NOAA 2001-R250
Contact: Frank Lepore


NOAA's National Weather Service conferred its highest honor, the Isaac M. Cline Award, to James Franklin of Miami, a hurricane specialist at the weather service's National Hurricane Center. The award was presetned at the 2001 Atlantic Hurricane Season Opening news conference in Washington, D.C., on May 21, 2001. Franklin was recognized for improving the accuracy of hurricane forecasting through the innovative application of Global Positioning System technology.

Each year the weather service, a Commerce Department agency, recognizes employees for operational excellence in the delivery of products and services in support of the weather service mission. Franklin pioneered the analysis of data from the nation's hurricane hunting aircraft to measure the violent heart of the storm. The aircraft deploy dropwindsondes (for drop wind sounding) into hurricanes to measure barometric pressure, temperature, water vapor and wind speed as it falls through the atmosphere. They send data back to the aircraft and ultimately the National Hurricane Center, which uses the data in forecast models.

"For years there have been debates in the scientific community about how to accurately assess a hurricane's maximum surface wind speed. James Franklin's research provides a detailed and accurate profile of the inner core of a hurricane–the most intense and turbulent part of a hurricane – from flight level down to the earth's surface," said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Jack Kelly, weather service director, as he presented the award to Franklin.

Armed with these data, NOAA scientists, along with other private and public meteorological organizations, can now measure the intensity and size of hurricanes with greater confidence and accuracy, and detect critical changes that occur in a hurricane's strength sooner than we could before, Kelly noted.

The practical implications of Franklin's analyses are wide ranging. Coastal residents living in high rise buildings, for example, should flee from rising storm surge water, but not take shelter in the middle and upper-floors of high rise buildings. The higher they go the more exposed they become to hurricane winds which increase with elevation. With more accurate hurricane assessments and forecasts, government officials and emergency managers can make more informed decisions regarding evacuation of coastal areas.

The Isaac M. Cline Award is named for the man whose courage and dedication is credited with savings thousands of lives during the Galveston, Texas, hurricane of September 8, 1900. Cline was in charge of the Weather Bureau Office in Galveston when the bustling seaport city was struck by the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history. The death toll exceeded 8,000, but could have been much higher if not for Cline's understanding of the weather and his initiative in warning the public.

Franklin is one of six National Hurricane Center forecasters responsible for tropical cyclone forecasts and warnings for the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, and the eastern North Pacific Ocean. He joined the Hurricane Center in 1999 after 17 years as a scientist with NOAA's Hurricane Research Division. During that time he made more than 80 hurricane "eyewall" -- the most intense and turbulent part of the hurricane -- penetrations aboard the NOAA WP-3D "Orion" hurricane hunter aircraft researching hurricane motion and structure.

Franklin, a native of Miami, has a bachelor's and a master's degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has published more than 20 scientific articles on hurricane motion, inner-core structure, forecasting, and meteorological instrumentation.