was a tropical storm when it got to us. Leaves were blown out of trees, some branches were broken, some property damage and the electric lines were down for two weeks. Ho hum. Bolivar peninsula, at ground level, didn’t have hurricane force winds either. It was under 20 foot of water.

  42. The 5AM discussion by the NHC on Irene for 08/28 was good, showing landfall as a 60-knot tropical storm. But since a hurricane is 64 knots, of course H warnings were held.

    IRENE IS EXPECTED TO REMAIN NEAR HURRICANE STRENGTH UNTIL IT MOVES INTO SOUTHERN NEW ENGLAND LATER TODAY…
    AND IT WILL ONLY TAKE MODEST CONVECTION TO BRING DOWN STRONGER WINDS ALOFT TO THE SURFACE AS SUSTAINED HURRICANE-FORCE WINDS OR GUSTS.
    SLOW WEAKENING IS EXPECTED AFTER LANDFALL AS IRENE BECOMES A POST-TROPICAL CYCLONE IN ABOUT 24 HOURS.

    INIT 28/0900Z 39.2N 74.5W 65 KT 75 MPH
    12H 28/1800Z 41.8N 73.2W 60 KT 70 MPH…INLAND
    24H 29/0600Z 46.0N 70.4W 55 KT 65 MPH…POST-TROP/EXTRATROP

  43. Splitting hairs.
    Sure you may want to say Irene was not a hurricane, but the definition of a hurricane is a little arbitrary. Irene was definitely a tropical cyclone, it looked like one, it acted like one. Tropical cyclones vary in intensity from what we call tropical storms to what we call category 4 hurricanes, but they are all still tropical cyclones that look and act similar. Irene was still what it was, just a little weaker than was expected.

  44. Robert Smith says:
    September 1, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    I’m depressed. Here in Orkney, North Scotland, we had sustained wind of 50kts with gusts over 70 last sunday and nobody cared. :(

    My point exactly … the issue with Irene was the rain.

    w.

  45. It doesn’t require 75mph winds to knock a tree down if the ground is soaked. Irene was just the latest rough weather the NE has undergone this year. Before Irene, their rivers were at Springtime runoff rates – not late summer. Trees that can withstand 90mph can fail at 35mph when they are rooted in mud.

  46. Ryan Maue says:
    September 1, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    The 5AM discussion by the NHC on Irene for 08/28 was good, showing landfall as a 60-knot tropical storm. But since a hurricane is 64 knots, of course H warnings were held.

    IRENE IS EXPECTED TO REMAIN NEAR HURRICANE STRENGTH UNTIL IT MOVES INTO SOUTHERN NEW ENGLAND LATER TODAY…
    AND IT WILL ONLY TAKE MODEST CONVECTION TO BRING DOWN STRONGER WINDS ALOFT TO THE SURFACE AS SUSTAINED HURRICANE-FORCE WINDS OR GUSTS.
    SLOW WEAKENING IS EXPECTED AFTER LANDFALL AS IRENE BECOMES A POST-TROPICAL CYCLONE IN ABOUT 24 HOURS.

    INIT 28/0900Z 39.2N 74.5W 65 KT 75 MPH
    12H 28/1800Z 41.8N 73.2W 60 KT 70 MPH…INLAND
    24H 29/0600Z 46.0N 70.4W 55 KT 65 MPH…POST-TROP/EXTRATROP

    Thanks, Ryan. For those who don’t recognize the name, Ryan is an authentic hurricane scientist.

    Unfortunately, at the time that the above warning was issued, the position was almost to Atlantic City (39.2N, 74.5W), and they claim it was still a hurricane at that time, well after passing over Cape Hatteras … so why can I find nothing even remotely resembling their claimed 65 knot winds anywhere in the area?

    Can you shed any light on why, when Irene was just barely a tropical storm about to hit Atlantic City, the NHC still had it as a hurricane?

    w.

  47. SixnaHalfFeet says:
    September 1, 2011 at 12:56 pm (Edit)

    Splitting hairs.
    Sure you may want to say Irene was not a hurricane, but the definition of a hurricane is a little arbitrary. Irene was definitely a tropical cyclone, it looked like one, it acted like one. Tropical cyclones vary in intensity from what we call tropical storms to what we call category 4 hurricanes, but they are all still tropical cyclones that look and act similar. Irene was still what it was, just a little weaker than was expected.

    You miss the point. Sure, it’s a big revolving tropical weather system. The question is, how strong is it? The National Hurricane Center was claiming it was blowing more than 64 knots at a time the anemometers in the area were barely registering over 35 knot winds …

    And that makes it very hard to do any planning. The name is not the issue. The misrepresentation of the wind strength is the problem.

    w.

  48. Wind speed is the measuring stick to estimate potential damage of a land falling hurricane.

    http://pcbdaily.com/hurricane-category-rating-system says this:

    “The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale
    The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale is a 1-5 rating based on the hurricane’s present intensity. This is used to give an estimate of the potential property damage and flooding expected along the coast from a hurricane landfall.
    Category One Hurricane:
    Winds 74-95 mph (64-82 kt or 119-153 km/hr). Storm surge generally 4-5 ft above normal. No real damage to building structures. Damage primarily to unanchored mobile homes, shrubbery, and trees. Some damage to poorly constructed signs. Also, some coastal road flooding and minor pier damage.”

    In the case of Irene, potential damage was estimated to be that of a Cat 1 hurricane and it certainly was without regard to the recorded wind.
    End of story.

  49. Interesting analysis. The NOAA data seems to indicate significantly higher wind speeds though:

    http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/archive/2011/al09/al092011.public_b.027.shtml

    http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/archive/2011/al09/al092011.update.08280937.shtml

    Do you disagree with their methods of obtaining this data?

    Either way, it’s all semantics. They had it pegged as a Category 1 storm by the time it got to the coast. Anyone expecting Category 5 winds from this storm was insane, but that’s hardly the fault of the NWS.

  50. Willis, with the benefit of hindsight, the NHC should have downgraded Irene for that 28/0900z advisory. From the HWIND analysis, which including data that comes in much too late for real-time processing, the last time a hurricane force surface wind could legitimately be claimed is probably 27/2230z when it was crossing the VA border.

    ftp://ftp.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/pub/hwind/2011/AL092011/0827/2230/AL092011_0827_2230_contour04.png

    However, there was a finite chance that convection would re-fire as Irene moved over the somewhat warmer waters again. Mixing down the hurricane force winds in bursts of convection likely did happen, but those were not (and are not) easy to sample.

    Thus, it should have been a 60-knot tropical storm for the 06z 08/28 advisory and I suspect the post-season analysis will show that.

  51. The lesson to be learned is that large Tropical Storms are dangerous and costly.

    Whether or not Irene was overhyped, the greatest sin was the quick accusations of “overhyped”, and “over-reactions” made by the MSM reporters.

    Fortunately, Gov. Christie set many straight when he said in effect, “This isn’t about the wind. It is about the rain. Rivers are flooding. We have 3 dams that are at historic highs. One is 1.5 feet above record and I’ve orderd the evacuation of the town below it.”

    Tropical Storm Allison (2001 Houston) taught me that a TS is nothing to pooh-pooh. Wind damage is over quickly and often limited to tornados within the wind field. Flooding on the other hand is where people most likely lose property and lives.

    So the debate should not be whether Irene was a Hurricane or TS. The debate should be why fools think Tropical Storms are not worth evacuation, shutting down transporations systems, and other sensible precautions agains flooding.

  52. Joe Bastardi says:
    September 1, 2011 at 11:02 am

    Sadly, this whole argument is probably finding its root with the maliciousness of the AGW crowd that wants to pump weather events up to emphasize global warming. And I understand our need to fight back.

    ==========================================================================

    I agree with the above quote by you without any reservation.

    You have my respect. I would normally not doubt any opinions that you may present. However, where are the wind records verifying what has been reported. Those records should be widespread. In real science and reporting on somthing as serious as a hurricane approaching landfall, report the facts!

    To begin after the fact on changing the rules of classifyng hurricanes now would be in effect moving the goal posts or redefining the rules as best suites ones objectives. Does “redefine what peer review is” ring a bell. In weather/climate issues there has been too much of that already.

    If you are caught playing politics or ‘Nanny State’ you need to get a job in one of those professions. Head, meet chopping block or tell the truth.

    Put nicely above: “Just the facts, Ma’am. Nothing but the facts.”

  53. JR says:
    September 1, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    The graphs show the maximum of 8-minute wind speed averages for each hour.

    In the U.S., 1-minute sustained winds are used to classify tropical cyclones.

    My bad. The land stations are all two minute averages, and the buoys are 8 minute averages. From the definitions:

    Wind speed (m/s) averaged over an eight-minute period for buoys and a two-minute period for land stations. Reported Hourly.

    and “gusts” are

    Peak 5 or 8 second gust speed (m/s) measured during the eight-minute or two-minute period. The 5 or 8 second period can be determined by payload,

    w.

  54. Got here via link on ArsTechnica, parents have home near Morehead City, NC so this was interesting…

    When I look at the Cape Lookout buoy data for 8/27, it looks like they showed gusts above 34 m/s (>66knots) from 7AM to 9AM, followed by the eye passing over the site. Data from http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/data/realtime2/CLKN7.txt

    This would be consistent with a Cat1 landfall, not a TS.

  55. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    I have been following hurricanes since Dona went over my head in Sanford, Florida in 1960 and we were out of school for over two weeks. I have seen weak canes and strong ones like the recent Hurricane Charley; and I have seen tropical storms. Why have a hurricane definition and a hurricane scale if the government agencies are just going to make numbers up for the hell of it?

    I watched the weather stations the whole life of Irene and never saw hurricane strength. Now either NOAA is incompetent or all the weather stations are broken. There seems to be no other possible choice.

  56. ,blockquote>Willis Eschenbach says:
    September 1, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    Keith says:
    September 1, 2011 at 11:44 am

    From satellite presentation, and from the location of wind reports, might Irene have been a subtropical storm of hurricane strength at landfall?

    No, because the data to date clearly shows that Irene did not have “hurricane strength at landfall”.

    w.

    Hi Willis,

    Thanks for responding. As others have said, I think it’s premature to say that no it wasn’t of hurricane strength. Preliminary/incomplete data can’t clearly show a negative, Additionally, if the Cape Lookout wind speed peaked at around 58kt (looks about that) for an 8-minute period, the rule of thumb difference for a 1-minute period would make it 66kt, just about hurricane force.

    I always appreciate your forensic analysis and the way you present it. I think maybe you’ve jumped the gun a little in calling this one though.

    Either way, it’s a marginal call. What it certainly wasn’t was a tempest worthy of making TV reporters hide behind shelters on Long Beach and stagger sideways, while regular folk strolled or cycled calmly along the promenade behind them :-)

  57. Ryan Maue says:
    September 1, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    Willis, with the benefit of hindsight, the NHC should have downgraded Irene for that 28/0900z advisory. From the HWIND analysis, which including data that comes in much too late for real-time processing, the last time a hurricane force surface wind could legitimately be claimed is probably 27/2230z when it was crossing the VA border.

    ftp://ftp.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/pub/hwind/2011/AL092011/0827/2230/AL092011_0827_2230_contour04.png

    However, there was a finite chance that convection would re-fire as Irene moved over the somewhat warmer waters again. Mixing down the hurricane force winds in bursts of convection likely did happen, but those were not (and are not) easy to sample.

    Thus, it should have been a 60-knot tropical storm for the 06z 08/28 advisory and I suspect the post-season analysis will show that.

    Thanks, Ryan. As always, more questions. First, your link to the wind speed contours is great, thanks.

    Second, what is the “HWIND analysis”? Is that what your link is to?

    Third, do you have a link to the NHC advisory you quoted above?

    Finally … if the HWIND analysis is too late for real-time processing, what data were they looking at when they claimed it was still a hurricane when it was just off of Atlantic City?

    There’s an interesting comparison of the forecasts and the HWIND data here.

    w.

  58. Here in North Texas, we are quite familiar with dangerous thunderstorms. These cyclonic storms produce sustained winds in the range Willis discussed. They also produce the kind of wind damage that Joe wrote about. I would suspect there were outflow straight line winds that caused the major wind damage. In the Dallas area, it is not a rare occurrence to have these t-storms produce outflow winds exceeding 90–110 mph. These are not long lasting, but the mess they leave behind can take a while to clean up. As with Irene, the major disruption is due to flooding, not the winds.

  59. Stephen Rasey says:
    September 1, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    The lesson to be learned is that large Tropical Storms are dangerous and costly.

    Whether or not Irene was overhyped, the greatest sin was the quick accusations of “overhyped”, and “over-reactions” made by the MSM reporters.

    Fortunately, Gov. Christie set many straight when he said in effect, “This isn’t about the wind. It is about the rain. Rivers are flooding. We have 3 dams that are at historic highs. One is 1.5 feet above record and I’ve orderd the evacuation of the town below it.”

    Tropical Storm Allison (2001 Houston) taught me that a TS is nothing to pooh-pooh. Wind damage is over quickly and often limited to tornados within the wind field. Flooding on the other hand is where people most likely lose property and lives.

    So the debate should not be whether Irene was a Hurricane or TS. The debate should be why fools think Tropical Storms are not worth evacuation, shutting down transporations systems, and other sensible precautions agains flooding.

    Stephen, you miss the point. We can’t evacuate all possible areas and shut down all possible transportation systems for every tropical storm. We depend on the weather service to let us know how strong the storm is going to be, so that we can match our response to the threat.

    In this case, the strength of the winds (and thus the resulting storm surge) was way over-estimated, leading to costly un-necessary shutdowns and evacuations.

    w.

  60. The U.S. Army Field Research Facility recorded a 1 minute sustained wind speed of 32.6 m/s at 1600 EST on Aug 27 from their 19.4m anemometer locatated at the end of the pier in Duck, NC. Not quite 64kts, but pretty darn close.

    Data: http://www.frf.usace.army.mil/cgi-bin/metlist.pl?gage=undefined&syear=2011&smonth=8&eyear=2011&emonth=9&tzone=EST

    Data description: http://www.frf.usace.army.mil/weather/aboutweather.html

    Seems pretty fortuitous if this specific location were to be at the exact point of max winds.

    -Chip Knappenberger

  61. Willis

    An interesting exercise would be to look at another recent landfall hurricane, one in the last 8 years for example, and compare the wind records on the ground at landfall to the data shown by the hurricane centre. If it is truly an altitude issue, and they must estimate it at 10 meters cause they are not actually measuring it, then past hurricanes should show the same difference between recorded ground level data and the reported windspeeds. If the gap doesn’t exist in past examples, then there is a real problem somewhere.

  62. I’ve tried this exercise a number of times even on upper Category storms. Inevitably the ground measurements always look lower to me than what I would have expected. I think there is a systemic cause, maybe measurement devices are non linear above a certain wind speed.

  63. Tom in Florida: “In the case of Irene, potential damage was estimated to be that of a Cat 1 hurricane and it certainly was without regard to the recorded wind.
    End of story.”

    It isn’t the end of any story. We were constantly told that Irene had maximum sustained winds of 80mph and would hit as a “strong” cat one. I want to know on what bases was that claim made. Some people seem to think that it is ok to panic people unnecessarily as long as the intentions are good. But I disagree closing the New York City transit system for no reason cost business and people $billions and may have cost people their life.
    On the other hand the failure of The National Hurricane center and the News Media to adequately warn Vermont of flooding was almost malpractice.

  64. Joe Bastardi: Why do you continue to say that Irene was like Ike? In my estimation Irene was very similar to Gloria and was for quite some time. It went slightly more West and had more flooding in Vermont, but otherwise I think they were very similar.

  65. I find it interesting how this story has fallen prey to the “hype” and “conspiracy” theorists that love to look at very specific facts that support their line of thought but miss the bigger story. Yes NYC was largely spared by the hurricane, but I live 30 miles due west of the city in NJ and we are still struggling to recover – power is still out through most of the area, some businesses have not been able to open due to structural damage to the buildings, and in our case, the start of school has been pushed back 1 week so engineers can assess the damage to the school buildings (which are still without power). The damage was caused by a combination of flooding and wind toppling trees and debris breaking windows that lead you to believe the winds in this area were quite severe. However, the NJ beaches and NYC made it through the storm with relatively minor damage compared to the damage inland.

    To echo what other’s have said – Willis is assuming the Surface winds=Storm winds. A tropical storm is measured by the strength of winds at altitude, not on the surface.

    Finally, I also echo other comments but in reverse – how could the forecasts be so wrong? I’ve been living in this area for 50+ years and never seen the amount of damage we experienced last weekend with Irene. JCP&L is forecasting complete restoration of power by September 6th – 10 days after the storm hit!

  66. Not sure what the point of this post is. Even the NHC qualified its status with regard to category:

    The 5AM Aug 28 bulletin (in part):

    SUMMARY OF 500 AM EDT…0900 UTC…INFORMATION
    ———————————————-
    LOCATION…39.2N 74.5W
    ABOUT 15 MI…25 KM SSE OF ATLANTIC CITY NEW JERSEY
    ABOUT 115 MI…190 KM SSW OF NEW YORK CITY
    MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS…75 MPH…120 KM/H
    PRESENT MOVEMENT…NNE OR 20 DEGREES AT 18 MPH…30 KM/H
    MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE…958 MB…28.29 INCHES
    DISCUSSION AND 48-HOUR OUTLOOK
    ——————————
    AT 500 AM EDT…0900 UTC…THE CENTER OF HURRICANE IRENE WAS LOCATED
    BY AN AIR FORCE RESERVE HURRICANE HUNTER AIRCRAFT AND NOAA DOPPLER
    RADAR NEAR LATITUDE 39.2 NORTH…LONGITUDE 74.5 WEST. IRENE IS
    MOVING TOWARD THE NORTH-NORTHEAST NEAR 18 MPH…30 KM/H…AND THIS
    MOTION ACCOMPANIED BY A GRADUAL INCREASE IN FORWARD SPEED IS
    EXPECTED DURING THE NEXT DAY OR SO. ON THE FORECAST TRACK…THE
    CENTER OF IRENE WILL MOVE NEAR OR OVER THE COAST OF NEW JERSEY AND
    OVER WESTERN LONG ISLAND THIS MORNING…AND MOVE INLAND OVER
    SOUTHERN NEW ENGLAND BY THIS AFTERNOON. IRENE IS FORECAST TO MOVE
    INTO EASTERN CANADA TONIGHT.

    DATA FROM THE HURRICANE HUNTER AIRCRAFT INDICATE THAT MAXIMUM
    SUSTAINED WINDS HAVE DECREASED TO NEAR 75 MPH…120 KM/H…WITH
    HIGHER GUSTS. IRENE IS A CATEGORY ONE HURRICANE ON THE
    SAFFIR-SIMPSON SCALE. LITTLE CHANCE IN STRENGTH IS EXPECTED BEFORE
    IRENE MOVES INLAND LATER TODAY.

    And from the same Discussion issued at the same time:
    HURRICANE IRENE DISCUSSION NUMBER 32
    NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL092011
    500 AM EDT SUN AUG 28 2011

    SATELLITE AND RADAR IMAGERY SHOW THAT DRY AIR IS NOW WRAPPING INTO
    MUCH OF THE SOUTHERN SEMICIRCLE OF IRENE…AND THE CYCLONE IS
    SLOWLY BEGINNING TO FILL AS MEASUREMENTS FROM THE AIR FORCE RESERVE
    HURRICANE HUNTER AIRCRAFT SHOW THAT THE CENTRAL PRESSURE IS UP TO
    958 MB. BASED ON DROPSONDE AND SFMR DATA SHOWING THAT SURFACE
    WINDS HAVE CONTINUED TO SLOWLY WEAKEN…THE INITIAL INTENSITY IS
    LOWERED TO 65 KT FOR THIS ADVISORY. DESPITE THE GRADUAL WEAKENING
    OF THE CYCLONE…THE OUTER WIND FIELD CONTINUES TO EXPAND…WITH
    34-KT WINDS OCCURRING FROM NEW YORK CITY SOUTHWARD TO NORTHEASTERN
    NORTH CAROLINA. IRENE IS EXPECTED TO REMAIN NEAR HURRICANE
    STRENGTH UNTIL IT MOVES INTO SOUTHERN NEW ENGLAND LATER TODAY…
    AND IT WILL ONLY TAKE MODEST CONVECTION TO BRING DOWN STRONGER WINDS
    ALOFT TO THE SURFACE AS SUSTAINED HURRICANE-FORCE WINDS OR GUSTS.
    SLOW WEAKENING IS EXPECTED AFTER LANDFALL AS IRENE BECOMES A
    POST-TROPICAL CYCLONE IN ABOUT 24 HOURS..

    Collapsing was obviously occuring, but at the time, it was not clear just at point the huricane was at. So what is the NHC to do – tell everybody its a tropical storm, and have folks lower their guard and perhaps get caught short, or hold the cat 1 desdignation a little longer until the outcome was more clear, and perhaps protecting a few lives. You’ll be hard pressed to tell the people in Vermont it wasan’t a hurricane, even if it wasn’t by the time it got there. Much ado about nothing

    The models had it to a cat 2 or 3 until it was right up to the coast, and as a cat 1 all they way to New England for the first early contacts.
    ….

  67. The problem I see is up the east coast there is now a population of people who think a hurricane is a breeze (pun intended).

  68. @Joe Bastardi: I Second
    Larry Miller says: September 1, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Larry put it best. The problem with trees was waterlogged ground with huge trees. We haven’t had a significant east cost wind storm in many years. So now we’re getting the damage all at once. I’ve been through a number of hurricanes, and, what we got in Baltimore was nowhere close. Loose tree limbs didn’t even get blown down in norther DE nor did they really lose power. Up in PA, I hear it’s a different story because of all the rain they received in August.

    I support Willis in calling BS on the “hurricane” wind speeds.

  69. Jeremy says:
    September 1, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    Interesting analysis. The NOAA data seems to indicate significantly higher wind speeds though:

    http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/archive/2011/al09/al092011.public_b.027.shtml

    http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/archive/2011/al09/al092011.update.08280937.shtml

    Do you disagree with their methods of obtaining this data?

    Dunno, that’s what I’m trying to find out, why they claimed hurricane force winds when there is no record of them either at the buoys or on the land …

    w.

  70. Protyase says:
    September 1, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    Got here via link on ArsTechnica, parents have home near Morehead City, NC so this was interesting…

    When I look at the Cape Lookout buoy data for 8/27, it looks like they showed gusts above 34 m/s (>66knots) from 7AM to 9AM, followed by the eye passing over the site. Data from http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/data/realtime2/CLKN7.txt

    This would be consistent with a Cat1 landfall, not a TS.

    Gusts, whether above or below 34 m/s, are meaningless in deciding whether to call it a hurricane. I show the winds for the station you reference in Figure 4, it’s Cape Lookout, nothing over 64 knots. It’s also not a buoy, it is a land station,

    w.

  71. SteveSadlov says:
    September 1, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    I’ve tried this exercise a number of times even on upper Category storms. Inevitably the ground measurements always look lower to me than what I would have expected. I think there is a systemic cause, maybe measurement devices are non linear above a certain wind speed.

    Likewise, but with the major ‘canes it’s often the case that the wind gauges are broken before they are able to record the strongest winds. That probably won’t be the issue with Irene, or else maybe some of those TV reporters weren’t quite as flaky as we thought…

  72. tom T says:

    “…On the other hand the failure of The National Hurricane center and the News Media to adequately warn Vermont of flooding was almost malpractice.”

    Almost? In my book they are morally reprehensible and fully guilty of it. The NHC was fully aware of this thing was doing as it shows up in the staring points of the model runs of it. The one to pay attention to are the OFCI curves on the intensity projections.

    http://moe.met.fsu.edu/~acevans/models/archive/2011/al092011/

    Rather than going along with the excitable hype from the reporters the NHC should have EMPHATICALLY warned about the massive rainfall that was going to hit the watersheds of the North East. Every tropical storm/hurricane that I have ever seen has done one characteristic thing that they ALL do when the make landfall.

    UNLOAD WATER.

    And if wind speed and surge aren’t your biggest threat…. that water load is. More so in some cases.

  73. Keith says:
    September 1, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    Willis Eschenbach says:
    September 1, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    Keith says:
    September 1, 2011 at 11:44 am

    From satellite presentation, and from the location of wind reports, might Irene have been a subtropical storm of hurricane strength at landfall?

    No, because the data to date clearly shows that Irene did not have “hurricane strength at landfall”.

    w.

    Hi Willis,

    Thanks for responding. As others have said, I think it’s premature to say that no it wasn’t of hurricane strength. Preliminary/incomplete data can’t clearly show a negative, Additionally, if the Cape Lookout wind speed peaked at around 58kt (looks about that) for an 8-minute period, the rule of thumb difference for a 1-minute period would make it 66kt, just about hurricane force.

    I always appreciate your forensic analysis and the way you present it. I think maybe you’ve jumped the gun a little in calling this one though.

    Either way, it’s a marginal call. What it certainly wasn’t was a tempest worthy of making TV reporters hide behind shelters on Long Beach and stagger sideways, while regular folk strolled or cycled calmly along the promenade behind them :-)

    Cape Lookout is a land station, not a buoy, so it has 2-minute averages on the wind, not 8 minute …

    I disagree that it is premature to say Irene was not of hurricane strength. The erroneous claim was that it was hurricane strength, and nobody has come up with a scrap of evidence to show that in fact it was of hurricane strength. I and others have looked at a host of wind records and found nothing of that strength anywhere

    So until someone comes up with some actual evidence that it was a hurricane, I’m gonna continue to say it wasn’t one. The burden of proof is on them to show it was a hurricane, not on me to disprove it (which as you point out I can’t do). But they can prove it, by coming up with some evidence, somewhere, that shows winds of over 64 knots. I can’t find it.

    w.

  74. Another thing to consider:

    If we now use models to estimate wind speed at 10 meters to estimate strength of hurricane, how were past hurricanes estimated?

    If they used to use ground level data, then the past hurricanes would have actually been stronger than the records idicate, if modern ones use different methods. Is this another area of a bias in change of proceedure? Or do we estimate speed at altitide using the same method as they used in the past? It seems unlikely to me we use the same method, because most bias’ come from implementing new methods for increased accuracy. Hard to believe nothing has changed in 100+ years.

    Is this and Willis’ post just an example of people noticing something, that has always been there, for the first time due to the new instant availiabilityof information we never had before? Or is this an example of the new available information making it harder to fool the public when they “really” wanted a storm for politics?

    I dont have answers, just questions.

  75. I thought the whole problem with Irene was she fell apart…lost her eye wall…and the upper level low got decoupled from her lower level low…..became unstacked

    …if so, then that would explain why the planes found hurricane winds up high, and no one found those winds on the ground…..because there weren’t any

    Anyhow, they got slammed by a really bad tropical storm……

  76. Willis Eschenbach says:
    September 1, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    “I disagree that it is premature to say Irene was not of hurricane strength. The erroneous claim was that it was hurricane strength, and nobody has come up with a scrap of evidence to show that in fact it was of hurricane strength. I and others have looked at a host of wind records and found nothing of that strength anywhere

    So until someone comes up with some actual evidence that it was a hurricane, I’m gonna continue to say it wasn’t one. The burden of proof is on them to show it was a hurricane, not on me to disprove it (which as you point out I can’t do). But they can prove it, by coming up with some evidence, somewhere, that shows winds of over 64 knots. I can’t find it.”

    ["Just the facts, Ma'am, and nothing but the facts."]

    Willis’ response shows why so many people really like him. Those who have been unable to respond to his criticism show just how deep runs the corruption that lies underneath many parts of our government, certainly including James Hansen’s operation.

    We should not be making excuses for anyone, especially not for people we like. As Willis points out here, everybody blew it. This is a case of “it is itching” and we must scratch where it itches. Sorry, no excuses on this one.

  77. ps101 says:
    September 1, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    I find it interesting how this story has fallen prey to the “hype” and “conspiracy” theorists that love to look at very specific facts that support their line of thought but miss the bigger story. Yes NYC was largely spared by the hurricane, but I live 30 miles due west of the city in NJ and we are still struggling to recover – power is still out through most of the area, some businesses have not been able to open due to structural damage to the buildings, and in our case, the start of school has been pushed back 1 week so engineers can assess the damage to the school buildings (which are still without power). The damage was caused by a combination of flooding and wind toppling trees and debris breaking windows that lead you to believe the winds in this area were quite severe. However, the NJ beaches and NYC made it through the storm with relatively minor damage compared to the damage inland.

    To echo what other’s have said – Willis is assuming the Surface winds=Storm winds. A tropical storm is measured by the strength of winds at altitude, not on the surface.

    Not true at all. The definition of a hurricane specifically refers to surface winds, and says nothing of the winds aloft. From the National Hurricane Center (emphasis mine):

    Hurricane: A tropical cyclone in which the maximum sustained surface wind (using the U.S. 1-minute average) is 64 kt (74 mph or 119 km/hr) or more.

    From NOAA (emphasis mine):

    Hurricane: A tropical cyclone in the Atlantic, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, or eastern Pacific, which the maximum 1-minute sustained surface wind is 64 knots (74 mph) or greater.

    (Surface winds are typically measured at an elevation of 10 metres.)

    What I find interesting is that you see the possible failure of the National Hurricane Center to provide accurate information as something to do with “hype” and “conspiracy” … where is that coming from? I’m just asking for accurate information upon which to base decisions. And given your specious claim that hurricanes are measured by winds aloft, it makes me wonder about your ability to recognize hype if you saw it …

    w.

  78. The use of the 1-minute average for the “sustained” wind speed … when did that become common? NOAA glossary gives “sustained winds” as being the two-minute average, viz:

    Wind Speed
    The rate at which air is moving horizontally past a given point. It may be a 2-minute average speed (reported as wind speed) or an instantaneous speed (reported as a peak wind speed, wind gust, or squall).

    When (historically) did this become a 1-minute average for hurricane strength?

    w.

  79. tom T says:
    September 1, 2011 at 2:34 pm
    re: Tom in Florida: “In the case of Irene, potential damage was estimated to be that of a Cat 1 hurricane and it certainly was without regard to the recorded wind.
    End of story.”

    “It isn’t the end of any story. We were constantly told that Irene had maximum sustained winds of 80mph and would hit as a “strong” cat one. I want to know on what bases was that claim made. Some people seem to think that it is ok to panic people unnecessarily as long as the intentions are good. But I disagree closing the New York City transit system for no reason cost business and people $billions and may have cost people their life. On the other hand the failure of The National Hurricane center and the News Media to adequately warn Vermont of flooding was almost malpractice.”

    Tom T,
    One must first understand what a Cat 1 Hurricane can due. From that same post :
    “Category One Hurricane:
    Winds 74-95 mph (64-82 kt or 119-153 km/hr). Storm surge generally 4-5 ft above normal. No real damage to building structures. Damage primarily to unanchored mobile homes, shrubbery, and trees. Some damage to poorly constructed signs. Also, some coastal road flooding and minor pier damage.”

    Cat 1’s are not all that damaging if one is prepared.

    Here is a portion of my post on 8/28:

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/08/27/hurricane-irene-tv-news-reports-a-bridge-too-far/

    Tom in Florida says: August 28, 2011 at 5:39 am
    “What I saw with Irene this morning was that it had probably ceased to be a tropical system as soon as the forward movement exceeded the banding rotation somewhere along the New Jersey coast. You can see the eye spread out and loose its integrity. The reasons are many, dry air from the south, cooler waters, land interaction, stronger wind sheer. Tropical systems are actually fragile things that need the right conditions to sustain themselves and rarely survive for long when out of the tropics but they can bring massive amounts of moisture up from the south causing flooding and that will be the true emergency of this storm. “

    Now, if I, a regular guy, can understand that why didn’t the “expert” reporters?
    People have got to take responsibility to educate themselves and stop trusting the so called TV experts standing out in 50 mph winds trying to make it look worse than it really is.

  80. The way our government is heading today, in the near future the weather stations will not give numeric data readings at all but will give either the likelihood of a particular bet or a bit of statistical theory.

  81. To the people who keep pointing out that the power went out or trees fell over….

    That is proof of nothing, except trees fell and power went out. Do you think it takes a hurricane to make the power go out? Does it take a hurricane to break off a branch? Yes hurricanes can do these things, but so do lots of smaller storms. It happens every day all over the world.

    How much damage is done depends on a whole host of factors. Siding blowing off a building can be due to new types of siding as much wind speed, people often will use cheaper products if they haven’t had a good storm for decades. Tree damage can be decided more by ground moisture and time since the last goood storm, or from lots of new planting with shallow roots. Or just people planting trees that are not suited to an area that can get hurricanes. Power outages can be more common based on degrading infrastructure or increased demand not allowing for excess line capacity to replace a supply line to another source into an area.

    I live in Saskatchewan and we get power outages and tree damage from thunderstorms all the time. Don’t require hurricane force winds to do it either.

    What has really happened is that many people have just become too comfortable in an extended period of calm. They take it for granted and when mother nature gives you a little nudge, and a small nudge is all you got if your realistic even if it was a CAT1, it is a shock. Learn from the lessons this storm has taught and move on.

  82. here’s the best I come up with

    http://91.192.194.209/manteo.cfm

    The 2035 UTC record shows 50 knots gusting to 64 knots
    57.54 Mph gusting to 73.64mph – the 57.54 mph has to persist for 10 mins to make it into the METAR. 73.64mph peak speed during the hour.

    57.54mph right on the border of Gale/Strong Gale http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beaufort_scale
    Even if we should take the peak speed (which we don’t) it would still not be a Hurricane making landfall

    The data is sourced from http://weather.noaa.gov/weather/current/KMQI.html
    I’m building up quite a database. Don’t worry I won’t lose the data ;-)

  83. Willis Eschenbach says:
    September 1, 2011 at 3:11 pm
    Cape Lookout is a land station, not a buoy, so it has 2-minute averages on the wind, not 8 minute …

    Ah, so I see, so it won’t have a 64kt 1-minute average at Lookout unless something very odd happened.

    I disagree that it is premature to say Irene was not of hurricane strength. The erroneous claim was that it was hurricane strength, and nobody has come up with a scrap of evidence to show that in fact it was of hurricane strength. I and others have looked at a host of wind records and found nothing of that strength anywhere

    So until someone comes up with some actual evidence that it was a hurricane, I’m gonna continue to say it wasn’t one. The burden of proof is on them to show it was a hurricane, not on me to disprove it (which as you point out I can’t do). But they can prove it, by coming up with some evidence, somewhere, that shows winds of over 64 knots. I can’t find it.

    w.

    Fair comment – those that have “officially” said it made landfall as a hurricane should demonstrate it with evidence at some point. It may be that, while it was a hurricane at landfall, the hurricane-force winds were out at sea in the eastern portion of the circulation. In which case, we’ll need to see which buoys, if any, recorded such winds. Maybe Al Gore had one of his yachts out there, electric fan pointing at his anemometer?

    NHC do tend to err on the side of consistency from one bulletin to another, especially with unexpected, rapid or short-lived strengthening or weakening, rather than yo-yoing with their wind speed pronouncements (and likewise with forecast track if the global weather models are being inconsistent, or if the storm is jagging about). They may have understated wind speed during the strengthening phase and may well have overstated during the weakening phase. The latter may be particularly true for a brief landfall across a watery strip of NC ‘land’ when restrengthening was expected when Irene re-emerged over warm waters.

    This bit from discussion number 31 (08/27, 11pm) is interesting:

    IRENE HAS CHANGED LITTLE IN APPEARANCE IN SATELLITE IMAGERY…BUT
    THE RADAR DEPICTION HAS DEGRADED OVER THE PAST FEW HOURS. AN AIR
    FORCE RECONNAISSANCE AIRCRAFT INVESTIGATING THE HURRICANE THIS
    EVENING HAS FOUND 700 MB FLIGHT-LEVEL WINDS OF 92 KT AND SFMR WINDS
    OF 66 KT IN A SMALL AREA MORE THAN 100 NMI EAST OF THE CENTER.
    BASED ON THIS INFORMATION…THE INTENSITY OF IRENE IS BEING
    MAINTAINED AT 70 KT FOR THIS ADVISORY. IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT THE
    WIND FIELD GRAPHICS BASED ON THE FOUR-QUADRANT RADII WILL DEPICT AN
    UNREALISTICALLY LARGE AREA OF HURRICANE-FORCE WINDS.

    Doesn’t sound like a typical tropical cyclone at this particular time. While there was definitely still a closed circulation and a warm core, there were no hurricane-force winds anywhere near the eyewall. An odd tropical/non-tropical hybrid?

  84. It seems to me that with an *observed* 1-min max wind speed of 32.6 m/s (although admittedly recorded at 19.4m instead of 10m) and a central pressure in the low to mid 950s (mb) along with the other wind analysis that Ryan linked to, that one would be hard-pressed not to think that Irene was a minimal hurricane over land in NC. I doubt the NHC will see it otherwise.

    -Chip Knappenberger

  85. IIRC, After Katrina most insurance policies were rewritten such that hurricane damage would have a deductible applied that would be approximately 5% of insured value vs the more normal $500-$1000 deduction.

    Thus on a $500K property, damaged $100K by a hurricane, the deductible becomes $25K, and the cost to the insurance company is $100K – $25K = $75K.

    On that same property damaged by just regular wind and rain, cost to the insurance company is $100K -$1K = $99K.

    Thus, it is VERY beneficial to the insurers (Warren Buffett, etc) that Irene remain a hurricane.

    Dave

  86. Dave Day says:
    September 1, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    IIRC, After Katrina most insurance policies were rewritten such that hurricane damage would have a deductible applied that would be approximately 5% of insured value vs the more normal $500-$1000 deduction.
    ==============================================================
    Dave thanks!
    I’ve been looking for some reason as to why the NHC was holding on to calling it a hurricane….

  87. Maybe before you all charge ahead with this, you first need to agree on what is a “hurricane”. Saffir-Simpson, fo example recognizes both damage and wind speed. The damage reports for Irene along much of its inland track make it a class 2-3 SS storm, but the wind speeds barely make it a cat 1. Whats in a name? Conspiratory theorists have certainly reached cat 1 in this thread… :)

  88. Great article Willis, and lots of useful debate.

    Although this debate is mainly over the definition of “hurricane” I find it difficult to quickly understand the intensity of hurricanes reported by the US National Weather Service, and I usually end up delving into the detailed reports to get an answer.

    Maybe a better way to show the current strength and history of a hurricane is what the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) do for cyclones (hurricanes).

    Here are the cyclone definitions:

    http://www.bom.gov.au/cyclone/faq/index.shtml#definitions

    And here is a track map for Tropical Cyclone Olga in January 2010, as it moved between a Tropical Low (L) and a Category 1/2 (1 or 2) cyclone here:

    http://www.bom.gov.au/announcements/sevwx/qld/qldtc20100123.shtml

    Much clearer and easier to read??

  89. The point here is I believe that the damage that was done was by a TROPICAL STORM they need to let people know that so they can know to get out if a real hurricane shows up.

  90. Paul Coppin says:
    September 1, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    Maybe before you all charge ahead with this, you first need to agree on what is a “hurricane”. Saffir-Simpson, fo example recognizes both damage and wind speed.
    ===================================================
    I don’t think so Paul. The new revised version says:

    “Thus to help reduce public confusion about the impacts associated with the various hurricane categories as well as to provide a more scientifically defensible scale, the storm surge ranges, flooding impact and central pressure statements are being removed from the scale and only peak winds are employed in this revised version.”

    Says only peak winds………………….

    http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/sshws.shtml

  91. Paul Coppin says:
    September 1, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    Hi Paul,

    While the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale gives indicative damage, as well as expected storm surge, these are only indicative and not part of the scale per se. Damage reports may be used where precise wind speeds are not available as a kind of reverse look-up, to estimate the winds and therefore where on the scale the storm would fit.

    To avoid ambiguity, the NHC have dropped all elements except wind speed from their categorisation, using what they are calling the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. This then leaves them more free to give precise storm surge forecasts specific to local areas, bays and coves, with damage estimates tailored accordingly, rather than people seeing Cat 2 and assuming a 6-8ft storm surge across the board.

  92. .PREV DISCUSSION… /ISSUED 1128 AM CDT SAT AUG 27 2011/

    …MIDDLE ATLANTIC COAST…
    LATEST NHC FORECASTS INDICATE IRENE WILL CONTINUE TRACKING NNEWD
    ACROSS EXTREME ERN NC THIS AFTERNOON AND ALONG THE DELMARVA AND NEW
    JERSEY COASTS TONIGHT. DENSE OVERCAST WITHIN THE LARGE CIRCULATION
    WILL LIMIT DIABATIC HEATING DOWNSTREAM OF THE CENTER…BUT SURFACE
    DEW POINTS IN THE LOW/MID 70S WILL CONTRIBUTE TO MARGINAL
    INSTABILITY /MLCAPE GENERALLY AOB 500 J PER KG/ SUPPORTIVE OF
    OCCASIONAL THUNDERSTORMS…ESPECIALLY OVER THE COASTAL WATERS AND
    ADJACENT INLAND AREAS. CONVECTIVE BANDS NORTH OF THE CENTER OF
    IRENE HAVE CONTAINED EMBEDDED SMALL SUPERCELLS THIS MORNING MOVING
    ONSHORE FROM THE TIDEWATER NORTHWARD INTO ERN MD. THESE HAVE TENDED
    TO WEAKEN AFTER MOVING INLAND WHERE INSTABILITY DECREASES WITH
    DISTANCE FROM THE COAST. VERY STRONG LOW LEVEL VERTICAL
    SHEAR/STORM-RELATIVE HELICITY IN ADVANCE OF IRENE WILL SUPPORT A FEW
    SMALL SUPERCELLS WITHIN THE CONVECTIVE BANDS NORTH OF THE CENTER
    WITH CONTINUED POTENTIAL FOR ISOLATED TORNADOES TO OCCUR.

    http://www.spc.noaa.gov/products/outlook/archive/2011/day1otlk_20110827_2000.html

  93. Sorry, I have to take exception to both of you on this point, and perhaps the NHC as well. I’ve seen the NHC page previous, and while they would like to insist that the scale is about wind only, they then go at great length to correlate the wind with an extensive damage discussion. To my mind, they haven’t been able, inter alia, to separate the wind scale from the damage. The problem becomes one of a single element scale that has no real reference to any utility. Its the qualitative component of the scale that gives weight to what it measures. A hurricane implies the damage, not the wind speed. There is a similar issue with the Fujita scale for tornados. Without a correlation to effect the scale itself is meaningless – its essentially a scalar quantity. Rather than trying to separate the qualitative damage component, it might more ssend to incorporate some precipitation measure to the categorization. Its the qualitative component of damage that gives EMO the focus it needs to provide the emergency response.

  94. The conspiracy? The prevailing govt and the media want us citizens to believe in manmade global warming. Why? So they can have more control over us. The marxists figured out a while ago that the environment is a strong playing card. Some scientists are excited to play along. AGW was suspected 1000 years ago, but they are still trying to detect it. It has not been proven. Hurricanes are not drastically increasing in strength and frequency according to prediction. The AGW proponents have egg on their collective (no pun intended) face.

    But now that all of Storm Irene’s energy can be declared a ‘hurricane,’ its cyclonic activity can be added to the cumulative sum for this season. This is necessary, since this year otherwise would be another disappintment just like last year.

    I noted to friends as it happened that the storm might have been a hurricane, technically, as it crossed into NC, but if it was a hurricane, it was not for very long. I hear exclamations of 90mph winds at landfall, but saw no evidence. I knew the fix was in.

    I do not know about “post-season analysis.” A Congressional Investigation might be needed, too. The feeding of the frenzy could not be done by one person.

  95. When I saw that Irene was heading for NYC I decided to tune out. Knowing how the American Media works (everything seems to be centered around NYC/East Coast) I knew that the coverage would be the “OMG we’re all going to die!” style, and so it was.

  96. I hate to see otherwise sane people, some of whom are widely respected, getting sucked into defending NHC on this. If there is some special category of hurricane that says “it’s a hurricane here, but the winds are over there” hurricane, then NHC needs to create a category for it. I’ve been in a Cat 1 on the east coast, and it wasn’t just gusts but a steady building wind that was blowing the rain sideway for a few hours either side of a dramatic wind shift. The sound of transformers blowing out was replaced over time by the sound of large limbs snapping and trees falling. When Georgetown SC was demolished by Hugo, it wasn’t due to winds in a patch somewhere east of the (actual) eye of the storm.

    If the NHC says the thing has 85 knot sustained winds, it had better actually have winds of that intensity, otherwise the winds are …not …of …that …intensity! And if not at the presumptive eye, then they really should qualify their claims up front. In this case, were talking about the instance of landfall, when folk (as Obama would say), started wondering why there were NO actual reports of hurricane winds — even from NOAA. Even at sea east and northeast of the storm, according to buoy data. Despite all evidence, the bureaucrats insisted on maintaining their fiction until the bitter end. What confidence was thus inspired…

    Meanwhile, lots of rain and low pressure do not make it a hurricane.

  97. Chip Knappenberger-I think that the fact that the observation was made at 19.4 m could potentially mean it will not play that role (the other wind analysis very well could). Should not the wind speed be expected to increase with height? Granted it is a small height difference, but I would still like to see someone give a “surface estimate” for 10 m wind speed based on that.

  98. thelastdemocrat says:
    September 1, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    But now that all of Storm Irene’s energy can be declared a ‘hurricane,’ its cyclonic activity can be added to the cumulative sum for this season. This is necessary, since this year otherwise would be another disappintment just like last year.

    Well off the mark here I’m afraid. It’ll contribute to the ACE index by virtue of being a tropical cyclone, regardless of intensity. You seem to have overlooked that it was a hurricane for a good five days, no matter what its intensity at NC landfall may have been.

  99. Hi Paul,

    I guess the difficulty the NHC have been grappling with is that there isn’t such a hard and fast link between maximum surface wind speed, minimum central pressure, maximum storm surge, maximum wind field/radius, maximum expected rainfall and expected structural damage, that can be simply categorised in a scale.

    Sure, it’s the effects of the hurricane that matter, rather than its raw statistics, but in the absence of simple and direct relationships between the different facets it makes more sense to categorise by the most obvious facet, wind speed, and give details individual to that system for the other facets.

    A good case could be made for the driving facet to be minimum central pressure, as it’s the easiest to measure, but by itself it isn’t indicative of the likelihood of damaging effects, as the pressure gradient is what determines wind speed.

  100. alexwade said: “I can tell you from experience that this was a hurricane. Barely a hurricane, but one nonetheless. The wind speed near the surface can be different than the wind speed higher up.” You must be ten meters tall to have been able to tell this.

  101. When (historically) did this become a 1-minute average for hurricane strength?

    It looks like with the advent of ASOS. The following text is from this URL:

    http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/tcfaq/D4.html

    “Since the inauguration of the Automatic Surface Observation System (ASOS) the National Weather Service has adopted a two minute average standard for its sustained wind definition. This is because the ASOS stations average and report their wind data over a two minute period. There is no conversion factor to change a two minute average wind into a one minute average wind, and it is pointless to try to estimate the highest one minute wind over a two minute period, as they are essentially the same.”

  102. Sorry about my previous post. What I meant to say is that it looks like wind speed became a 2-minute average with the advent of ASOS. Otherwise, I believe that wind speed has always been a 1-minute average in the U.S.

  103. Willis, the main contribution H*WIND makes is the “snapshots” of the data incorporated into the “gridding” routine. H*WIND combines the in-situ data + the US Air Force recon data. Many of the intensity estimates for flown storms absolutely rely on a combination of Dvorak satellite intensity estimates from visible and IR imagery as well as SMFR recon data.

    It is this last piece of information that likely kept Irene as a hurricane in the forecasters’ analysis. My final appraisal suggests that Irene should have been downgraded about 6-hours earlier than it was. An email thread as developed elsewhere, and I posted this:

    H*WIND provides snapshot maps of the observations that are included in each analysis window – an example is attached. Essentially, it coalesces all available in-situ and recon info into one package, which I find pretty handy even with the (un)known uncertainties in the gridding routines.

    Even if your contention that H*WIND is unreliable and widely in error is correct, the H*WIND analysis still helps to make your case for downgrading Irene to a tropical storm no later than 00z 08/28 – with the benefit of hindsight.

    At 1855z on 08/27, maximum observed surface winds of 71 knots were observed by SFMR (Air Force).
    At 2106z on 08/27, the maximum observed surface wind was 63 knots 12 nm NE of the center (CMAN)
    At 0102z on 08/28, SMFR observed 62 knots

    If you look at each additional HWIND map, you will find that the maximum observed surface winds did not exceed 58 knots again, which were measured largely by SMFR.

    Acknowledging that we cannot sample the entire storm and our measurements have uncertainty, the 08/28 06z intensity of 65 knots does not seem outlandish at all except that it represents the hurricane threshold, clearly your main point. I suspect in the post-season analysis, this will indeed be dropped to 60-knots, and Irene’s lifetime as a hurricane will be reduced by 6-hours.

    Couple thoughts: how does the public respond to warnings of a “strong tropical storm” vs. a “weak hurricane”?

    And, I think if we could predict earthquakes 12-24 hours in advance (with our Irene experience with the hyperactive media), then communicating that threat would be quite a challenge.

    Main H*WIND page: http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/Storm_pages/irene2011/wind.html

    snapshot link: ftp://ftp.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/pub/hwind/2011/AL092011/0828/0130/AL092011_0828_0130_dataCoverage02.png

  104. Irene was misrepresented on two fronts – the WS trumped it up and the blogosphere downplayed it. Very few called it what it was – a dangerous storm, worthy of much precaution, that was capable of sudden death, property loss and damage, and flooding. It was also capable of strumming up a seiche in Chesapeake Bay but that failed to materialize.

    The lingering problem is not what resulted from the testosterone surrounding Irene – the problem is how Katia is perceived, and the one after, and so on. All the reshashing that continues around Irene seems to ignore the death toll, and the fact that people are without power and all the human necessities that provides.

    With a lot of summer left, next will come the mosquitoes adding additional misery and disease to the now windowless homes of the Atlantic coast.

    When the public loses faith in the official statements and either ignores or heeds the equally shabby blogosphere view of things the likelihood of greater disaster increases. It is clear from watching eye witness testimony that many people in harm’s way have no idea what a storm surge is. Many equate it to large waves gorgeously portrayed on Hawaii’s north shore – awesome entertainment between beers. In fact it is more like a dam breaking. Somewhere between the overshooting and underplaying is the truth and hopefully that is what will be reported next time. It does not have to be a hurricane class storm to be a killer – according one one noisy blog it required only 33 mph winds to do all that damage. Anyone believe that happened?

  105. Mike Maxwell says:
    September 1, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    alexwade said: “I can tell you from experience that this was a hurricane. Barely a hurricane, but one nonetheless. The wind speed near the surface can be different than the wind speed higher up.” You must be ten meters tall to have been able to tell this.

    Or have access to a flight or two of stairs and a window…

  106. About trees going down in tropical storms or hurricanes (=cyclones/ typhoons):

    If they are have barely broken branches and the roots came out when it fell it over, it is because of the rainfall that saturated the soil first. Any wind can then tip a weak/ exposed tree over.
    If there are many broken branches or even roots or trunks on a fairly dry ground then blame hurricane winds.
    I’ve see both and they are distinctly different.

  107. By historical convention this was a tropical storm. It’s just that people wanted it to be a hurricane. The emergency response levels are different. Even one wind reading at CAT 1 levels wouldn’t mean it was a CAT 1 hurricane. Storms are dangerous at any level. Accurate forecasting is the desired outcome.

    In the 70’s, there was a wind scale and all wind readings were taken a few feet off the ground. That is what went into the records. Hurricanes had the eye, and the spiral cloud bands, winds. Maybe at some point it becomes semantics, but convention still points to tropical storm.

    Wind readings at higher off the surface elevations were by http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rawinsonde

    Radar should also have picked up any tornadoes that were about.

    If people want to count water damage, large power outages, low pressure as hurricane indicators. Well that calls for a conference.

  108. Willis…I have a ton of respect for you when it comes to logical deduction on the climate issue, but you’re showing your basic lack of knowledge about weather reporting here. If Irene was not a hurricane over eastern North Carolina…then neither was almost any other storm that ever cross those outer banks. The fact is that we always ESTIMATED the wind in the bad old days and we called a storm a hurricane when it had what we ESTIMATED to be sustained winds over that 74 mph threshold. We had no way until very recently of measuring a “sustained wind” during a storm…our instruments would break and even if they didn’t, we would have to sort of…eyeball it as to what wind force was being sustained over at least three straight minutes. What IS a sustained wind anyway?

    The bottom line is that Irene did have surface winds well over that 74 mph threshold according to dropsounde data from hurricane hunter aircraft all the way to very near her landfall in North Carolina…and that those winds had trouble making it all the way down to the surface because of frictional affects…but this is probably true of MOST category 1 and even category 2 hurricanes (as measured over the ocean). You obviously live nowhere near the impacted areas. I actually LIVE on Long Island and this was a hurricane here. Period. The amount of wind damage we suffered here was only matched in recent memory by Hurricane Gloria…which also failed to produce many confirmed reports of sustained winds exceeding hurricane force.

    This is all silly…why we are so “precious” about what to call something…if it’s 63 knots…well that’s not a hurricane…but by god…3 more knots and now you’re talking!…is beyond me. I’m tired of reading this stuff about Irene being overhyped. You tell that to the people drowning in Vermont and New Jersey or the people still without power in Central Long Island.

  109. Thanks Willis. Lucid prose and analysis as per usual. The problem as I see it is that a whole bunch of east coasters just got ‘trained’ to what a hurricane ‘is’.

    Only …. it WASN’T a hurricane. If its a Cat 3 – the wind damage and surge can be amazing… TS and TD can carry a lot of rain and cause flooding – but what gets the coverage is the wind field.

    They completely overhyped it. They should approach these things as ‘teachable moments’.

  110. Keith says:
    September 1, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    … Fair comment – those that have “officially” said it made landfall as a hurricane should demonstrate it with evidence at some point. It may be that, while it was a hurricane at landfall, the hurricane-force winds were out at sea in the eastern portion of the circulation.

    That’s why I was glad to have the data from Cape Hatteras, in the eastern portion of the track, because that’s the semicircle with the highest winds. It was within 40 miles of the track and didn’t see hurricane force winds.

    As to whether it was a hurricane at the time it made landfall, seems to me that the definition of that would be that a land station actually recorded hurricane force winds … no?

    w.

  111. Interesting post, Willis, and points taken.

    Irene was a hybrid storm when she reached the mainland USA. When her center passed near me (I was out in it…oops) it was like a really intense mid-latitude cyclone or nor’easter and there was definitely no suffocating tropical air in the core. Actually, it was rather cool.

    The classifications of tropical storm / hurricane / and the saffir-simpson system certainly have their limits…especially in the temperate latitudes.

    Joe Bastardi proposes a power scale and that is more intuitive and less plastic.

    Also the Integrated Kinetic Energy scale or, ironically, the “IKE” which did a good job of warning the populated areas in advance of the extremely destructive, but only “category 2″ Hurricane Ike in 2008. Measuring the total energy output in terrajoules, seems like a good idea…and it no doubt saved many lives on the Bolivar Peninsula in Texas.

    Even though Irene’s winds were not as intense as they could have been, and you rightly so point out the lack of storm surge at Battery Park (even though I think the mb pressure was within the range of a category 2 as well), even so…$7.2 Billion dollars and about 45 deaths out…Irene was no cakewalk.

    Points taken however. Its just when a potential disaster could *could* affect the most densely populated region on in the United States with hundreds of high rises within eyeshot of the Atlantic, it is understandable why such precautions are taken.

    But then weighing the risk from the Nanny State Government…and reality…is another thing. There is always the “cry wolf” danger, too.

    We certainly need to evolve our “classifications” of destructive storms…based upon their potential to destroy and not on some rigid legalistic definition, so points taken and interesting post!

    Chris
    Norfolk, VA, USA

  112. dp says:
    September 1, 2011 at 7:08 pm
    Irene was misrepresented on two fronts – the WS trumped it up and the blogosphere downplayed it. Very few called it what it was – a dangerous storm, worthy of much precaution, that was capable of sudden death, property loss and damage, and flooding. It was also capable of strumming up a seiche in Chesapeake Bay but that failed to materialize.

    The lingering problem is not what resulted from the testosterone surrounding Irene – the problem is how Katia is perceived, and the one after, and so on. All the reshashing that continues around Irene seems to ignore the death toll, and the fact that people are without power and all the human necessities that provides.

    ==============================

    Extremely well said. Entire post.

    Chris
    Norfolk, VA, USA

  113. Chip Knappenberger says:
    September 1, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    It seems to me that with an *observed* 1-min max wind speed of 32.6 m/s (although admittedly recorded at 19.4m instead of 10m) and a central pressure in the low to mid 950s (mb) along with the other wind analysis that Ryan linked to, that one would be hard-pressed not to think that Irene was a minimal hurricane over land in NC. I doubt the NHC will see it otherwise.

    Wind speed goes up rapidly with height, so it would have to be corrected.

    More to the point, you are discussing gusts, not sustained winds. Since the sustained winds were never more than 58 knots, why would I be “hard-pressed” to say it was not a hurricane?

    The NHC is free to call it what it will. Given that they called it a hurricane when it hit New Jersey/New York, at a time when it barely was a tropical storm … I’m not sure I how they choose what to call it.

    I’m simply pointing out that according to their official definition, there is (so far) no evidence that it was a hurricane at landfall or at any time afterwards.

    w.

  114. timetochooseagain says:
    September 1, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    BTW, someone asked about the 2 minute versus one minute distinction:

    http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/tcfaq/D4.html

    Apparently the change was to two minutes as a result of ASOS.

    Outstanding, many thanks. They also say

    There is no conversion factor to change a two minute average wind into a one minute average wind, and it is pointless to try to estimate the highest one minute wind over a two minute period, as they are essentially the same.

    So the 2-minute data we have is valid for the “sustained winds”.

    w.

  115. Perhaps they are using the humidex wave trick. When you factor in all the media activity, did it feel like a hurricane?

  116. PaulID says:
    September 1, 2011 at 5:24 pm
    “The point here is I believe that the damage that was done was by a TROPICAL STORM they need to let people know that so they can know to get out if a real hurricane shows up.”

    Right. If you get hit by a Cat1 then you will lose all trees that are 70 years old. Cat 1 and Tropical Storm are entirely different critters. If a Cat 1 is bearing down on you and you can leave town then you must leave town. Services will not be restored within a week.

  117. Willis Eschenbach says:
    September 1, 2011 at 8:10 pm

    “As to whether it was a hurricane at the time it made landfall, seems to me that the definition of that would be that a land station actually recorded hurricane force winds … no?”

    Ah, Willis, there you go again, demanding actual records and such. Don’t you know that a hurricane is what the “Consensus of Federal Bureaucrats” deems to be a hurricane. If you are going to go all factual on us, the Consensus will lose the joy of being the Consensus, the joy of theorizing, and the joy of looking down on the Rednecks who believe that land stations cannot be overruled by theory.

  118. Willis,

    The 32.6m/s at the Duck Pier was not a gust, it was a sustained 1-minute wind speed (see the links I posted above). The gust reported at the same time was 36.2m/s (max 5-sec gust during the previous 10 minute interval was 37.6 m/s).

    Granted 19.4m is not the same as 10m and probably (maybe) should be adjusted downward a teense. But was are talking about a wind that was largely coming in off the ocean measured at the end of a pier, so the attenutation from 19.4 m down to 10m is probably not much.

    Like is said previously, with an observed wind so close (within ~1 m/s) to hurricane strength, it seems a stretch to assume that the Duck Pier instrument was at the exact right place to measure the highest wind.

    -Chip

  119. The Beaufort wind scale was developed to help mariners estimate wind speed. Thus we have Gale force 8, storm force 10 and hurricane force 12.

    Mariners are known to be on the surface as are observers on land. Thus the scales refer to surface winds.

    Jet streams speed along at high level. We dont call them hurricanes.

    The descriptions follow the observed surface wind speeds. Not the other way round and are purely a general advice based on experience what will happen when those wind speeds are observed. They dont take into account waterlogged soils or trees in full leave or old trees.

    Any attempts to change the observing rules to higher altitudes or whatever are purely blatant attempts to move the goalposts to get desired results, not comparable observed results.

    In this case it is a desperate need to get a recorded “hurricane” landfall after a total lack of them contrary to their cherished theory.

    In simple terms, without any hype and based upon long standing observer rules and definitions this was not a hurricane upon landfall.

    QED

  120. Willis Eschenbach says: September 1, 2011 at 2:08 pm …. Miss the point.

    Willis, I think you miss the point. Go ahead and get Irene downgraded to a TS. That won’t change the damage and death tolls.

    My point is that I want people to RESPECT strong Tropical Storms because they cause as much or more overall damage than tightly knit hurricanes. The real sin in Irene was the opinion. “Oh, it was only a TS, what was the fuss?”. This was an opinion that was flying around the TV on Sunday at 11 am!! OMG! Manhatten didn’t flood! You must have over-reacted to the danger!!”

    Do the Decision Tree. Put yourself in the place of the Mayors of NYC and Ocean City and Head of the MTAs. “Should I have hotels full of tourists at 6am? Should I have rolling stock and passengers in subways at 7:30am on Sunday morning? Should we have a normal business day two hours after landfall?” Are you out of your mind????

    For the record, I want to make clear that I do NOT advocate evacuating cities in the event of even Major Hurricanes. We must prepare and harden our cities to withstand a Major. If you are in danger of flood surge, get out or get up. Otherwise, leave the roads for those with no other option. Each of us must be prepared for living 14+ days without power. (It was 8 days for me in IKE). But, if there is a flood possibility from even a weakened TS, don’t do something stupid like carry on as normal. And if it turns out to be 52 mph (and 14″ of rain) instead of 67 mph and 8″ of rain, count your blessings instead of insurance claims.

  121. Willis,
    Outstanding analysis of data,
    Your conclusions confirm the observations reported/observed on the ground in NJ and indicate that the experts either are not as smart as they would like us to believe, or they were not honest about the nature of Irene. Your findings should be studied more thoroughly to understand the data/findings.
    Some points to reinforce your observations.
    I own a house in Forked River NJ which is about 74 miles of Cape May which is the lower tip of NJ
    The Landfall was about 30 miles South of Forked River
    Your plot shows that the eye of Irene passed a few miles west of Forked River
    Weather underground was predicting about 49 mph winds for Forked River
    We evacuated 100 miles to the North about 40 miles west of NYC but our Forked River neighbors reported very mild winds
    No evidence of any significant winds at my Forked River home, including no impact to my boat which was in the lagoon about 1/8 mile west from the Barnegat Bay that I thought would sink based on the forecast winds/rain. No loss of electricity. I don’t see any treees down or leaves around the house or anywhere in town.
    Storm surge was significantly less than preddicted
    No evidence of surge problems in Wildwood which was along the path of Irene.
    My son went to Long Beach Island NJ the barrier island east of the eye, no evidence of damage what so ever, some Beach erosion but nothing like a typical NE storm.

    On the other hand at my location in Northern NJ (Denville) 90 Mi North circa 50 miles west of Irene path. I lost power for 45 hrs (starting at 4:30 Sunday PM after the eye was well North). Numerous power outages spreading all around north western NJ into Penna. Lots of trees down in area broken off in the trunks (not rooted up), leaves and small branches all over my mostly wooded lot, massive flooding in Denville along the Rockaway river, more than I have seen in over 40 years, flooding in areas never flooded before. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pyj7mTKoEVU

    Don’t get me wrong, evacuation of the NJ coast IMHO was prudent, but someone needs to explain how the winds and damage were non existant along the “actual” path of the storm while serious wind and flooding occurd well west of the storm. HOW CAN THIS BE CALLED A HURRICANE IN NJ?

    Willis, your analysis exposes a serious flaw in our understanding of Hurricanes or possible hiding actual data during the storm. Understanding this is essential if the forecasts are to remain credible.
    It is not trivial.

  122. Robert Smith says:
    September 1, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    I’m depressed. Here in Orkney, North Scotland, we had sustained wind of 50kts with gusts over 70 last sunday and nobody cared. :(

    L-O-L! Nice one!

  123. As I read this thread, and other posts, I see that I was correct in saying that we did not have a hurricane or that all wind sensors were broken all over the eastern US.

    But now what? Like the movie Wag the Dog, this has been on TV as a hurricane and will remain so. NOAA will never correct, and wikipedia will call it a hurricane.

    The only thing we know for sure is that NOAA will never again be an honest broker of data; if it ever was. The destruction of honest science continues unabated.

  124. To me, this is actually the important point of Willis’ post:
    “In this case, it appears that people got so wrapped up in the question of the winds, and the fear of the winds, that they overlooked what actually made Irene unusual. This was not the wind speed, but the size of the storm. Combined with Irene’s generally slow movement over the ground, Irene’s huge dimensions meant that any given area would get rained on for a really, really long time.”
    (My bold)

    Here in the UK, we may not experience hurricanes so much – but we do have experience with rain, especially extended rain, and concomitant flooding on grand scales and on smaller, local ones which can be even more devastating:
    * Boscastle 2004 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boscastle_flood_of_2004
    * Cockermouth 2009 – http://www.visitcumbria.com/cockermouth-floods.htm
    * Huge floods in the UK in 2007 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007_United_Kingdom_floods

    These are events which made national news, but there are of course local events which can be similarly devastating, albeit to a much smaller number of properties and people.

    So, it doesn’t pay to get stuck solely on wind speeds, or definitions of hurricanes, devastating as they undoubtedly are. ‘Gentle’ rain, falling on saturated grounds, with nowhere to go, also has devastating effects. Clearing up after storm damage is one thing – clearing up after a flood is far far worse, and takes much longer.
    Willis is right:
    “And so, because of the overestimation of the wind speeds, our attention was diverted from the real threat. Because of the claimed hurricane-force winds, a storm surge up to eight feet was predicted in New York Harbor. But in the event, the storm surge was barely three feet, a non-event … and meanwhile, New England was getting badly flooded.”
    (My bold)

  125. You guys scare me sometimes. There isn’t always a great conspiracy at every corner. Here’s a newflash. We landed on the moon. JFK was shot by a single gunman. Yes, a plane crashed into the pentagon on 9/11. And the NWS isn’t trying to trick you guys. Really! Not everyone is out to get you, so quit being so dramatic.

    The truth is that hurricane forecasting is not perfect. They may have in fact gotten the intensity wrong at landfall, but, don’t worry. NOAA will analyze all available data and if it was actually a tropical storm at landfall then it will be so. Even the wikipedia page will say so. Trust me on this.

    The most famous example of course is Andrew. the NWS had it at a cat 4 upon landfall but clearly it was not.

  126. eyesonu says:
    September 1, 2011 at 11:18 am

    In my earlier post I meant to write ‘west’ of the storm instead of ‘east’.

    “Through my observations of estimated rain storm totals derived from radar, I could see that 30-50 miles west of the center of the so-called hurricane, they were in the 10-12″ rain estimates. TV was still concentrating on wind, but that was not the real issue with this storm”.

  127. thelastdemocrat says:
    September 1, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    But now that all of Storm Irene’s energy can be declared a ‘hurricane,’ its cyclonic activity can be added to the cumulative sum for this season. This is necessary, since this year otherwise would be another disappintment just like last year.
    —————————-

    Keith responds:
    September 1, 2011 at 6:36 pm
    Well off the mark here I’m afraid. It’ll contribute to the ACE index by virtue of being a tropical cyclone, regardless of intensity. You seem to have overlooked that it was a hurricane for a good five days, no matter what its intensity at NC landfall may have been.
    —————————

    @ Keith, my response,

    I wonder if someone took a boat offshore to verify the wind speeds that were reported in those 4 days? If the NHC was willing to report ‘ xxxxxxx ‘ among countless witnesses and documentation onshore, who could possibly trust without verifying their reports offshore?

    I now wonder about the ‘Nanny State’ and how much the NHC may have gotten involved. The NHC should be moved to the ‘trust but verify’ catagory. Perhaps if a scale to the ‘trust but verify’ were incorperated, they would be rated a ‘catagory 4′ with regards to producing wind (pun intended),

  128. I think the idea that hurricanes are, by their title, more devastating than storms is wrong headed thinking. The post is right on the money. Let’s hope the NWS gets this. Lives could be saved by readjusting their thinking from “titles” to damage potential for any system on its way to your community.

  129. Chip Knappenberger says:
    September 1, 2011 at 8:57 pm
    Willis,

    The 32.6m/s at the Duck Pier was not a gust, it was a sustained 1-minute wind speed (see the links I posted above). The gust reported at the same time was 36.2m/s (max 5-sec gust during the previous 10 minute interval was 37.6 m/s).

    Granted 19.4m is not the same as 10m and probably (maybe) should be adjusted downward a teense. But was are talking about a wind that was largely coming in off the ocean measured at the end of a pier, so the attenuation from 19.4 m down to 10m is probably not much.

    Like is said previously, with an observed wind so close (within ~1 m/s) to hurricane strength, it seems a stretch to assume that the Duck Pier instrument was at the exact right place to measure the highest wind.

    -Chip

    =======================

    Chip, my response.

    Thank you for your participation in this discussion. I checked out the link to the data site you posted in an earlier comment (military related data?). If I remember correctly, readings were recorded every 10 minutes and there was an increase and decrease in wind speed over maybe an hour or so with the crest as you noted above and the other readings were a fair amount less. Could this also be viewed as a good puff of wind lasting a short period? This is common in some thunderstorms where I live and I certainly never considered calling it a hurricane.

    As far as your strong suggestion that since it was almost a hurricane for a few minutes at one recorded location and thus should be considered one, is this pushing a stretch of the imagination for a desired outcome? Is this splitting hairs to find some way ‘to make it so’?

  130. I really believe the NHC cooked the books and has been possibly since 2005-the last really active season. Why? To prove a theory that is with time being proven to be a farce. There is a lot of money tied up in AGAW. There has been no landfall of a hurricane in the US in 3 yrs. There has been a marked decrease in the number of tropical cyclones in the world since 2005. These storms thrive on heat-turn the heat down-less storms-less intense storms-more hybrid storms that are not 100 percent tropical. The westerlies assume a more southerly position which tends to shear the storms more quickly and the resulting troughs absorb these storms that do form and turn them into hybrids. I do believe the globe did warm from the mid 70s to about 2000-the trend began to reverse at 2000, but the oceans are since 2005 only beginning to catch up-the reduction in strong tropical systems is a symptom of this. The arctic has yet to catch up-it is the last stronghold and will take the longest to catch up with the reversal, so there may be a few years yet to go before it shows up there.

  131. Joseph says:
    September 2, 2011 at 2:55 am

    “The only thing we know for sure is that NOAA will never again be an honest broker of data; if it ever was. The destruction of honest science continues unabated.”

    Yes, that is the lesson. After this clear demonstration of NOAA’s unwillingness to use its own data on the ground, the essential wind speed data, only a fool would not be sceptical of everything that comes from government weather or climate agencies.

  132. Ryan Adam Maue [September 1, 2011 at 7:02 pm] says:

    “Couple thoughts: how does the public respond to warnings of a “strong tropical storm” vs. a “weak hurricane”?

    Well that’s a home run right there Ryan. Frankly you just singlehandedly destroyed any attempt that the climate bureaucracy could advance along the lines of: better to keep calling it a hurricane so people will prepare.

    The NWS, NOAA and the press could easily have used the more accurate very strong tropical storm with near hurricane force winds and satisfied everybody while keeping themselves scientifically precise.

    This whole thing smells bad now, real bad. It has political science written all over it in my opinion. If I am wrong then at the very least we have junk science written all over it because of the discarding of a precise scientific definition. BTW, nobody is saying to throw NWS under the bus (I don’t believe they have the equivalent of Mark Serreze stinking up the place), but someone there did greenlight the term ‘hurricane’. This would make for a good case study there and at NOAA to find out the names of the actual people involved. If there are hack political scientists employed they must be rooted out, exposed, shamed and fired.

    On the thread about Hansen getting arrested there was a brilliant comment by Tom_R: If someone is willing to break the law in order to ‘save the planet’, why wouldn’t he also be willing to fudge the data?

    To paraphrase: If someone is willing to break the scientific definitions in order to ‘save the people’, why wouldn’t he also be willing to fudge the data?

  133. Willis, you did us all a service here by pointing out that what was called a hurricane was, for some of that time, not a hurricane.

    That observation is important, in that it appears to point to a pattern of exaggeration, and plays well on this blog. But the folks in NJ and VT that have been flooded out of their homes aren’t going to care about the distinction, it seems to me. Even tropical storms can cause a great deal of damage because of massive rains.

    When folks on the other side greatly exaggerate something that is palpably incorrect, and isn’t associated with actual harm, but rather just trying to scare people to death — starting with the hockey stick and glaciergate and climategate and all the rest — ridicule of obvious climate huckerism is crucial.

    But we don’t want to ridicule the exaggeration here, it seems to me, because even if the ridicule is correct, it makes us look like we don’t understand or care about the actual devastation that occurred. Like we care only about a legalistic point, but not the damage that people suffered. Let’s give this particular exaggeration a rest.

  134. Willis: I’m not sure the ground-based wind speed readings are accurate or telling the whole story. We’ve all seen pictures of the downed trees and trees that have been topped. I don’t need the photos; I can look out the window. Yup, there’s one, and another… But there’s another phenomenon that isn’t being reported. The leaves that remain on the 100+ hickory, maple, oak and birch trees on my property have been shredded at heights above 20 feet. There’s hardly anything left of them.

  135. The following analogy may be useful:

    A hurricane is like a snowflake. A scientist is able to say with a degree of certainty that a small drop of water will form a snowflake, but cannot tell you what the snowflake will look like, because no two snowflakes are alike.

    The forecaster Joe Bastardi blows me away, with his ability to see things in the long range. He saw Irene coming weeks ahead, and a couple of weeks ago said there would likely be a storm in the gulf as one approached and curved up the eastern seaboard. There is no way I could have predicted that, but when I look at today’s map I see the two storms.

    This is like saying “The snowflake will form.”

    Where Mr. Bastardi fails, (if you can call it a failure to be so right,) is in the last-minute tweaks, concerning the individuality of the storm.

    This is like saying , “The snowflake will look exactly like this.”

    Over the years I have never seen two hurricanes behave exactly alike, and some are amazing in the way they do unexpected things. (I think that is why, back when male chauvenism was allowed, they were named after women: They cannot be predicted; and seem illogical to people who demand all be mathamatical and pleasing to accountants.)

    Consider Irene: Have you ever seen a storm with 950 mb pressure NOT have hurricane winds?

    Give the forecasters a break, regarding the winds. I do think they could have focused more on inland flooding threats, however.

  136. SABR Matt says:
    September 1, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    Willis…I have a ton of respect for you when it comes to logical deduction on the climate issue, but you’re showing your basic lack of knowledge about weather reporting here. If Irene was not a hurricane over eastern North Carolina…then neither was almost any other storm that ever cross those outer banks.

    That doesn’t follow logically. Irene was a very weak hurricane, rapidly becoming a tropical storm, when it hit land. There have been a number of much stronger actual hurricanes that have hit the outer banks, with much greater winds. Do some reading of history.

    The fact is that we always ESTIMATED the wind in the bad old days and we called a storm a hurricane when it had what we ESTIMATED to be sustained winds over that 74 mph threshold.

    Yes, we ESTIMATED the wind (to use your term) using the Beaufort Scale. We don’t do that much any more, that’s why it’s called the “old days”. These days we use instruments called “anemometers” to measure the wind speed.

    In any case, I doubt very greatly if you can tell me the Beaufort Scale indications that differentiate a strong gale from a hurricane without looking them up … so you’re just giving us your opinion, it’s not really based on the Beaufort Scale or anything but your ideas.

    We had no way until very recently of measuring a “sustained wind” during a storm…our instruments would break and even if they didn’t, we would have to sort of…eyeball it as to what wind force was being sustained over at least three straight minutes. What IS a sustained wind anyway?

    A sustained wind is a wind that lasts a couple of minutes, as opposed to a gust, which basically goes up and comes down again by tens of knots in a few seconds. I gave the official definitions upthread.

    The bottom line is that Irene did have surface winds well over that 74 mph threshold according to dropsounde data from hurricane hunter aircraft all the way to very near her landfall in North Carolina…and that those winds had trouble making it all the way down to the surface because of frictional affects…but this is probably true of MOST category 1 and even category 2 hurricanes (as measured over the ocean).

    You write that Irene had “surface winds well over that 74 mph” … and also that those same surface winds “had trouble making it all the way down to the surface”. I fear that’s totally unclear. It’s also immaterial, as you are talking about the time long before landfall.

    You obviously live nowhere near the impacted areas. I actually LIVE on Long Island and this was a hurricane here. Period. The amount of wind damage we suffered here was only matched in recent memory by Hurricane Gloria…which also failed to produce many confirmed reports of sustained winds exceeding hurricane force.

    I liked the part about “… there was a hurricane here. Period.”

    I’m sorry, but we no longer find it sufficient to squint into the wind and say “yep, that-thar’s a sure ‘nough hurricane. Period.”

    These days, we use anemometers, so we can measure the wind speed to see if it is strong enough to be called a hurricane.

    You state strongly that you live on Long Island, as if where you live made the slightest difference to what the wind speeds were. I’ve been through a real, live, no-nonsense hurricane, seventy-knot winds measured on land. Hurricanes have sustained winds way, way above anything for which we have evidence on Long Island.

    This is all silly…why we are so “precious” about what to call something…if it’s 63 knots…well that’s not a hurricane…but by god…3 more knots and now you’re talking!…is beyond me.

    Well, if it’s beyond you, you might think of it like a speed limit. You know, if the speed limit is 65 mph and you’re going 65, well, that’s not speeding … but by god … 3 more mph and a trooper can legally pull you over and write you a ticket. That puts you into a different categore we call “speeding”, but the he issue is not what we call it, the issue is the difference in speed.

    And as someone pointed out above, that designation of a “hurricane” (sustained winds greater than 64 knots) vs a “tropical storm” (sustained winds greater than 35 knots) might make a difference of thousands of dollars in insurance payments. It can also make a difference in whether you decide to order a costly evacuation with its associated problems.

    Finally, the power of the wind goes up roughly by the cube of the wind speed. So a doubling of wind speed gives it around eight times the destructive power. Which is another reason why a few knots make a difference.

    I’m tired of reading this stuff about Irene being overhyped. You tell that to the people drowning in Vermont and New Jersey or the people still without power in Central Long Island.

    Overhyped? You are desperately overhyping Irene as though it were a real hurricane, and at the same time you say you’re tired of reading about how it is overhyped? Irony much? Grab a mirror real quick …

    I’m tired of folks who don’t read what I wrote. Go accuse someone else of being heartless, I know my heart too well to listen to your nonsense. I didn’t say anything was hyped at all, either over- or under-hyped. I didn’t use the word in my head post at all.

    My question is simple, Matt, and it has nothing to do with overhype.

    If it was a hurricane, where are the wind speed records that show it?

    I’ve asked that from the start, and no one has come up with a single hurricane wind speed record from any land or near-land station … yourself included.

    w.

  137. To emphasize what Willis has been saying to those who are trying to defend Irene as a hurricane by pointing to the damage in Vermont and NH: that damage was done by heavy rains, not anything remotely close to hurricane force winds. In fact, it was the media and the government’s attention being focused on the winds along the coast that made them ignore Vermont and NH, and not prepare the people there for the flooding that has caused so much damage and caused lives.

    See, the whole issue with this “hurricane” Irene is one of misdirection. And this misdirection has cost the inland states severely, as no preparations were given to them against the real threat of rains.

  138. Chip Knappenberger says:
    September 1, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    Willis,

    The 32.6m/s at the Duck Pier was not a gust, it was a sustained 1-minute wind speed (see the links I posted above). The gust reported at the same time was 36.2m/s (max 5-sec gust during the previous 10 minute interval was 37.6 m/s).

    Granted 19.4m is not the same as 10m and probably (maybe) should be adjusted downward a teense. But was are talking about a wind that was largely coming in off the ocean measured at the end of a pier, so the attenutation from 19.4 m down to 10m is probably not much.

    Like is said previously, with an observed wind so close (within ~1 m/s) to hurricane strength, it seems a stretch to assume that the Duck Pier instrument was at the exact right place to measure the highest wind.

    -Chip

    Thanks, Chip. Several things about that. First, as a general rule of thumb the windspeed goes up by about the 1/7 power of the increase in height. For unstable air on a flat open coast it’s a bit less, about the 0.11 power of the increase in height. For a 19.4 metre measurement height, we need to reduce the speed to about 93% of the measured speed to allow for the difference in height. This give us a speed of 32.6 * 1.94 * 0.93 or about 59 knots, well below the hurricane level. The wind would have to increase by a whole 10% in speed to get to the hurricane level, which might not seem much, but which is about a 30% increase in wind destructiveness and which requires a 30% increase in power to get there … so no, Chip, it was a long ways from a hurricane even at Duck Point. To be a hurricane, it needed 30% more power than it had. Not close at all.

    Second, curiously Duck Point is about the exact right place to measure Irene’s highest wind. It is in the dangerous semicircle, and was only about ten miles or so from the path of the eye, with a flat landscape. I can’t think of a much better location for measuring a hurricane’s strength … and it wasn’t a hurricane there.

    w.

  139. Stephen Rasey says:
    September 1, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    Willis Eschenbach says: September 1, 2011 at 2:08 pm ….

    Miss the point

    .

    Willis, I think you miss the point. Go ahead and get Irene downgraded to a TS. That won’t change the damage and death tolls.

    My point is that I want people to RESPECT strong Tropical Storms because they cause as much or more overall damage than tightly knit hurricanes. The real sin in Irene was the opinion. “Oh, it was only a TS, what was the fuss?”. This was an opinion that was flying around the TV on Sunday at 11 am!! OMG! Manhatten didn’t flood! You must have over-reacted to the danger!!”

    Stephen, Manhattan did over-react to the danger, because they’d been told the danger was the wind and particularly its attendant storm surge (predicted to be as high as 8 feet). In the even, the storm surge was less than half of that, and posed no danger. New York wasted millions of dollars due to inaccurate information.

    I agree that people should respect tropical storms. I also think that we should have accurate information when either one approaches our coast. We didn’t get that … and you seem to be defending the handing out of inaccurate information.

    ??

    w.

  140. Joe C says:
    September 2, 2011 at 4:30 am

    You guys scare me sometimes. There isn’t always a great conspiracy at every corner. Here’s a newflash.

    The newsflash is that there isn’t always a great conspiracy theorist at every corner. I’m certainly not saying there was a “conspiracy”, that’s you seeing things, likely should check your meds. Most folks here don’t think there’s a conspiracy, just that the strength of the storm was overestimated … and that’s what we’ve been discussing, whether the storm was over-rated.

    The only thing worse than people who claim a conspiracy at the drop of a hat are their evil twins, those who see conspiracy theorists in every discussion. Lead, follow, or get out of the way, because your whining about conspiracy theorists is going nowhere. If they pop up, just let them be, and try to actually contribute to the ideas under discussion.

    w.

  141. Bob Tisdale says:
    September 2, 2011 at 8:24 am

    Willis: I’m not sure the ground-based wind speed readings are accurate or telling the whole story. We’ve all seen pictures of the downed trees and trees that have been topped. I don’t need the photos; I can look out the window. Yup, there’s one, and another… But there’s another phenomenon that isn’t being reported. The leaves that remain on the 100+ hickory, maple, oak and birch trees on my property have been shredded at heights above 20 feet. There’s hardly anything left of them.

    The “ground-based” wind speed is measured 10 metres (30 feet) in the air, up at the height of tree leaves … so I’m not sure what your point about trees and leaves is. Yes, the winds increase with altitude, as you point out, but the scientists knew that and measure at 10 metres height for that reason.

    w.

  142. Caleb says:
    September 2, 2011 at 8:35 am

    … Consider Irene: Have you ever seen a storm with 950 mb pressure NOT have hurricane winds?

    Yes, I have, it’s the disadvantage of a lifetime spent much at sea. Like Irene it was the end of a decaying hurricane, at sea somewhere north of Hawaii. Very low pressure (~950 mb) but the winds, although strong, never got much above 50 knots. Go figure. We had a recording aneroid barometer on board, it made a very shocking graph of the dip in pressure. Wind speed was measured with a hand-held anemometer and the Beaufort Scale.

    w.

  143. @ Robert Smith
    Yours was a Cat 2 defo
    You must be up to Hurricane Mòrag by now :-)
    Yours
    Dave the Yorkshireman

  144. Willis Eschenbach says:
    September 2, 2011 at 9:25 am

    Chip Knappenberger says:
    September 1, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    Willis,

    The 32.6m/s at the Duck Pier was not a gust, it was a sustained 1-minute wind speed (see the links I posted above). The gust reported at the same time was 36.2m/s (max 5-sec gust during the previous 10 minute interval was 37.6 m/s).

    Another note on the Duck Pier question. Adjusted for height, that is 59 knots sustained, about 30% less power than the weakest hurricane.

    There is also a NOAA station on Duck Pier. The maximum sustained wind measured at that station was 29.9 m/s, but that anemometer is also high (14.5 m). Adjusted for the height, that gives us 56 knots.

    So no, according to the actual measured data, it wasn’t a hurricane at Duck Pier, or even close.

    w.

  145. Savethesharks said “Even though Irene’s winds were not as intense as they could have been, and you rightly so point out the lack of storm surge at Battery Park (even though I think the mb pressure was within the range of a category 2 as well),”

    The surge was well to the right of the storm, around RI and the Cape. The surge does not depend on pressure but on wind-driven water.

  146. Stephen Rasey says:
    September 1, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    My point is that I want people to RESPECT strong Tropical Storms because they cause as much or more overall damage than tightly knit hurricanes.

    Fine. Then I suggest that the NHC categorize storms on two scales: wind speed and damage potential. The latter would take into account factors like:

    * Storm surge potential (is it approaching land rapidly? perpendicularly? at high tide?)
    * Tree knock-down and electric outage potential (is the ground saturated? does the storm cover a wide area? is it moving slowly? are the trees in full leaf? have there been few recent big windstorms (to thin weak trees)? have the electric utilities been lackadaisical about trimming branches over their power lines?)
    * Flood potential (is the ground saturated? does the storm cover a wide area? is it moving slowly? are the rivers high? are the dams full?)

    The public should be warned primarily on the basis of the damage potential estimate, not current wind speed. It could easily be educated into taking this figure more seriously than the hurricane category. (For instance, the public already has been educated to take warnings of “black ice” seriously, even though it isn’t something that can be based on any particular number.)

    I suggest that the NFC call it the Threat Index, on a scale of 1 to 5, paralleling hurricane categories. An Index like that would not contaminate the wind speed classification; such contamination will lead to cynicism and disregard of their crying-wolf in the future.

    Such dual-mode measurement are already commonly used: i.e., the wind-chill factor and the discomfort index (I’m guessing about the name, but it includes both heat and humidity). The public takes these measurements seriously. A third one is needed for these cyclones.

  147. Dr Science said “If there is some special category of hurricane that says “it’s a hurricane here, but the winds are over there” hurricane, then NHC needs to create a category for it.”

    It’s called a hurricane. Measurements were taken at flight level and with radar and Irene was a 75 knot hurricane at landfall. Whether any winds of that speed are measured on land is of no consequence.

  148. I told you guys in the Irene thread that the local NC stations were putting up “wind gusts” to make it look worse. And only one small section of the outter banks had any gusts over 74mph. This thing was not a hurricane at landfall. So our long streak of not being hit by a hurricane is still going….

  149. eyesonu says:
    September 2, 2011 at 5:54 am

    @ Keith, my response,

    I wonder if someone took a boat offshore to verify the wind speeds that were reported in those 4 days? If the NHC was willing to report ‘ xxxxxxx ‘ among countless witnesses and documentation onshore, who could possibly trust without verifying their reports offshore?

    I now wonder about the ‘Nanny State’ and how much the NHC may have gotten involved. The NHC should be moved to the ‘trust but verify’ catagory. Perhaps if a scale to the ‘trust but verify’ were incorperated, they would be rated a ‘catagory 4′ with regards to producing wind (pun intended),

    Anyone taking a boat offshore from some of the islands of the Bahamas that have taken a battering would’ve been, er, brave. There’s a reason the forecast cones were developed, and that’s as zones for shipping to avoid based on typical track errors.

    Are you really suggesting there weren’t any sustained hurricane-force winds from Irene at any time? The official storm report isn’t yet available from NHC, but it will contain all officially-recorded (and some unofficial/’amateur’-recorded) winds. Arthur’s Town on Cat Island recorded a gust of 143mph, but Googling hasn’t turned up the maximum sustained wind yet. Safe to say that the 1-minute average containing that 143mph gust will be somewhat more than 74mph.

    While we wait for the wind gauge data, this looks like a bona fide hurricane to me:

    Have a look yourself at the pictures of the damage caused in the Bahamas and the Turks & Caicos islands. Read the reports of homes completely swept away by storm surge, of roofs torn clean off homes and schools by the wind. Suggesting there was no hurricane in these areas just because the US reported winds don’t yet tally with the NHC real-time statements is beyond “trust but verify”; it’s illogical in the face of all available evidence.

    Let’s be sensible about this. Willis has said that, based on the evidence thus far, he’s not convinced that Irene was a hurricane at US landfall, particularly that no hurricane-force winds were felt onshore. Fair enough, there’s been no wind gauges shown to have felt sustained Cat 1 winds in the US. That doesn’t mean it was never a hurricane. It sure as hell doesn’t mean it was never strong enough to not count in the season’s ACE index. The historic ACE trend, presented by Dr Maue in his paper only recently, is a clear sign that hurricanes are not getting stronger and more frequent, as prognosticated by the CAGW crowd. Let’s not discredit the measure by trying to fudge what gets included in it.

    As I said earlier, the NHC prefer to be consistent from one bulletin to another until pretty certain of a strengthening/weakening trend. They kept Irene at Cat 1 based on the dropwindsonde data they had at the time (tend to have to do this over water, so nobody gets a bump on the head if one lands on them at 24mph). Post-storm review might well see Cat 1 status withdrawn at an earlier juncture than it was in real time, but the NHC were behaving consistently with their typical actions.

    Media and government are the ones politicising the weather, and how. Don’t fall into the trap of going in the other direction of surreality, but just stick to the reasonable. Give ‘em enough rope and enough time…

  150. Eric (skeptic) says:
    September 2, 2011 at 10:21 am

    Dr Science said “If there is some special category of hurricane that says “it’s a hurricane here, but the winds are over there” hurricane, then NHC needs to create a category for it.”

    It’s called a hurricane. Measurements were taken at flight level and with radar and Irene was a 75 knot hurricane at landfall. Whether any winds of that speed are measured on land is of no consequence.

    Cite? And how on earth are the wind speeds on land “of no consequence”?

    w.

  151. Trees acclimate to wind. Wind that is substantially higher than what they are strengthened to will fail. Additionally, the ground saturation softens the soil, allowing the root structure to be uprooted. Street ways and buidling create venturi effect, thus increasing the local velocity of wind.

    Tropical storm Irene presented some local affects on winds far and above what many trees could withstand.

  152. Willis, the key question is whether Irene made landfall as a hurricane, not what it was, not what it became or what happened on land. Here are three scenarios, the first one is not a hurricane making landfall, but 2 and 3 are:

    1. An 85 mph hurricane brushes the NC coast causing no more than 50 mph sustained winds on any portion of the coast

    2. An 85 mph hurricane gets close to the coast but the eye never makes landfall. However, a sustained wind of 75 is recorded somewhere on land.

    3. An 85 mph hurricane goes ashore, although no sustained hurricane force winds are measured anywhere on land.

  153. Roger Knights– Your suggestion that the NHC categorize storms for damage potential. is excellent. Where I live, ground saturation followed by high winds is a big factor in power outages. Likewise, when it rains gently for several days, followed by a heavy rain, we expect flooding.

    WeatherUnderground already offers maps of “Storm Total Surface Rainfall Accumulation”.

  154. Bob Tisdale says:
    September 2, 2011 at 8:24 am
    Willis: I’m not sure the ground-based wind speed readings are accurate or telling the whole story. We’ve all seen pictures of the downed trees and trees that have been topped. I don’t need the photos; I can look out the window. Yup, there’s one, and another… But there’s another phenomenon that isn’t being reported. The leaves that remain on the 100+ hickory, maple, oak and birch trees on my property have been shredded at heights above 20 feet. There’s hardly anything left of them.

    ——————

    My response,

    How hard is it to pick a leaf?

  155. Willis,

    I agree with your numbers for Duck. My general point was that the spotty anemometer locations measured some wind speeds that were getting pretty close to hurricane force (it would be interesting to know more of the specifics behind the Cedar Creek Ferry Station observing station and data). Perhaps they were in the correct locations to observe the maximum winds, perhaps not. But those surface obs, along with the other analyses/observations that NHC has at its disposal, will probably prove convincing enough for the NHC to ultimately conclude that Irene was a Cat 1 hurricane when it made landfall in NC.

    Don’t get me wrong, as we were chasing the record for the longest time between U.S. hurricane landfalls, I was certainly interested in Irene being downgraded to a TC before landfall in order to keep the chase alive (I think we had to make it into late September to get the record). But, although I may wish otherwise, my gut is that Irene will retain its hurricane status, even in retrospective analysis by the NHC. And for what I know currently, I wouldn’t be in disagreement.

    -Chip

  156. Keith says:
    September 2, 2011 at 10:26 am

    I didn’t mean to rattle anyones cage. Just a simple question, what should we believe? The only data is from the NHC. Questions, questions, questions, credibility, Nanny, politics, etc.

    Sorry to upset you.

    Sincerely yours,

  157. Willis: Just for the record, my wife and I sat out Irene on our 42 ft sailing catamaran at Sea Gate Marina, about 2 miles north of Beaufort, NC on the Intra-Coastal Waterway. Our on-board wind speed indicator recorded gusts of 75 knots, and sustained winds (over a period of 10-15 minutes) during the ‘backside’ of Irene, of 67 knots. There were sustained winds higher than that, but we dared not pop out and check the instruments when winds were that high. We survived handily, having two anchors buried in the earth, two more anchors out in the water fore and aft, and four lines (foreward, aft, and two springs) tied to the top 1 ft of the pilings of the docks (15 to 20 feet away). The pilings were completely submerged during the highest of the storm surge, about 7 feet for us.

  158. Willis is correct to conclude that Irene was not a hurricane when it crossed over NC and thereafter. He’s nailed the windspeed measurement data. NHC/NOAA has been over-categorizing hurricanes since the 2003 season when I started reading all reports on every cyclone which could reach eastern FL, where I lived. They’re doing exactly the same thing today. Nothing has changed. In fact, many of the named forecasters identified are still on the job since the 2003 season. We don’t know why the upward danger bias exists. We are left with guessing. Irene is just the latest example of its existence and persistence. It would be of immense public benefit to all if NHC/NOAA would enter the dialog and explain why their forecasts appear to be overblown. They’ll never do that unless forced, meaning Congress. The controlling view of every unelected, jobs-for-life bureaucrat is that they owe no accountability to ordinary citizens. “We’re the experts; the public has no right to question our work product or examine our workpapers and data; and you can’t ever fire me”; is their bottom line. They know how the system works. They can pretty much do what they want; to hell with public opinion asking questions. But today is a different world with respect to the public’s unquestioned acceptance of government issued reports on anything, most particularly scientific subjects. The public is sick and tired of paying for these scary, fear inducing papers and the salary/benefits of employee/authors. This new healthy environment will ultimately percolate through changes in political leadership on down to bureaucrats producing biased reports or ducking accountability for reporting results. This process will take time. What can be done to improve NHC/NOAA’s hurricane reporting system in the meantime. Maybe nothing. But the entire hurricane reporting process could easily be improved if NHC so chose. First, the daily (6 hr) one-page reports are far too short, extremely cryptic, and conclusory. There is little or no technical detail supporting conclusions. These daily reports should be written by named teams, not an individual which appears to be the case. Different viewpoints within the team should be shown and discussed. Limitations on technology/data should be discussed. A much more comprehensive format is needed. NHC should avoid ‘steering the public’ with scare tactics to protect it from itself by over-blowing storms. Hopefully, this mentality is changeable. The public can and will protect itself if given realistic options for action. Don’t assume the public is stupid and can’t act in its self-interest.

  159. eyesonu says:
    September 2, 2011 at 11:48 am

    Keith says:
    September 2, 2011 at 10:26 am

    I didn’t mean to rattle anyones cage. Just a simple question, what should we believe? The only data is from the NHC. Questions, questions, questions, credibility, Nanny, politics, etc.

    Sorry to upset you.

    Sincerely yours,

    No problem, no upset caused at all :-)

    As with all things, we should believe the observational data rather than modelled infilling, grandstanding politicians or ridiculously contortionist TV reporters. Let’s not assume that potential exaggeration at some times in some places means exaggeration everywhere at all times.

    NHC may collate data and be the only ‘official’ presenters of it all, but there are other sources, particularly when storms are in non-US territorial waters,

  160. @Joe Bastardi
    A friend and I followed your tweets as Irene passed over NC until it passed over us on Narragansett Bay.. On the evening of the 26th the friend wrote “shear winds and land, plan on picnic sunday, with beach umbrellas” and “what’s Bastardi saying now hahahaha” On Sunday he couldn’t write – no power. And no picnic.

    Your power scale argument is compelling. Irene was unlike the hurricanes and tropical storms that we have endured. The wind strength was impressive but nor’easters often blow harder. Nonetheless we lived without power for 2 days and lost several trees.

    I attribute the local damage to the size and duration of Irene. Over the course of 12+ hours through a high and a low tide the wind blew. It seemed constant, not gusty, as it slowly switched by 180 degrees. Every vulnerability was exploited.

    Concerning the comments (on this blog and others) about the rain causing soft ground, I don’t believe that is what occured here. Trees fell, many limbs fell too. It rained a bit, but the level in my pool didn’t change much. A check of the rainfall records on the east side of Irene would likely disprove this theory.

    The folks who are ignoring the impact of Irene reveal a disappointing willingness to use weather events in the (A)GW debate. In his blog Dr. Mass argues that our hurricane measurement tools are inadequate to make targeted hurricane forecasts similar to those in tornado alley. Here! Here! Then he goes on to suggest that Bloomberg’s decisions were politically motivated as opposed to prudent. Huh?!

    Call Irene a hurricane, a tropical storm or a tomato sandwich. It’s immaterial. What matters is that the “hype” – the cable media’s 24/7 coverage, the 30 minute local news updates, and the NWS forecasts – caused us to prepare for a very powerful storm thereby preventing additional damage and saving lives.

  161. Hurricane or not (OK not) Irene was classified by the BBC as “Climate Disruption”, the first time I have heard this latest appology for the non-appearance of Global Warming actually used in earnest by the BBC (BCC). I suspect that this is going to be the begining of a trend. By Christmas it will be used fifty times a week for every usual weather event across the world.

    Watch this cooling space……

  162. There seems to be a gale wind blowing where I live.Lighting and thunder! Gotta go secure the lawn chairrs. A representivive of BEER has arrived in an artic enxironment. Will be back next week if I survive.

    Cheers

  163. Eric (skeptic) says:
    September 2, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Willis, the key question is whether Irene made landfall as a hurricane, not what it was, not what it became or what happened on land.

    Not for me. For me the key question is, once it struck the land and was clearly not a hurricane, why it was still listed as a hurricane not only at landfall, but also when was crossing the land, as well as when it left the land and went back over the ocean, and when it made its second landfall in Atlantic City, and all the way to when it was still listed as a hurricane over New York City?

    Riddle me that one, when the winds around New York barely made it to tropical storm strength (Figure 6).

    w.

  164. Chip Knappenberger says:
    September 2, 2011 at 11:44 am

    Willis,

    I agree with your numbers for Duck. My general point was that the spotty anemometer locations measured some wind speeds that were getting pretty close to hurricane force (it would be interesting to know more of the specifics behind the Cedar Creek Ferry Station observing station and data). Perhaps they were in the correct locations to observe the maximum winds, perhaps not. But those surface obs, along with the other analyses/observations that NHC has at its disposal, will probably prove convincing enough for the NHC to ultimately conclude that Irene was a Cat 1 hurricane when it made landfall in NC.

    Thanks, though. They claimed Irene was a Cat 1 hurricane all the way to New York, so it seems there’s no telling what they will “ultimately conclude”

    I still don’t get it, Chip. I thought the official definition of a hurricane was sustained surface winds of 64 knots. My understanding was that what you call “getting pretty close to hurricane force” has an official name. It’s called a “Tropical Storm”

    I watched it minute by minute as it developed. As soon as it hit Carolina, the eye disappeared, the circular rotating shape broke up, and it became bands of storm activity. I thought “Well, Irene’s a tropical storm now”, and I waited for the announcement. No announcement. Woke up the next morning, they’re still calling it a hurricane?!?

    But it kept on and on, with bulletin after bulletin from the NHC calling Irene a hurricane … I figured, well, maybe my eyeball estimates are wrong and that is a hurricane. It wasn’t until several days later that I started actually investigating it and … well, it looks like my reading of the satellite pictures was quite accurate.

    Don’t get me wrong, as we were chasing the record for the longest time between U.S. hurricane landfalls, I was certainly interested in Irene being downgraded to a TC before landfall in order to keep the chase alive (I think we had to make it into late September to get the record). But, although I may wish otherwise, my gut is that Irene will retain its hurricane status, even in retrospective analysis by the NHC. And for what I know currently, I wouldn’t be in disagreement.

    I love it. A storm passes over a stretch of the US coastline with more anemometers per mile than likely any other part of the US coast. Not one single anemometer registers it as a hurricane, even looking at it minute by minute.

    And you insist that it made landfall as a hurricane? For me, making landfall as a hurricane means that hurricane strength winds are recorded, not from planes or buoys or ships (or models), but from the land. Am I missing something? Is your understanding something different?

    Finally, Chip, for me the point is not whether it made landfall as a hurricane. I’m not chasing any records. As I said in my post above:

    For me the key question is, once it struck the land and was clearly not a hurricane, why it was still listed as a hurricane not only at landfall, but also when was crossing the land, as well as when it left the land and went back over the ocean, and when it made its second landfall in Atlantic City, and all the way to when it was still listed as a hurricane over New York City?

    Riddle me that one, when the winds around New York barely made it to tropical storm strength (Figure 6).

    Foolish me, I expected the NHC folks to be watching the reports, minute by minute, from the anemometers all along the coast. And when it wasn’t a hurricane anywhere, I expected them to say “IRENE has been down-graded to a tropical storm. Flooding is the main danger of a tropical storm. The ground has been weakened by heavy rains, so many trees will fall, taking down power and phone lines”.

    In other words, I don’t want them playing it safe. I want them playing it honest. I don’t want to have to value NHC information at a 30% discount for inflation. I want it to reflect the actual reality on the ground.

    Thanks for your thoughts,

    w.

  165. Keith says:
    September 2, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    You wanna artic beer for the holiday? It’s on me. Have a good weekend!

    Cheers

  166. Eric (skeptic) says:
    September 2, 2011 at 10:16 am
    Savethesharks said “Even though Irene’s winds were not as intense as they could have been, and you rightly so point out the lack of storm surge at Battery Park (even though I think the mb pressure was within the range of a category 2 as well),”

    The surge was well to the right of the storm, around RI and the Cape. The surge does not depend on pressure but on wind-driven water.

    ============================

    Well actually, its both.

    In intense hurricanes, the sudden storm surge comes from the “dome” of water in and around the eyewall, in the areas of exceedingly low barometric pressure at the center of the cyclone, and of course around where the strongest winds are screaming and piling up that water.

    So the very low pressure at the center, and the intense winds that are caused by the pressure differences, rushing toward the center of the cyclone, both help raise the deadly dome of seawater and when it comes ashore.

    But in a hybrid storm like Irene, who had really lost many tropical characteristics by the time she got to NE in that broad right front quadrant, certainly the surge had moved away from the center as she unraveled and her central pressure began to climb, and of course that long fetch of strong winds helped pile up the water dramatically on her east side, not unlike a nor’easter.

    Not a true storm “surge” in the technical sense like you would see in a tightly wound truly tropical cyclone, like Katrina, but a damaging surge nonetheless.

    Chris
    Norfolk, VA, USA

  167. Willis,

    I think you are asking for a re-evaluation for how the determination of the strength of a tropical cyclone is made. As it is now, observations from surface anemometers are but one factor—they can probably serve to confirm tropical cyclone classifications, but are not sufficient to rule them out.

    If surface anemometer readings were the only determinant for tropical cyclone strength at landfall, the U.S. hurricane history would read entirely differently. And I would hazard a guess that hurricane historians like Chris Landsea would add, less accurately.

    -Chip

  168. @willis: “, the circular rotating shape broke up, and it became bands of storm activity.”

    This is simply not true. Irene retained its circularity well beyond NC. The eye may have collapsed but the storm kept its cyclonicity well until it began to crash into the Applachian chain:

    http://www.ephemerata.ca/ephemerata.ImageGallery/Irene20110827b
    http://www.ephemerata.ca/ephemerata.ImageGallery/Irene20110827c
    http://www.ephemerata.ca/ephemerata.ImageGallery/Irene20110827d
    http://www.ephemerata.ca/ephemerata.ImageGallery/Irene20110828
    The track dots are as follows:
    Official track in white. Purple -GFDL model. Blue-HWRF model. Green-GFS model. Red-TVCN model. Numbers in dots are estimated category strength.

    Storm Image is either GOES IR or visible with NWS radar overlaid. The first three images are from the 27th, the 4th from the 28th.

  169. mod~ delete the previous 3 attempts – I am http challenged tonight apparently.

    September 2, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    @willis: “, the circular rotating shape broke up, and it became bands of storm activity.”

    This is simply not true. Irene retained its circularity well beyond NC. The eye may have collapsed but the storm kept its cyclonicity well until it began to crash into the Applachian chain:

    The track dots are as follows:
    Official track in white. Purple -GFDL model. Blue-HWRF model. Green-GFS model. Red-TVCN model. Numbers in dots are estimated category strength.

    Storm Image is either GOES IR or visible with NWS radar overlaid. The first three images are from the 27th, the 4th from the 28th.

  170. eyesonu says:
    September 2, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    Keith says:
    September 2, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    You wanna artic beer for the holiday? It’s on me. Have a good weekend!

    Cheers

    If you can get UPS to send it across the Atlantic in time ;-)

    Have a good one too

  171. Chip Knappenberger says:
    September 2, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    Willis,

    I think you are asking for a re-evaluation for how the determination of the strength of a tropical cyclone is made. As it is now, observations from surface anemometers are but one factor—they can probably serve to confirm tropical cyclone classifications, but are not sufficient to rule them out.

    If surface anemometer readings were the only determinant for tropical cyclone strength at landfall, the U.S. hurricane history would read entirely differently. And I would hazard a guess that hurricane historians like Chris Landsea would add, less accurately.

    -Chip

    Thanks, Chip. That’s interesting, but doesn’t answer the question at hand. You still haven’t explained how, even given what you say, what was barely a tropical storm in New York was still classified as a hurricane.

    As to hurricane history, I fail to see the connection. I’m talking about a bunch of anemometers all along the East Coast not recording hurricane winds while the NHC is shouting “danger, hurricane, hurricane” … what could that possibly have to do with 1880, when neither anemometers nor the NHC were in general use?

    w.

  172. Willis,

    By no means am I weighing in on when the NHC should have stopped calling Irene a hurricane. I haven’t followed the details of its progress up the coast that carefully. It seems that Ryan makes a pretty compelling case for downgrading the storm to a tropical storm earlier than the NHC ultimately did. But that said, I think that it made landfall along the coast of NC as a Cat 1 hurricane.

    I am not sure I fully understand your insistance that only surface anemometers can be consulted for estimating the maximum strength of the winds, when other data is apparently available.

    Certainly, as the density of surface anemometers increases, they play a larger role in the final estimation. But, now, as in the past, other data is consulted as well (as I think it should be).

    -Chip

  173. I really appreciate this post and discussion. I went to New Bern, NC, to be with my elderly mother during Irene. She and her friends refused to leave their homes. Given the forecasts, I was very concerned for her safety and it seemed foolhardy for me to place myself into the projected path. It was rainy with gusty winds all day Saturday, but didn’t seem much like I expected a hurricane to be. New Bern is about 20 miles west of the track of the eye. I had visited the Charleston, SC, area a week after Hugo, and the damage was not at all comparable. Now, of course, Mom is saying hurricanes are no big deal and she’ll never evacuate.

  174. Some want this to be a hurricane at all costs. What gives. My alarm bells have gone off.

    What’s the agenda? You are interrupting my weekend. There will be no fury like the truth.
    Enjoy a ‘cold one’ before you wish you did and didn’t.

  175. Irene was a large but weak category 1 hitting NC and tropical storm strength by NYC (no riddle). The NHC did not call it a hurricane at that point.

  176. Chris, technically it is both pressure and wind, but the “cat 3″ pressure in Irene’s case only produced a cat 2 storm surge (to 8.5 feet in one case) but cat 1 more generally.

  177. Eric (skeptic) says:
    September 2, 2011 at 7:48 pm
    Chris, technically it is both pressure and wind, but the “cat 3″ pressure in Irene’s case only produced a cat 2 storm surge (to 8.5 feet in one case) but cat 1 more generally.

    ================================

    Eric,

    That’s because she was a hybrid. Not a true tropical system.

    The only way a storm can be “tropical” is like in 1938, when it accelerated to 60 or 70 MPH in forward motion and got to Long Island in deadly record time.

    Irene was a hybrid. Not to downplay her destructiveness…but that is why the saffir-simpson could not measure correctly.

    And really, to be honest, can not measure any tropical cyclone, however intense it may be, that starts to interact with extratropical influences.

    Chris
    Norfolk, VA, USA

  178. In other words, I don’t want them playing it safe. I want them playing it honest. I don’t want to have to value NHC information at a 30% discount for inflation. I want it to reflect the actual reality on the ground.

    I don’t want them smoothing the yo-yo-ing reality on the ground either.

  179. I agree with you, Willis, NHS should have downgraded Irene to a “Strong Tropical Storm” on NC Landfall, but in the same breath, they should have emphasized it’s still big and rainy and that danger wasn’t changing. Here I am in full agreement with Roger Knights (Sep 2, 10:18am) that storm danger needs separate wind and rain-flood components. Look at the NHS Graphics archive. It’s all wind! Rain fall isn’t mentioned. http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/archive/2011/IRENE_graphics.shtml. Out of sight, out of mind.

    Whether NHS downgraded Irene on NC landfall really doesn’t matter much because by then key decisions must have already been made based upon information with lots of uncertainty.

    You said, ”Manhattan did over-react to the danger “ So certain are you. I’ll confess, I’ve never been to Manhattan. I don’t have a clue of the elevation of the entrances to its subway tunnels. But in three minutes of research I found this: http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/08/08/flooding-cripples-subway-system/. As recently as 4 years ago, “three inches of rain within a one-hour period,” crippled the NY subway system.

    Ok, Willis, you are the Director of the MTA. Keep us from over-reacting. 24 hrs before expected landfall, you are looking at a 40% prob of greater than 50 Knot (58 mph) at NYC. Heavy rain on the west side of the eye. 18hrs it’s prob=50%, still 50% at 12 hrs http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/archive/2011/graphics/al09/loop_PROB50.shtml (Frame 29, 30, 31). Now, with the full benefit of hindsight, do you maintain this is inaccurate or wildly misleading? You also face a Spring High Tide about 9am, so add a couple feet to the possible storm surge. YOU have a decision to make Saturday morning (tick , tick, tick): Do I run a normal Sunday schedule? Or do I keep passengers, employees and rolling stock out of sub-sea-level locations? Do I loose $20 million in lost revenue, or do I risk losing a half billion (plus lawsuits!) at a probability of 10%? And 4 years ago we had problems with rain tick, tick, tick. 5 million people would like to go to work Monday… or Tuesday….. Do you think a computer model might help?

    Other interesting references:
    Subway back on track (Monday)

    http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2090908,00.html

    The MTA said normal service on …six of the Long Island Rail Road’s 11 branches….expect.. cancellations. Service will still be suspended on the Metro-North Railroad, …by flooding and mudslides.. regions north of NYC. Most New Jersey Transit trains also will be sidelined Monday.

    (8/28 6:45 am EDT – landfall NJ, (NYC a couple hours away) http://www.accuweather.com/blogs/news/story/54295/mean-irene-closes-in-on-nc-out-1.asp

    (Top 10 wind and rain statistics, plus top 3 wind, rain by state). http://www.accuweather.com/blogs/news/story/54348/irenes-infamous-top-ten-1.asp

  180. Willis says: Sep 2, 9:31 am … and you seem to be defending the handing out of inaccurate information.

    I never defend “handing out” inaccurate information. Forecasts have uncertainty – accept it –with skepticism. I lambasted the inaccurate immediate opinions by some TV reporters 2 hrs after landfall that government had overreacted because disaster had not struck. Come the Governors of NJ and PA telling of flood warnings, those irresponsible reports were tempered. Come the videos of rivers out of banks in PA and over flowing dams in NJ and they were tempered more. Come the Irene death toll at 30+ and maybe Tropical Storms will get the respect they deserve from the MSM.

    But I doubt it. I remember Good Morning America talking about how New Orleans had “dodged a bullet” in Katrina. http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=%22New_Orleans_'Dodged_the_Bullet'%22 I recall an NPR Morning Edition report from a Miami high-rise where they survived Andrew better than feared — while the news from South Miami was a little delayed! And lack of news today must mean everyone has power back on the East coast 5 days after Irene, right?

    Sept: 1 (Canada)“But the wait for power drags on, with an estimated 1.3 million homes and businesses still without electricity, down from a peak of 9.6 million. http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2011/09/01/irene-united-states-damage.html

  181. Stephen Rasey says:
    September 2, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    … Ok, Willis, you are the Director of the MTA. Keep us from over-reacting. 24 hrs before expected landfall, you are looking at a 40% prob of greater than 50 Knot (58 mph) at NYC. Heavy rain on the west side of the eye. 18hrs it’s prob=50%, still 50% at 12 hrs http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/archive/2011/graphics/al09/loop_PROB50.shtml (Frame 29, 30, 31). Now, with the full benefit of hindsight, do you maintain this is inaccurate or wildly misleading? You also face a Spring High Tide about 9am, so add a couple feet to the possible storm surge. YOU have a decision to make Saturday morning (tick , tick, tick): Do I run a normal Sunday schedule? Or do I keep passengers, employees and rolling stock out of sub-sea-level locations? Do I loose $20 million in lost revenue, or do I risk losing a half billion (plus lawsuits!) at a probability of 10%? And 4 years ago we had problems with rain tick, tick, tick. 5 million people would like to go to work Monday… or Tuesday….. Do you think a computer model might help?

    Straw man. The issue is not what I would do. Do I think a model might help? Sure. But the most helpful thing is timely, accurate information. That’s what I object to, that their information was neither timely nor accurate.

    I’m not sure why a call for timely and accurate information should be so controversial, or why you seem so vehemently opposed to it … or perhaps I’m just missing your point.

    w.

  182. I noticed an odd thing about the Fox News reporting, I believe Sunday evening (Aug. 28). The reporter was talking about flooding in various places inland – quite right. The odd thing is that the reporter himself was in Long Beach NY, which is an island off the south coast of Long Island, and nowhere near the scenes of the flooding.

  183. Strange Juxtaposition …

    Earthquakes are routinely adjusted later for scientific accuracy.

    Hurricanes and Tropical Storms are NEVER adjusted later for scientific accuracy?

    WUWT?

    I guess it’s true that the real scientists (the one’s concerned with accuracy) are in Geology, not in climate science.

    NOAA and other related quasi-scientific organizations take note, you are going to sink yourselves if you keep it up.

  184. Blade says:
    September 3, 2011 at 7:58 am

    Strange Juxtaposition …

    Earthquakes are routinely adjusted later for scientific accuracy.

    Hurricanes and Tropical Storms are NEVER adjusted later for scientific accuracy?

    Hurricanes are indeed adjusted later for scientific accuracy, as are earthquakes. However, earthquakes don’t require that we have accurate, timely information to respond to them intelligently … so the accuracy of the earthquake information is not important. Hurricanes, on the other hand …

    w.

  185. I haven’t read all the posts here, but it looks like the clock is still ticking on the record number of days that a hurricane has failed to make landfall on the Continental United States.

    True or not?

  186. I think everyone is missing the point, regardless of it was a hurricane or tropical storm, the overall size was massive and it was the inland flooding that did the majority of the damage…. also, if they downgraded it to a tropical storm, no one would of evacuated and even know many were killed by falling trees due to the flooding rains making the soils into quicksand, it would of been a lot worse because no body evacuates nor wants to if they hear TS. just my opinion. remember, it was the rains that washed away homes, flooded out streets and entire neighborhoods in Jersey and other points in the NE,the winds were secondary.

  187. Stephen Rasey says:
    September 2, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    I agree with you, Willis, NHS should have downgraded Irene to a “Strong Tropical Storm” on NC Landfall, but in the same breath, they should have emphasized it’s still big and rainy and that danger wasn’t changing. Here I am in full agreement with Roger Knights (Sep 2, 10:18am) that storm danger needs separate wind and rain-flood components. Look at the NHS Graphics archive. It’s all wind! Rain fall isn’t mentioned. http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/archive/2011/IRENE_graphics.shtml. Out of sight, out of mind.

    You know, I actually think there’s a chance this might happen. I suspect the NHC contains persons who have long been arguing for a fuller and more sophisticated (dual-mode) presentation of the facts about these windstorms. It’s not as though the public is too simple-minded to make sense of them. It’s that the NHC has been too condescending to boil things down into a handier format than hurricane “category.”

    About whether NYC’s mayor over-reacted: I think he did, at least in part. I’ve read critics saying that, at a minimum, shutting down the bus lines as extensively as he did, and as early as he did, was extreme. I infer that the extent of the subway-system shutdown and of the evacuation orders were also somewhat excessive.

    Jason ( the extremeone ) says:
    September 3, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    if they downgraded it to a tropical storm, no one would of evacuated …

    Not true, if they also classify the TS’s threat level as high, per the dual-mode warning system I’ve suggested.
    And also, if they DON’T downgrade it to a TS, coastal people will be trained to take the next hurricane warning less seriously. “You can never do just one thing.”

    … and even now many were killed by falling trees due to the flooding rains making the soils into quicksand, it would of been a lot worse because no body evacuates nor wants to if they hear TS.

    Evacuation wouldn’t have saved the people inland from falling trees. Evacuation is primarily a defense of dense coastal populations against storm surges, which can isolate large numbers of them in high-rise buildings with elevators without power for long periods.

    BMF says:
    September 3, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    I haven’t read all the posts here, but it looks like the clock is still ticking on the record number of days that a hurricane has failed to make landfall on the Continental United States.

    True or not?

    Hmm. If the NHC had downgraded Irene, we scoffers would still be citing the record-period-without-a-landfall, much to the irritation of climate alarmists. This could have been a motive for the NHC’s mismeasurement—to shut us up.

  188. Willis Eschenbach says in reply: “so I’m not sure what your point about trees and leaves is.”

    I’m not sure either, Willis. I must have been tired of, and from, cleaning up the mess. Probably venting.

  189. Jason ( the extremeone ) says:
    September 3, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    I think everyone is missing the point, regardless of it was a hurricane or tropical storm, the overall size was massive and it was the inland flooding that did the majority of the damage …

    Jason, I don’t think a single person missed that point, much less everyone … but that wasn’t the point under discussion.

    The question at issue was that calling a storm a hurricane when it isn’t one interferes with a proper analysis of, and response to, the threat from the storm.

    w.

  190. Re Roger Knights: I’ve read critics saying that, at a minimum, shutting down the bus lines as extensively as he did, and as early as he did, was extreme.
    and Willis: Manhattan did over-react to the danger.

    I have considered the point whether they overreacted to the point of shutting down the bus lines. I want to point out that bus lines are composed of busses driven by people who mostly have families that live in the area. These are families that must prepare their homes for the storms, whether it be evacuate, reduce the potential damage, and prepare for some temporary flooding and possible long term power outage. It is reasonable to expect to run even a weekend schedule? If you can’t mantain any kind of schedule, should you say, “Some busses will still run, but don’t be surprised if the wait is long.”?

    From the point of making decisions, I think NYC made the right call 24 and 12 hrs prior to the storm. Transporation systems are people, who sometimes need to be with their families.

  191. Stephen Rasey says:
    September 8, 2011 at 9:18 pm

    Re Roger Knights: I’ve read critics saying that, at a minimum, shutting down the bus lines as extensively as he did, and as early as he did, was extreme.
    and Willis: Manhattan did over-react to the danger.

    I have considered the point whether they overreacted to the point of shutting down the bus lines. I want to point out that bus lines are composed of busses driven by people who mostly have families that live in the area. These are families that must prepare their homes for the storms, whether it be evacuate, reduce the potential damage, and prepare for some temporary flooding and possible long term power outage. It is reasonable to expect to run even a weekend schedule? If you can’t mantain any kind of schedule, should you say, “Some busses will still run, but don’t be surprised if the wait is long.”?

    From the point of making decisions, I think NYC made the right call 24 and 12 hrs prior to the storm. Transporation systems are people, who sometimes need to be with their families.

    Stephen, thanks for your thoughts, Did NYC make the right call? To me, that’s not the issue.

    The issue is that to make good decisions, we need good information. Not inflated information. Accurate information. NYC officials did not have that information.

    With the weather service saying that there were hurricane force winds, New York had to consider the forecast storm surge of up to eight feet. The NYC harbor amplifies any storm surge because of its funnel shape.

    But there were no hurricane force winds measured anywhere in the Carolinas where the storm struck, and by the time the storm hit New York, it barely qualified as a tropical storm. And as with most tropical storms, the real danger was not the wind. It is the rain causing flooding, particularly inland. On the coast, the water can just run back into the sea, but inland, large watersheds can cause extensive flooding in river valleys.

    However, New York City hardly flooded at all. Why? Because for NYC, the danger was not the rain, it was the (erroneously forecast) storm surge. In the event, the storm surge was barely three feet, which did not flood NYC in any significant manner. The buses and the subways could have run quite happily. Meanwhile, in other areas further from the ocean where the rains could not just run back into the sea, there was extensive flooding.

    Finally, while I sympathize with those people whose jobs call them away from their homes in times of inclement weather or other widespread problems (policemen, firemen, first responders, public transportation personnel, emergency management teams, military, Coast Guard, water rescue specialists, and the like), by the nature of their jobs sometimes they don’t get to say “big storm around, sorry, I want to stay home today”. If they need to “prepare their homes for the storms, whether it be evacuate, reduce the potential damage, and prepare for some temporary flooding and possible long term power outage” as you reasonably point out, it should have been done long before the storm hits. Joe Public has an excuse for not being prepared, but those folks have to expect that they may have to work in times of bad weather, power outages, or other emergencies.

    w.

  192. Willis Eschenbach says:
    September 10, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    “Joe Public has an excuse for not being prepared,…….”
    ========
    Since when ?
    What is your excuse when at sea, do you look to others to save your butt ?
    I’m sure i’m missing something, but what happened to personal responsibility.

  193. I have enjoyed reading the comments and the beginning discussion. Having a science background, I am concerned the NHC may not be stating “just the facts”. That said, I live on the southern NC OBX and have a couple of observations: I am NOT a meterologist – but living here have a vested interest.
    1) We did not prepare for, expect, or realize a hurricane type wind event. We did prepare for a cat 3 or 4 storm surge. Here the storm surge was a non-event. To our west and north the storm surge was worse than storms in the last 50 to 100 years, as observed by local residents depending on the area.
    2) The wind blew for 24hrs . Hurricanes in recent history blow for a few hours, which has nothing to do with categorization but a lot to do with reality. The back side of this storm had wind as strong or stronger than the front NE side, shortly after landfall.. Whether Cat 1 or Tropical Storm, the duration was significant here. The storm had a very large size.
    Barometric pressure seems a more reasonable measure of storm cat than observed wind speed in my limited experience. Irene was significant in eastern NC. It appeared to be a non-event north of NC, other than the tropical storm type rain.
    I did not see a reponse to the couple anchored on the cat sailboat, who appeared to have observed significant wind speeds and similar conditions to me. Any reason?

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