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Blog Category: National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration

June 1, 2012: The Atlantic Hurricane Season Begins, Runs Through November 30

Satellite image of Hurricane Andrew, 1992

NOAA predicts a near-normal Atlantic hurricane season, Census offers related facts for features

Conditions in the atmosphere and the ocean favor a near-normal hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin this season, Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced last week from Miami at its Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, and home to the Hurricane Research Division.

For the entire six-month season, which begins June 1, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center says there’s a 70 percent chance of nine to 15 named storms (with top winds of 39 mph or higher), of which four to eight will strengthen to a hurricane (with top winds of 74 mph or higher) and of those one to three will become major hurricanes (with top winds of 111 mph or higher, ranking Category 3, 4 or 5). Based on the period 1981-2010, an average season produces 12 named storms with six hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.

Hurricanes by the Numbers

Commerce's U.S. Census Bureau produces timely local statistics that are critical to emergency planning, preparedness and recovery efforts. This edition of Facts for Features highlights the number of people living in areas that could be most affected by these dramatic acts of nature, and more.

  • 37.3 million: Population as of July 1, 2011, of the coastal portion of states stretching from North Carolina to Texas—the areas most threatened by Atlantic hurricanes. Approximately 12 percent of the nation’s population live in these areas;
  • 7: The number of hurricanes during the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season, four of them Category 3-strength or higher. Irene was the only hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. and one of the most costly and devastating;
  • 3: Top states for hurricane impacts from 1851-2011Florida (114), Texas (64), Louisiana (57);
  • 1992: Hurricane Andrew made landfall in Florida on Aug. 24, destroying a large swath of South Florida, most notably the city of Homestead. Andrew was the second-costliest tropical cyclone in U.S history and killed 23 in the U.S.

Weather-Readiness Transforms Businesses into Forces of Nature

Be a force of nature logo

With Atlantic hurricane season starting today, this week is national Hurricane Preparedness Week, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is teaming up with other federal partners to help get businesses and communities StormReady. Each year, Americans cope with an average of 10,000 thunderstorms, 5,000 floods, 1,000 tornadoes, and two landfalling hurricanes. The impacts of this weather have a significant effect on the U.S. economy. In fact, routine weather events in the U.S., such as rain and cooler-than-average days, can add up to an annual economic impact of as much as $485 billion, or about 3.4 percent of the 2008 gross domestic product (Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, PDF).  
 
These effects are most keenly felt by those businesses that don’t reopen after a storm. The American Red Cross reports that as many as 40 percent of businesses fail following a disaster. But businesses that are weather-ready don’t have to be part of this statistic. They can be a force of nature by knowing their risk, taking preventative action and being an example for their community. NOAA and other federal partners have a number of tools available to help businesses better prepare for extreme weather.

Spotlight on Commerce: Karen Hyun, Senior Policy Adviser

Karen Hyun, Senior Policy Adviser

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of an America Built to Last.

At the Commerce Department, I have the privilege to serve as Secretary Bryson's senior policy adviser on energy and environment issues.  

My parents emigrated from Korea over forty years ago with a couple of suitcases and an incredible work ethic.  They eventually landed in a small town in eastern Pennsylvania, halfway between my dad's small business fixing electric motors and the Veterans' Administration medical center where my mom was a doctor.  My sisters and I were products of our parents' focus on education, independence, public service, and proximity to a good public school system.   

When I was in elementary school, my dad used to wait with me at the bus stop until the bus came to pick me up.  The only days when this did not happen were election days because my parents were already waiting in line at the polls.  Early on, they instilled in us the right and responsibility to vote.  Although it was years before I could vote, my curiosity on how democracy works was piqued at an early age.  

My parents probably wanted me to follow in their footsteps and be an engineer or a doctor, but I chose a major in Earth Systems at Stanford University.  Earth Systems is a major in environmental science and policy and I chose to focus on our ocean ecosystems.  This was my first foray into learning about public policy that led to a Ph.D. from the University of Rhode Island and several years on the Committee on Natural Resources in the U.S. House of Representatives.  

NOAA Predicts a Near-Normal 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season

Satellite image of Hurricane Irene, 2011

Anniversary of Hurricane Andrew underscores necessity to prepare every year

Conditions in the atmosphere and the ocean favor a near-normal hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin this season, Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced today from Miami at its Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, and home to the Hurricane Research Division.

For the entire six-month season, which begins June 1, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center says there’s a 70 percent chance of nine to 15 named storms with top winds of 39 mph or higher, of which four to eight will strengthen to a hurricane with top winds of 74 mph or higher, and of those, one to three will become major hurricanes with top winds of 111 mph or higher, ranking Category 3, 4 or 5. Based on the period 1981-2010, an average season produces 12 named storms with six hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.

“NOAA’s outlook predicts a less active season compared to recent years,” said NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D. “But regardless of the outlook, it’s vital for anyone living or vacationing in hurricane-prone locations to be prepared. We have a stark reminder this year with the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew.” Andrew, the Category 5 hurricane that devastated South Florida on August 24, 1992, was the first storm in a late-starting season that produced only six named storms.

Favoring storm development in 2012: the continuation of the overall conditions associated with the Atlantic high-activity era that began in 1995, in addition to near-average sea surface temperatures across much of the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, known as the Main Development Region. Two factors now in place that can limit storm development, if they persist, are strong wind shear, which is hostile to hurricane formation in the Main Development Region, and cooler sea surface temperatures in the far eastern Atlantic.  Full NOAA press release

Crimes Against Marine Mammals Exhibit Opens at D.C.'s Crime Museum

Image of entangled seal

Celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Marine Mammal Protection Act through an eye-opening exhibit that showcases different violations of the Act, how law enforcement agents investigate those violations, and how you can help protect marine mammals. Created by Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries and the Crime Museum in Washington, D.C., the exhibit opens today at the museum and runs through September 3, 2012.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act  was passed in 1972 and prohibits, with certain exceptions, the take of marine mammals in U.S. waters or by U.S. citizens on the high seas, and the importation of marine mammals and marine mammal products into the U.S.  More at NOAA Fisheries release

Deputy Secretary Blank Advocates Public Service in Commencement Speech

Guest blog post by Commerce Deputy Secretary Rebecca M. Blank

This morning, I had the privilege of delivering the commencement address to graduate students at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) commencement ceremony.

I was also deeply honored to receive an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree during the ceremony for my work as a public servant, including the leadership I provided in my previous job at Commerce, overseeing the nation’s premier statistical agencies, the Census Bureau (during the 2010 Census) and the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The commencement speech provided an opportunity to give advice to the graduate students and to encourage them to use their expertise and experience to find solutions to the pressing problems facing our world. UMBC is particularly well-known for its scientific training. Science, technology, engineering and math–STEM fields–are particularly important, and it is STEM-related research that will drive innovation in the years ahead. In fact, STEM jobs have grown three times faster than other jobs, indicating the need for more workers with these skills.

NOAA, BOEM: Historic, 19th Century Shipwreck Discovered in Northern Gulf of Mexico

While most of the ship's wood has long since disintegrated, copper that sheathed the hull beneath the waterline as a protection against marine-boring organisms remains, leaving a copper shell retaining the form of the ship.

During a recent Gulf of Mexico expedition, NOAA, BOEM and partners discovered an historic wooden-hulled vessel which is believed to have sunk as long as 200 years ago. Scientists on board the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer used underwater robots with lights and high definition cameras to view remnants of the ship laden with anchors, navigational instruments, glass bottles, ceramic plates, cannons, and boxes of muskets.

Equipped with telepresence technology, Okeanos Explorer reached audiences around the world who participated in the expedition through live streaming Internet video. As members of the public ashore watched live video from the ocean bottom, they became “citizen explorers,” sharing in the discovery with maritime archaeologists, scientists and resource managers from a variety of federal, academic and private organizations.

The NOAA-funded 56-day expedition that ended April 29 was exploring poorly known regions of the Gulf, mapping and imaging unknown or little-known features and habitats, developing and testing a method to measure the rate that gas rises from naturally-occurring seeps on the seafloor, and investigating potential shipwreck sites.  Full story

NOAA: April Global Temperatures are Fifth-Warmest

Most of the globe's land areas experienced warmer-than-average temperatures, resulting in the second-warmest April land temperature, behind 2007 (Credit: NOAA Visualization Lab)

La Niña ends; neutral conditions return over equatorial Pacific Ocean

According to NOAA scientists, the globally-averaged temperature for April marked the fifth warmest April since record keeping began in 1880. April 2012 also marked the largest departure from the 20th century average temperature in more than a year.

La Niña, typically associated with cooler global temperatures, dissipated and transitioned to neutral conditions during April as sea surface temperatures continued to warm across the equatorial Pacific Ocean. According to NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, neutral conditions are expected to continue through the Northern Hemisphere's summer.

April analysis

U.S. Temperatures for April Third-Warmest on Record

Map: April 2012 Statewide Ranks

Past 12 months and first third of the year were warmest nation has experienced

Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that several warm periods across the contiguous U.S. during April brought the national average temperature to 55°F, 3.6°F above average, marking the third warmest April on record. These temperatures, when added with the first quarter and previous 11 months, calculate to the warmest year-to-date and 12-month periods since recordkeeping began in 1895.

January-April was the warmest such period on record for the contiguous United States, with an average temperature of 45.4°F, 5.4°F above the long-term average. Twenty-six states, all east of the Rockies, were record warm for the four-month period and an additional 17 states had temperatures for the period among their ten warmest.

On the heels of the warmest March for the U.S., warmer and drier than average temperatures continued for much of the nation with some states in the Ohio Valley having a small, but still above-average, dip in temperatures.  Full briefing

NOAA Near-Term Weather Forecasts Get Powerful Boost from New Computer Model

Rapid Refresh (or RAP, lower right) performed better than the older RUC model (lower left) in predicting severe weather conditions that occurred in the Midwest on June 21, 2011 (upper right).

Research yields new tool to achieve a Weather-Ready Nation

Starting today, Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is using a sophisticated new weather forecast computer model to improve predictions of quickly developing severe weather events including thunderstorms, winter storms and aviation hazards such as clear air turbulence.

The Rapid Refresh now provides NOAA's most rapidly updated weather forecast, replacing an older model that served a similar function. The Rapid Refresh, developed by NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo. and NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) in Camp Springs, Md., updates every hour with a new forecast extending out 18 hours for North America. Such forecasts are especially important in aviation, where fast-developing weather conditions can affect safety and efficiency, but they are equally important for severe weather and energy-related forecasting. | Full release