Often, disagreements are born of misunderstanding, and I think this may have happened here. When I referred to professional forecasters, I meant exactly that: the meteorologists that work for the NHC, NOAA, and other organizations around the world, including private ones. I would call them scientists, in the truest sense of the world. Most of them do get some or all of their information from NOAA and its branches, simply because they have many of the satellites and most of the really big computers
which are needed to produce the models. That is not to say that there aren't other countries with satellites and computers
; in fact, of the two models that have historically been the most accurate with regard to hurricanes, one is the US based GFS, and the other is the Euro model. But, there are other good ones, and improvements are constantly being made, including some pretty significant ones made to the GFS, just this year. And while the Euro model has generally done a bit better than the GFS, it all depends on how each model initializes a given storm, and that varies from storm to storm. Real forecasting and analytical skill is involved in deciding which model is most appropriate for a given storm....that and actually flying into a hurricane
, which, unfortunately, is necessary to truly determine the center and a number of other things upon which the best forecasts depend. And these flights are mostly done by the US, some by NOAA and some by the Military.
When I talk about private forecasters, I am referring to persons or organizations who produce a product (and sometimes charge for it) that applies mostly to a particular area or a particular need like shipping
routers fall into this category, folks like Commander's Weather
, for example, or Chris Parker. Years ago in Mexico
, before the days of Don Anderson, there was a guy on the Chubasco Ham Net, who was very good considering the more limited weather sources and computing powers of the day. He was actually a teacher, and his vocation of teaching eventually pushed out his avocation of Mexican weather. But he was good, and he had very good real-time on-the-ground resources that were organized via the Sonrisa Net. For many years, Herb Hilgenberger did a terrific job for vessels in the Atlantic and beyond. It was a very intensive labor of love. Chris Parker is one of the folks who have slipped into the void left when Herb quit, and he does a good job too. Each of these private weather forecasting sources had or has its own biases and tendencies, and it sometimes took or takes quite awhile to become able to factor those into account when making an informed weather choice. But, for all these folks and organizations, the real nitty gritty weather sources and computer fire-power come from NOAA and its counterparts in a few other nations. They are the only ones with the resources required. So it's truly silly to dismiss NOAA, and it's also silly to dismiss similar sources from outside the US. And it's ironic when some of the private forecasters do so, perhaps for commercial
purposes, since their raw data always comes from these very sources!
For what it is worth, when I was responsible for the safety
of several hundred boats in a marina in Baja
, for five years (we never lost
one), I spent a good part of the day (in Hurricane
Season) going through the stuff from NOAA/NHC, Dr. Jeff Masters (Weather Underground), and the Chubasco Net. Now, running a charter
yacht in the Caribbean
, I use NOAA/NHC, Dr. Jeff Masters (Weather Underground), Chris Parker, Windguru, and Crown Weather. I blend all of them, which usually works right back to the NHC. But I still prepare carefully, each time, using the lessons learned from multiple near misses and three direct hits. If you live in the hurricane zones year round, you can't always dodge the bullet. I must be crazy!!!
I think that when Zee fulminates about professional forecasters, she may be referring to the folks that crop up on TV and deliver very sensationalistic forecasts. Many of them are simply newscasters who are designated as the weather person for that show. Some are meteorologists, too, but I suspect they are all simply trying to drive up ratings. Even the Weather Channel is very guilty of that, although this used to be much less the case. And, sorry to say, in the cruising world, there is much second hand forecasting done that is of the same nature, and that has included very well known sources, in Mexico
and other places. And, in blogs like this one.
For what it is worth, the pros at the NHC seem to have had a very good handle on Blanca, as they usually do. Blanca is rapidly weakening, for all the predictable reasons of water
temperature, topography, sheer, and dry air, all of which the NHC has been pointing out for several days. The storm is blowing in Los Cabos, at this moment, and it will cause some problems up the coast. Hopefully, all the boats that folks are concerned about, not to mention those that have gone unmentioned, will make out OK. The swells will probably cause some damage in Los Cabos and similarly facing beaches, and be felt all the way up in SoCal. And the rain may knock out some roads in Baja
for a relatively short period of time. All of this is unwelcome, but predictable and far from unusual.
For what it is worth, the Sea of Cortez
is not a deathtrap for boats, although quite a number of boats have been trapped there, over the years. I have always said that, in order to live in a hurricane area, you have to have the discipline to adequately prepare for the eleventh storm, when the first ten either missed, dissipated, or did no damage. And, even if you prepare, you can get unlucky in the Sea, just like anywhere else. Probably the two most vulnerable categories of boats, over the years, have been those that have been left unattended for the summer (or longer), even in the "care" of someone (who will be desperately caring for his or her own boat if things really get chaotic), and those belonging to folks who have more or less stopped or taken a vacation
from cruising and have "settled" into an area. This becomes a factor in their decision making and renders it far less objective than the thinking of folks who are truly cruising and moving about, and are willing to run, when necessary. La Paz
certainly comes to mind, and, to a lesser extent, so do Puerto Escondido, Bahia
Concepcion, and Santa Rosalia. But, they are all great spots for some storms, particularly PE, and there are many other nooks and crannies. Zee has chosen not to spend time there, for reasons that make sense to her, and so she may not be aware of the various spots. But, they are there, and the folks who move around become aware of them. And prepare.