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Annual Tropical Cyclone Report 2008

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Executive Summary

The Annual Tropical Cyclone Report is prepared by the staff of the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC), a combined Air Force/Navy organization operating under the command of the Commanding Officer, U.S. Naval Maritime Forecast Center/Joint Typhoon Warning Center (NMFC/JTWC), Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

JTWC was established in April 1959 when USCINCPAC directed USCINCPACFLT to provide a single tropical cyclone warning center for the western North Pacific region. The operations of JTWC are guided by USPACOM Instruction 0539.1. JTWC will celebrate its 50th Anniversary in a ceremony on Ford Island, Oahu, on 29 April 2009.
This edition continues our effort to provide standard tropical cyclone summaries by basin and detailed reviews of operationally or meteorologically significant tropical cyclones to document significant challenges and/or shortfalls in the tropical cyclone warning system to serve as a focal point for research and development efforts.

Year 2008 continued the below normal activity in the western North Pacific, with 27 tropical cyclones occurring compared to an average of 31. The South Indian Ocean and South Pacific activity was right on average with 29 cyclones. The North Indian Ocean was slightly above normal with 7 cyclones compared to an average of 5. Of significance in the North Indian Ocean was TC 01B, Nargis. Nargis formed in the central Bay of Bengal and tracked northwestward then turned east-northeastward, making landfall along the souther tip of Myanmar after reaching peak intensity of 115 knots. Other significant cyclones include Typhoon 07W, Fengshen, and Typhoon 15W, Sinlaku. Fengshen was significant because despite its continuous west-northwest track, all the numerical modes forecast it to turn north, some at right angles to the final track. Sinlaku was significant because it underwent two periods of rapid intensification, neither which was captured by the intensity guidance available to the JTWC forecasters.

Weather satellite data continued to be the mainstay for the tropical cyclone reconnaissance mission at JTWC, although limited aircraft reconnaissance was available for August and Septemer. Satellite analysts exploited a wide variety of conventional and microwave satellite data to produce nearly 9,200 position and intensity estimates. A total of 4,639 fixes were done using microwave imagery, amounting to just over half of the total number of fixes. The USAF primary weather satellite direct readout system, Mark IVB, and the USN FMQ-17 continued to be invaluable tools in the tropical cyclone reconnaissance mission.

During August and September of 2008, the THORPEX Pacific Asian Regional Campaign (T-PARC) and Tropical Cyclone Structure 2008 (TCS-08) brought together an international group of researchers and operators to conduct an intense tropical cyclone data collection effort. This experiment enlisted a wide variety of data collection platforms including the USAFR WC-130J with its dropsondes and step frequency microwave radiometer (SMRF), the NRL P-3 with its ELDORA radar, the Taiwanese DOTSTAR with its dropsondes, and the German Falcon. Additionally, drifting bouys, and other insitu instruments were launched from various platforms including unmanned balloons launched from Hawaii.

Continuing dialogue and interaction with TC forecast support and research organizations such as the Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center, Naval Research Laboratory, Monterey, Naval Post Graduate School, and the Office of Naval Research for continued development of numerical TC models and forecast aids, including continued improvements to the Navy’s version of the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab (GFDL) mesoscale hurricane model (GFDN) occurred in 2008 and will continue into 2009. Additionally, a tropical cyclone version of COAMPS, designated COAMPS-TC was developed by NRL Monterey. COAMPSTC was run experimentally during T-PARC and will be operationally tested by JTWC in 2009. Hurricane WRF (H-WRF) to support JTWC was also pursued, however, resource constraints will delay running this community model in the JTWC area of responsibility until at least 2010.

Behind all these efforts are the dedicated men and women of JTWC who continued their quest to remain the premier tropical cyclone reconnaissance and forecasting center in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The civilianization of a large portion of the USAF members assigned to JTWC was completed in 2008, although the hiring process continued into 2009. Manning reductions as part of the larger DoD drawdown will result in the loss of 2 enlisted authorizations in 2009, brining the USAF contribution to the JTWC mission to 14 personnel.

The USN provided 3 Typhoon Duty Officers, the JTWC Operations Officer, and the JTWC Technical Advisor.
Thanks to the entire Naval Maritime Forecast Center/Joint Typhoon Warning Center N6 Department for their continued outstanding IT support with special thanks to Mr. Angelo Alvarez for his tireless efforts to keep the computers, communications and numerous websites working. Thanks also to the Navy and Air Force personnel across the Pacific who support our reconnaissance and forecasting functions, the researchers and programmers helping develop our knowledge base and tool kit to better forecast tropical cyclones. Without an integrated effort, the challenging task of locating and forecasting the movement and structure of tropical cyclones would be considerably more difficult. That entire TC community will continue to focus all available science and technology on providing the best possible support to you, our customers, who stand in harm’s way.

As always, thanks to our supporting commands and organizations: Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center (FNMOC) for their operational support; the Naval Research Laboratory for its dedicated research; the Air Force Weather Agency (AFWA) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) for satellite support; for their high quality support; all the men and women of the ships and facilities ashore throughout the JTWC area of responsibility (AOR); Dr. John Knaff, Dr. Jeff Hawkins, Dr Mark DeMaria, and Chris Veldon for their continuing efforts to exploit remote sensing technologies in new and innovative ways; Mr. Charles R. “Buck” Sampson and Ann J. Schrader for their support and continued development of the Automated Tropical Cyclone Forecasting (ATCF) system, which remains the backbone of production at JTWC.