One of the federal government's top experts in winter storms will be the next director of the National Weather Service, officials announced Thursday just as a massive blizzard threatens New England.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief Jane Lubchenco appointed Louis Uccellini as head of the weather service. He had been director of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction. In that job he oversaw offices that forecast hurricanes, tornadoes, severe storms and space weather.
Uccellini, 63, said his goal is to give longer warning for large storms, like Superstorm Sandy that struck New York last year and the blizzard that is bearing down on New England.
Forecasting correctly "a unique storm like Sandy seven days in advance and (being) consistent all the way down to the event is remarkable," Uccellini said in an interview. "We want to improve our ability to forecast these and extend the prediction out in time."
He also said he hopes to extend the current local forecasts beyond the seven days the weather service now gives.
Last May, weather service chief Jack Hayes suddenly retired after an investigation found his agency was short $36 million and was shifting funds from technology accounts to meet payroll — without congressional permission. Uccellini said one of his priorities is "to restore budget credibility" to the weather service.
The past president of the American Meteorological Society, Uccellini is the author of two books on snowstorms in the Northeast, but said Washington often goes long stretches without big snowstorms.
"I would like to see a bit more activity in the winter, but on the other hand it is what it is," Uccellini said.