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Blog Category: National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration

NOAA Provides Easy Access to Historical Hurricane Tracks

Map of U.S. with storm and hurricane trackings

Understanding historical hurricane landfalls is important in preparing for current storms

Seeing where hurricanes have hit and how often is one of the best ways to bring home a powerful hurricane preparedness message. A NOAA website, Historical Hurricane Tracks, lets users insert their zip code and see a map that contains more than 150 years of Atlantic hurricane tracking data. The site also contains global hurricane data from as far back as 1842.

“Knowing more about local hurricane history can help communities better understand their vulnerabilities so they can take steps to be more resilient if a future hurricane strikes.” says David Eslinger, Ph.D., an oceanographer with the NOAA Coastal Services Center and one of the site’s developers.

The Historical Hurricane Tracks website, http://www.csc.noaa.gov/hurricanes, includes tropical cyclone data and information on coastal county hurricane strike data through 2011 while also providing links to detailed reports on the life history and effects of U.S. tropical cyclones since 1958.

In addition to the tracks of storms, the site provides insight to the increasing numbers of the U.S. citizens and infrastructure at risk for hurricanes, detailing population changes for U.S. coastal counties from 1900 to 2000. As the population continues to grow, so too has the number of storms with multi-billion dollars in damages to coastal infrastructure and property. Seven of the top 10 costliest hurricanes in U.S. history have occurred in the past eight years, including seventh-ranked Irene last August with $15.8 billion in damages.

The site’s popularity with the public was evident as Hurricane Irene bore down on the U.S. East Coast. Tens of thousands of people used Historical Hurricane Tracks to compare the National Hurricane Center’s projected path of Irene with past storms. User traffic peaked at over 19,000 visits on August 26, the same day Irene swirled off the North Carolina coast heading towards New York City while saturating the East Coast and New England and leaving millions without power.

NOAA Raises Hurricane Season Prediction Despite Expected El Niño

Satellite image of Hurricane Ernesto taken on Aug. 7, 2012 in the Gulf of Mexico (NOAA)

Updated outlook calls for near- or above-normal Atlantic season

This year’s Atlantic hurricane season got off to a busy start, with 6 named storms to date, and may have a busy second half, according to the updated hurricane season outlook issued today by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service. The updated outlook still indicates a 50 percent chance of a near-normal season, but increases the chance of an above-normal season to 35 percent and decreases the chance of a below-normal season to only 15 percent from the initial outlook issued in May.

Across the entire Atlantic Basin for the season—June 1 to November 30—NOAA’s updated seasonal outlook projects a total (which includes the activity-to-date of tropical storms Alberto, Beryl, Debbie, Florence and hurricanes Chris and Ernesto) of:

  • 12 to 17 named storms (top winds of 39 mph or higher), including:
  • 5 to 8 hurricanes (top winds of 74 mph or higher),
  • 2 to 3 could be major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of at least 111 mph)

The numbers are higher from the initial outlook in May, which called for 9-15 named storms, 4-8 hurricanes and 1-3 major hurricanes. Based on a 30-year average, a normal Atlantic hurricane season produces 12 named storms, six hurricanes, and three major hurricanes.  See NOAA's full release

July 2012 Marked the Hottest Month on Record for the Contiguous United States

Map highlighting July significant weather events

Drought expands to cover nearly 63 percent of the Lower 48; wildfires consume two million acres

The average temperature for the contiguous U.S. during July was 77.6°F, 3.3°F above the 20th century average, marking the hottest July and the hottest month on record for the nation. The previous warmest July for the nation was July 1936 when the average U.S. temperature was 77.4°F. The warm July temperatures contributed to a record-warm first seven months of the year and the warmest 12-month period the nation has experienced since recordkeeping began in 1895.

Precipitation totals were mixed during July, with the contiguous U.S. as a whole being drier than average. The nationally-averaged precipitation total of 2.57 inches was 0.19 inch below average. Near-record dry conditions were present for the middle of the nation, with the drought footprint expanding to cover nearly 63 percent of the Lower 48, according to the U.S. Drought MonitorSee full report

NOAA Ship Fairweather Conducting Hydrographic Reconnaissance in the Arctic

NOAA Ship Fairweather

Mission to update measurements dating to the 18th century

NOAA Ship Fairweather begins a 30-day survey mission in the Arctic this week, scheduled to check a sparsely measured 1,500-nautical mile coastal corridor from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, north through the Bering Strait and east to the Canadian border.

The mission will collect needed information to determine NOAA’s future charting survey projects in the Arctic and will cover sea lanes that were last measured by Captain James Cook in 1778.

“Much of Alaska’s coastal area has never had full bottom surveys to measure water depths,” said Cmdr. James Crocker, commanding officer of Fairweather, and chief scientist of the party. “A tanker, carrying millions of gallons of oil, should not be asked to rely on measurements gathered in the 19th century. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what navigators have to do, in too many cases. NOAA is changing that.”

NOAA has made it a priority to update the nautical charts needed by commercial shippers, tankers, passenger vessels, and fishing fleets transiting the Alaskan coastline in ever-greater numbers. In June 2011, Coast Survey issued the Arctic Nautical Charting Plan, a major effort to update Arctic nautical charts for the shipping lanes, approaches, and ports along the Alaskan coast. Full release

Commerce Department Scientists Earn Presidential Honor for Early Career Achievements

OSTP seal

Earlier this week, President Obama announced the 2011 recipients of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the United States Government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers. Six employees from the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) were among those honored on Monday.

The awards, established by President Clinton in 1996, are coordinated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the President. Awardees are selected for their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, or community outreach.

The scientists are recognized not only for their innovative research, but also their demonstrated commitment to community service.

NOAA's State of the Climate Report for June 2012

Graphic: Significant climate events in June 2012

Nation experiences warmest first half of year; wildfires claim 1.3 million acres across nation

Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issues its monthly state of the climate report for June, 2012. The average temperature for the contiguous U.S. during June was 71.2°F, which is 2.0°F above the 20th century average. Scorching temperatures during the second half of the month led to at least 170 all-time high temperature records broken or tied. The June temperatures contributed to a record-warm first half of the year and the warmest 12-month period the nation has experienced since recordkeeping began in 1895.

Precipitation totals across the country were mixed during June. The Lower 48, as a whole, experienced its tenth-driest June on record, with a nationally-averaged precipitation total of 2.27 inches, 0.62 inch below average. Record- and near-record dry conditions were present across the Intermountain West, while Tropical Storm Debby dropped record precipitation across Florida.  Full NOAA release

U.S. Experiences Second-Warmest May, Hottest Spring on Record

Map of U.S. with significant weather events for April-May

Lower 48 also experienced record warm year-to-date and twelve-month periods

The average temperature for the contiguous U.S. during May was 64.3°F, 3.3°F above the long-term average, making it the second-warmest May on record. The month's high temperatures also contributed to the warmest spring, warmest year-to-date, and warmest 12-month period the nation has experienced since recordkeeping began in 1895.

The spring season's (March-May) nationally-averaged temperature was 57.1°F, 5.2°F above the 1901-2000 long-term average, surpassing the previous warmest spring (1910) by 2.0°F.

Precipitation totals across the country were mixed during May, with the nation as a whole being drier than average. The nationally-averaged precipitation total of 2.51 inches was 0.36 inch below average. The coastal Southeast received some drought relief when Tropical Storm Beryl brought heavy rains to the region late in the month. | See the full Climate Report

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.