WASHINGTON — A meteorologist who oversaw warnings and forecasts during one of the most intense hurricane surges on record in the Atlantic will take over as the new director of the National Weather Service, as scientists expect that extreme and dangerous storms and heat waves will worsen with climate change.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Tuesday named National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham to head the weather service, succeeding winter storm expert Louis Uccellini, who retired Jan. 1. In Graham’s four years as head of the hurricane center, there have been more named Atlantic storms, 101, than in any other four-year period since 1851, according to University of State of Colorado.
Graham also led weather service offices in Corpus Christi, Texas, and Birmingham, Alabama, including during a 2002 tornado outbreak that killed 12 people. He was also a television weatherman in Mississippi.
In his last two years as hurricane director, big storms came so often that “I hate to say the word routine, but they got so frequent we just got back into action,” Graham said. in an interview in May. “Almost 28 years in the weather service, I’ve seen a lot of damage. Lots of people losing everything, lots of lives lost.
The 2018 U.S. National Climate Assessment said warming-laden extremes “have already become more frequent, intense, widespread, or long-lasting” and will only get worse.
The weather service has approximately 4,900 employees and 144 offices. Weather, climate and water disasters cause about 650 deaths a year and cause about $15 billion in damage annually, according to NOAA.
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