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Hurricane Research Is Big News

by Terri Gregory, SSEC Public Information Specialist
October 1999

Also In
the News...

On the Air

In Print

Honors, Etc.

In the Wings

In the News “It was a total team effort. Everyone got to do something, and I think we all had fun doing it. … It was nuts, but it got great press coverage for CIMSS and the UW.” So said Tim Olander, of the Tropical Cyclones group, to Chris Velden (team leader) when he returned from abroad after Hurricane Floyd came and went.

September’s big news was not that SSEC’s Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies does hurricane research, but that the National Hurricane Center and other forecasters are depending on CIMSS’ new techniques along with data from flights into hurricanes and other sources for more accurate forecasts. For example, results from the Objective Dvorak Technique, developed in large part at CIMSS, are being quoted in tropical cyclone forecast discussions to validate forecast decisions.

For more information, follow this link.

In September, media literally beat a path to the door of the Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences building on the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus. They came by car, email, and telephone. Here is a summary.

Madison TV

WMTV, Channel 15: ran pieces on three separate days.
  • August 30 evening news, Chris Velden with Hurricane Dennis
  • September 14, Tim Olander and Jason Dunion on hurricane research products, focusing on WaveTrak. This story aired on Tuesday evening and night with cameo appearance by NOAA’s Gary Wade posting a color-enhanced hurricane image on the campus broad-band cable display. Reporter Mike West, taken with the story of Professor Suomi’s early satellite experiments, featured that history.
  • September 16, Jason Dunion appeared live at 6:45 a.m., focusing on Hurricane Floyd’s landfall and general hurricane knowledge.

    WKOW Channel 27: September 14, co-anchor Rina Saijianopulos focused on products, especially AMSU data and WaveTrak, in a lively overview of CIMSS hurricane research. She involved Tropical Cyclones group members Tim, Jason, and Kurt Brueske. She noted the heavy Web traffic (by Disney and others). Pieces ran at 5 and 10 p.m.

    WHA TV: September 17, Jason Dunion, Wavetrak developer, appeared on Weekend, Public Television’s Friday evening weekly news roundup. Jason spoke with anchor Patti Lowe about the group’s work, focusing on the Web site.

  • For more information, follow this link.

    Regional and National TV, all on September 14 or 15

    WISN TV, Milwaukee’s ABC affiliate channel 12: The first television crew to arrive.
    WDJT, Milwaukee’s CBS affiliate (ch. 58): Focused on our service and connection to the National Hurricane Center. Reporter Nerissa Witherspoon thought that CBS might use the piece nationally.
    NBC News (and picked up by CNBC and MSNBC): At 5:30 p.m. with Stephen Schneider, global change expert.
    NBC’s Dateline: Prominently displayed a Tropical Cyclones image loop! Also showed McIDAS being used by National Hurricane Center forecasters.
    Tampa, Florida TV station: Showed one of the previous pieces.


    Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 4: Meg Jones wrote a new article from interviews with Chris Velden and Jack Beven of the National Hurricane Center. Jones pointed out that new techniques developed in CIMSS, including WaveTrak, are beginning to shed light on these important cyclone questions: “where they originate and how they get stronger and weaker.”
    Wisconsin Week, September 8: Brian Mattmiller (UW–Madison’s News and Public Affairs science reporter) revised his August news release for the campus newspaper.
    The Daily Cardinal, September 16: Andrew Krueger interviewed Dave Stettner on the Tropical Cyclones group’s research.
    Tampa Tribune, September 20: We provided the latest images of Hurricane Floyd for a piece in the Monday SciTech section. Science writer Kurt Loft wrote a new story and used three images and a side bar on hurricane tools based on Brian Mattmiller’s August news release.
    Daily Herald (Chicago suburb Arlington Heights): Interviewed Tim Olander, a former AH resident, with local meteorologist Tom Skilling, in Q&A format. (The piece is no longer posted.)
    USA Today and Capital Times, September 14: A Tropical Cyclones hurricane image on the front page, incorrectly attributed to NHC.


    Business Week, September 20: A column in Developments to Watch page by editor Ellen Licking.
    Britain’s Focus magazine hopes to use hurricane images in the Agenda section of the November issue.


    Public Radio International, September 16: Interview with Tim primarily discussing the importance of models in forecasting was posted on The World Web site. Tim’s remarks (via Real Audio) shared space with reports on Hurricane Floyd and Typhoon York.
    Voice of America, probably September 17: Tim talked about the group’s research. Reporter Roseanne Skirble expected the piece to be broadcast 6 to 12 times on Friday, in the science time slot (45 minutes past the hour). Voice of America is broadcast outside the U.S. over shortwave, or is available on the VOA Web site. The hurricane research piece was to be posted in News Now as a correspondent report.

    For more information:


    Discovery Online showcased CIMSS hurricane research, with images by the Tropical Cyclones group and connections to TRMM and other satellites. They linked this multiple page article to interactive and informational pages about hurricanes. They quote Lixion Avila, a forecaster at the National Hurricane Center, on the “new satellite tool developed at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, [that] uses the movements of clouds to track wind at different levels and measure wind shear. ‘This is giving us real data that we can feed into the computer models and improve our forecasts.’”
    Channel 15: Retold the TV story with historical slant and picture of Gary Wade. (Piece is no longer on line.)
    AScribe: Wisconsin Week version of hurricane research story by Brian Matmiller on what they call “The Public Interest Newswire.”
    CNN’s Environmental News Network: Borrows from Brian Mattmiller’s release.
    Environmental News Network’s own site: Same piece.
    The Miami Herald online used a color-enhanced photo and did acknowledge CIMSS.
    BBC homepage: Used a color infrared image of Hurricane Floyd, probably from Tropical Cyclones site. (No longer on line.)

    Thanks to Tim Olander for organizing these news bits and summarizing most of them.

    For more information, follow these links.

    Last month’s hurricane research coverage was noted in the weekly report of the Advanced Satellite Products Team to its home office near Washington, DC. The Team is the branch of NOAA’s National Environmental Satellite Data and Information Service stationed in Madison as part of the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies.

    One of the nicest things the Tropical Cyclones group heard this month was, “Your site is one of the true treasures of the web,” from Alex Kuethe, a New Media Business Manager. Alex had trouble getting into the site during Hurricane Floyd and he was still grateful.

    Webmaster Randy Groom links to an image from CIMSS Tropical Cyclones Web site and, on his links page, to SSEC’s GOES images. Randy’s Web site provides a variety of weather information. His office provides “the latest in current and forecast weather information, as well as all severe weather watches and warnings issued for central Wisconsin.”

    Author Jim Carrier will use a picture of Hurricane Mitch in a book about the Fantome, the Windjammer cruise ship lost in Mitch on October 27, 1998. The ship was lost off Honduras with 31 on board. Jim surmised that the ship was in the hurricane’s eye wall when satellite communication was lost.

    Any three-color composite imagery used during this media blitz was produced by Dave Santek and others of SSEC’s McIDAS team.

    For more information, follow these links.

    On the Air

    For More Information


    Weather Guys Steve Ackerman (CIMSS Director) and Jonathan Martin (professor, AOS) appeared again on Larry Meiller’s WHA Radio call-in show on Monday, September 27. The Guys are in the midst of a 3-month run of appearances on the last Monday of each month. They appear next on October 25; tune into 970 AM (in the Madison area) or listen via RealAudio on the Internet. September’s calls brought personal accounts of close calls with lightning, general weather questions, and a discussion of LaCrosse, Wisconsin’s microclimate.

    Will from Madison called into the national radio call-in show “Science Friday” on August 6 to warn meteorological experts and the whole listening audience of imminent water loss. “Save your water!” he urged. Will cited Verner Suomi as a reference. This particular show covered the current drought in the U.S. northeast.

    In Print

    For More Information


    The newsletter for GEWEX, the Global Energy and Water cycle Experiment (part of the World Climate Research Program) summarizes the 10th Conference on Atmospheric Radiation. That conference also was named to honor Verner E. Suomi, and Paul Twitchell, GEWEX newsletter editor, focused on that. Paul noted that nearly every “speaker related his or her talk to a science contribution of Professor Suomi or a personal experience.” For example, Gary Gibson of NASA’s Langley Research Center related how Professor Suomi “proposed in 1957 an experimental satellite to measure the Earth’s radiation budget.” It wasn’t until 1984 that scientists were able to launch the Earth Radiation Budget Experiment. Paul also mentioned Professor Suomi’s early inspirations for GEWEX itself.

    It may be stretching, but SSEC was mentioned in On Wisconsin, Fall 1999. This magazine for UW–Madison alumni features Wisconsin’s Wollersheim Winery. Bob Wollersheim was an SSEC engineer in the 1960s and ’70s. The article says, “back in the 1960s, he was a lab-bound professor of electrical engineering at the UW Space Science Center in Madison.”

    Honors, Etc.

    For More Information


    Steve Ackerman is listed in Wisconsin Week, September 8, as a member of the search committee for a new dean for the School of Nursing. Steve is one of four men on the 16 member committee, which is accepting applications till October 1.

    Names are being considered for the second Earth Observing System satellite, planned to be launched December 21, 2000 in an afternoon orbit. The names, in order of preference, are Revelle, Suomi, Meteora, and Arrhenius. The first EOS satellite, Terra, will be launched late this year in a morning orbit. [Ed.: I suppose it would be unseemly to lobby.]

    According to Unidata’s Dave Fulker, NSF has funded SuomiNet, a proposed network of GPS receivers to be located at universities and other locations to provide real-time atmospheric precipitable water vapor measurements and other geodetic and meteorological information. The proposed network is named to honor “meteorological satellite pioneer Verner Suomi,” SSEC’s founding director. SuomiNet will exploit the recently-shown ability of ground-based GPS receivers to make thousands of accurate upper and lower atmospheric measurements per day.

    In the Wings

    For More Information


    Nature magazine is considering a satellite image to accompany Kerry Emmanuel’s article on hurricane intensity. The Tropical Cyclones group provided one. Watch for it in the October 14 issue.

    Future Fair, a massive family event to be hosted by Madison Newspapers, is being readied for December 4 and 5 at the Monona Terrace Convention Center. About 8000 visitors are expected at the Fair, which will present latest trends and future products, including some from UW–Madison. Peyton Smith, organizing at the university, has asked SSEC to participate. SSEC’s outreach staff will exhibit a planetary rover with help from local middle schools. We also intend to exhibit the Verner Suomi Virtual Museum and other interactive programs. We’re seeking good pictures and images, and hands-on activities, that show off SSEC, including CIMSS, McIDAS, Vis5D, spaceflight hardware development, and anything else photogenic and futuristic that will look good on a poster and will show our research to good advantage. Please get your ideas and pictures, in any format, to Terri Gregory or Tony Wendricks by October 21.

    Direct comments, questions, and information about other SSEC media appearances to SSEC's Public Information Officer. For information about past media appearances, visit the SSEC In the News page.

    10-8-99 tg