Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Disappointing Sandy Assessment Strategy

I received a statement via email from Dr. David Titley, the NOAA Deputy Under Secretary for Operations pertaining to the new Sandy Assessment. I'm reproducing it in its entirety in bold type with my comments interspersed in light blue.

NOAA has commissioned a team to assess the performance of the National Weather Service during Hurricane/Post-Tropical Cyclone Sandy.

It is a multi-disciplinary team that includes two social scientists and 10 experts from across NOAA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Members of the team who work for the National Weather Service were chosen from around the country and did not forecast Sandy. This allows for an impartial and unbiased review.

The idea that all government employees allows for an "impartial and unbiased" review is ridiculous. All will have the perspective of government employees. There is nothing wrong with that provided it is complemented by "outside the box" thinking that non-government employees can provide. This especially true since many of the members of the team depend on NOAA for a paycheck. 

The team leader is a scientist with NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service who has extensive management and team lead experience. He will oversee all field work, the development of findings and recommendations, and the drafting of the assessment report.

The major issues surrounding Sandy are meteorological. It is disappointing that the head of the assessment will not have a meteorological background and, perhaps, not know which rocks to turn over. 

The team will focus on three main areas: the philosophies and policies behind the forecast and the weather watch and warning products and how they are communicated; how storm surge products are produced and issued from multiple NOAA Line Offices; and the web presence as a tool for communicating with the public.

They are ignoring the elephant in the room. Was Sandy a hurricane at landfall? That is, literally, a billion dollar question because of the issue of insurance deductibles. NOAA seems determined to "guide" this question. A truly impartial examination would take a hard look at that issue. Meanwhile, I don't think anyone is questioning the NWS "web presence" during Sandy. 

The team will deliver a concise report that identifies facts, findings, and best practices, and it will make recommendations for process changes and service improvements that can be made within six months. The team will start work this month and will begin its field work on January 6. Interim findings are due to NOAA leadership in the spring, with the final report due shortly thereafter.

Field work starts January 6??!! That is one way to assure the report is not as good as it could be. Too much time has already passed. The team needs to be in the field now! 

I look forward to the findings and any recommended ways the National Weather Service can do an even better job to protect life and property through timely and accurate forecasts.

"Even better job" pretty well gives the game away, doesn't it? 

Dr. David Titley
NOAA Deputy Under Secretary for Operations

I continue to believe my initial call for a truly independent investigation, perhaps by the National Research Council, was the best way to proceed. 


  1. Wow. This is just sad, but seems typical of government anymore.

    Mike B.

  2. I agree completely with your annotated comments

    Roger Caiazza, CCM


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.