Ryan -- I'd wait to see what the models do over the next couple of days before putting a lot of stock into their many oscillations. The threat is there, as the mid-Atlantic and NE will be impacted by this storm in some way or another -- whether high surf as it recurves harmlessly to sea, a direct impact from the south, or a recurvature after landfall much further south as the storm heads back out to sea in the midlatitude pattern -- but how strong those impacts are is yet to be determined. As Bloodstar/Mark said, just stay tuned for now.
Anton -- truth be told, I'm not sure on the specifics of the computing systems down at the NHC. I've been there once myself and know a couple of people down there, but never really got into their computing setup. All of the American models that they use, save the FSU Superensemble, are run off of NCEP's supercomputers up in Maryland. That is a pretty nice setup, though they could use more power. That machine is somewhere on the top 500 list of most powerful supercomputers -- and somewhere in the top 200, I believe -- but not as far up as the European Center's machines and not as far up as they used to be. 4000 TB of disk space is nothing to sneeze at, but the computing power could stand for an upgrade. Not sure on the particulars of that setup, though. FSU Superensemble is run on our supercomputer, which is also on the top 500 list...used to be top 50, but now I believe it is just inside the top 500. Don't know of any specific involvement with the Pittsburgh group, however.
As for weather policy...I recently had the chance to meet with some of the advisors to both sides (Republican & Democratic) on weather & policy making. It is a very fascinating process, how it all occurs, but they do mention the limited funds. You can go to the floor of the house and say that you need more research for climate studies or hurricanes, as those are two topics that directly impact constituents' lives, but it's much tougher to get it for, say, improving a 3 day weather forecast by 15% when there are others wanting money for education, roads, and so on. The biggest problem with the global warming/climate change issue is that the modelling is still in a rudiamentary issue and there is much debate amongst the scientists in the field -- yet alone the policymakers -- about its impacts in the long-term and any potential impacts it is having on, say, hurricanes.
That alone begs for more funding to actually figure these things out, but data availability is always going to be a problem; it's tough to get data from 10,000 and 100,000 years ago to properly initialize these models and understand what is occuring now in comparison to what has occured in the past. Only time will tell as to where the whole fields of climate studies and meteorology head towards -- right now it seems climate modelling and satellite-based remote sensing techniques -- though there is some inertia around to see some progress.
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