National Hurricane Center forecasters to get help from team leader

Mar 13, 2009

Team leader position will add layer of expertise at storm center

By Ken Kaye

South Florida Sun-Sentinel--March 13, 2009

The elite forecasters at the National Hurricane Center will have an extra set of eyes to help develop more accurate storm predictions this year: their new boss.

James Franklin, a veteran tropical meteorologist, has been promoted to the newly created position of team leader over the center’s 10 hurricane specialists.

Franklin, 51, said one of his primary duties will be to assist forecasters as they decipher the atmospheric conditions around storms.

“It’s really nice to have a second or third opinion when you’re sitting in that forecaster chair,” he said Thursday. “There’s a lot of conflicting information that has to be weighed.”

He also plans to shoulder some of the forecasters’ normal responsibilities, such as coordinating watches and warnings. That should allow the hurricane specialists to better focus, he said.

“It’s so busy on the operations floor that having someone there to reduce the distractions will make things run more smoothly,” he said.

Although most of his time will be spent on administrative chores, Franklin said he still plans to do some forecasting himself, as his schedule permits.

The new position was created as part of a staff reorganization that stemmed from Bill Proenza’s ouster as the hurricane center director in 2007.

Officially, Franklin’s new job title is branch chief of the Hurricane Specialists Unit. As such, he answers to center director Bill Read.

Read said Franklin was selected because of his strong forecasting background.

“Most importantly, he’s got the trust and respect of his co-workers,” Read said.

Franklin joined the hurricane center, which is in Miami-Dade County, in 1999 as a hurricane specialist. Before that, he worked for 17 years as a research meteorologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Hurricane Research Division – a job that provided an up-close view of the powerful storms he and his team now monitor from the hurricane center.

“I did a lot of flying into storms in NOAA’s P-3 [hurricane hunter aircraft],” he said.