As bizarre as it sounds we are less than two months from the start of the Atlantic hurricane season. In recent years, record hurricane seasons and storms with names like Laura, Ida, and Ian have changed lives (and landscapes) in the United States. The director of the National Hurricane Center (NHC) is one of the most important meteorologists in the U.S. Here is what you need to know about scientist who was just appointed to that role.
On April 10th, 2023, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced Dr. Michael Brennan as the next director of its National Hurricane Center. The position became vacant when its previous director, Ken Graham, became the director of the National Weather Service (NWS). According to a NOAA press release, “Since 2018, Brennan has been the Branch Chief of the Hurricane Specialist Unit….he supervised one of NOAA’s highest profile operational forecast units through 18 U.S. landfalling hurricanes — including eight major hurricanes — and more than 20 U.S. tropical storm landfalls.” The meteorologist began his NHC career as a Senior Hurricane Specialist. He was a Science and Operations Officer at NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center prior to his arrival at the hurricane center in 2008.
As a former president of the American Meteorological Society, I have the pleasure of knowing or interacting with a lot of meteorologists. I can assure you that Dr. Brennan is very prepared to assume one of the most high-profile and critical meteorologist roles in the nation. NWS Director Graham said, “Mike is an innovator who has built incredible relationships across the agency and with our emergency management and media partners, and I look forward to the great things ahead at NHC under his leadership.” NOAA’s Administrator Dr. Rick Spinrad also had supportive words for Dr. Brennan. Spinrad noted, “The NHC director is one of the most visible and important jobs in the nation, and Mike possesses the right combination of experience, leadership and personal traits to prepare and guide us through major storms.”
Candidly, NHC has a wealth of talent, and our nation should be grateful to have such accomplished, talented scientists watching over the tropics on our behalf. Jamie Rhome was the acting director of the National Hurricane Center during 14 named storms in 2022 and will continue as the deputy director. Rhome has been instrumental in the NHC’s storm surge prediction and messaging capabilities.
Dr. Brennan earned his Bachelors (meteorology), Masters (Atmospheric Sciences), and Ph.D. (Atmospheric Sciences) at North Carolina State University. He remarked, “I am honored and humbled to work with the talented staff at the National Hurricane Center at a time when we are making exciting advancements in hurricane forecasts and developing new decision support tools to improve community resilience to powerful hurricanes and tropical storms.” He is right. Hurricane intensity track forecasting has made significant strides in recent decades. Though lagging track forecast skill, improvements are revealing themselves in intensity forecasting as well.
As I have written many times, the National Hurricane Center is where you should start and end your information gathering as hurricane season kicks into high gear. These professionals are highly-skilled and carry a heavy burden – predicting weather conditions that can cause fatalities and life-altering damage.
Thank you Dr. Brennan and colleagues for your service.