Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The National Hurricane Center’s Assembly Line of Information

As we continue to track Hurricane Matthew, Tropical Storm Nicole and any other weather event that manifests, it helps to understand the roles of the various organizations behind the forecasts and weather data that we rely upon. 
The purpose of the National Hurricane Center (NHC) is to save lives, mitigate property loss, and improve economic efficiency by issuing the best watches, warnings, forecasts, and analyses of hazardous tropical weather events and by increasing understanding of these hazards. When tropical storm or hurricane conditions are expected within 48 hours, the NHC issues watches and warnings providing updated data, forecasts and imagery that tracks the weather event’s movement throughout the affected area.  In order to provide the information to fulfill its purpose, the NHC relies on the collaboration of multiple units and subunits. 
The Hurricane Specialist Unit (HSU) is the watchdog of the operation keeping a close eye on tropical cyclones and areas of disturbances.   The HSU issues coastal tropical cyclone watches and warnings for the United States and its Caribbean territories.  The HSU also provides preparedness training and exaction to emergency managers and representatives.
The Tropical Analysis and Forecast Branch (TAFB) generates analyses and forecasts over the tropical and subtropical eastern North and South Pacific and the North Atlantic basins year-round. The TAFB supports the HSU by providing tropical cyclone position and intensity estimates.  The TAFB also provides satellite-based rainfall estimates for the international community.
The Technology & Science Branch (TSB) holds a pivotal role in the creation and further development of the Automated Tropical Cyclone Forecasting (ATCF) system, which is used to incorporate various data and model outputs and to generate tropical cyclone forecasts. In addition, TSB maintains a number of statistical and dynamical models used in predicting both tropical cyclone behavior and associated weather conditions.
The Storm Surge Unit, which is part of the Technology & Science Branch, forecasts the abnormal rise in sea level accompanying tropical cyclones using the Sea, Lake, and Overland Surges from Hurricanes (SLOSH) computer model. The Storm Surge Unit prepares storm surge atlases for use by emergency managers in developing evacuation procedures for coastal areas.
The Chief, Aerial Reconnaissance Coordination, All Hurricanes (CARCAH) unit is a remote operating location of the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron (Hurricane Hunters). CARCAH's mission is to coordinate all tropical cyclone operational reconnaissance in accordance with the National Hurricane Operations Plan. CARCAH also play an integral role in gathering intelligence associated with winter events in support of the National Winter Storms Operations Plan.  CARCAH carries out missions in advance of the high-impact weather events forecasted to affect the U.S.
The Hurricane Liaison Team (HLT), comprised of emergency managers and NWS meteorologists and hydrologists, is tasked with the quick, accurate dissemination of information among the NHC, the National Weather Service (NOAA/NWS), and the emergency management community. These communications address the progress and threat level of storms with affected Federal, state, and local officials by video and/or teleconferences with the NHC, FEMA and other Federal agencies, state Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs), Weather Prediction Center (WPC), Storm Prediction Center (SPC), and River Forecast Centers (RFCs).
The news updates, radar data, and multi-day forecasts that forewarn target areas allowing time for preparations, evacuations and risk management, are the result of the National Hurricane Center’s assembly line of information.