Magazine article Risk Management

The Great National Hurricane Center Mutiny

Magazine article Risk Management

The Great National Hurricane Center Mutiny

Article excerpt

In an episode more fit for swashbucklers on the high seas of the Caribbean than land-loving meteorologists, climatologists and scientists, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) made headlines this summer when its staff mounted an uprising that lead to the ousting of the center's head official.

In just six months time and before overseeing a single hurricane forecast in action, former director X. William Proenza managed to engender such widespread criticism that nearly two dozen of the center's employees signed a letter urging his removal. "The effective functioning of the National Hurricane Center is at stake," according to the signees.

At the heart of the controversy was Proenza's steadfast determination to secure funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the government body that oversees NHC, to replace an outdated storm-tracking satellite known as Quik-Scat. Proenza, who was the director of the National Weather Service's southern region prior to taking over at NHC, had publicly questioned the agency's resource allocation, specifically wondering why what constituted lesser priorities in his mind, such as public relations, were receiving funds rather than upgrading vital forecasting tools that had already exceeded their shelf life. …

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