Weather Channel Expert Tabbed to Lead Hurricane Center

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has chosen Rick Knabb, currently the tropical weather expert for The Weather Channel (TWC), as the next director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami. He will take over from retiring director Bill Read as of June 4 — three days after the start of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season. Read served for more than four years, tracking 63 different tropical weather systems.

Rick Knabb. Credit: NOAA.

Knabb, 43, was formerly a NOAA researcher and manager prior to joining The Weather Channel as the on-air hurricane expert in 2010. He was deputy director of NOAA’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center in Honolulu, and before that, he was a senior hurricane specialist and the science and operations officer at the Hurricane Center.

The position of hurricane center director is a high-profile assignment, requiring a mix of communications skills and scientific expertise that is unique in meteorology.

“When hurricanes threaten our coastal communities, those in harm’s way look to NOAA’s National Hurricane Center for life-saving information,” said NOAA Director Jane Lubchenco during a conference call with reporters. “Rick personifies that calm, clear and trusted voice that the nation has come to rely on. Rick will also lead our hurricane center team and work closely with federal, state and local emergency management authorities to ensure the public is prepared to weather the storm.”

Hurricane Irene as it approached the Southeast Coast in 2011. Credit: NASA.

Knabb earned a bachelor’s degree in Atmospheric Science from Purdue University and holds a master’s degree and Ph.D. in Meteorology from Florida State University.

“I know what the job entails and I know what is in store and what we have to accomplish,” Knabb said. He noted that researchers and forecasters need to make improvements in hurricane intensity forecasts, as well as refining track forecasts, which have shown greater accuracy in recent years.

NOAA is scheduled to release its 2012 Atlantic hurricane outlook on May 24. Outlooks from research groups and private companies have called for an average to below-average season.