Thanks so much for following along as I embark on a week-long hurricane awareness blog series. On Tuesday we discussed how and why storms form, yesterday we talking about where they form and today I'm going to cover how we forecast these things AFTER they form. There is A LOT of info to get out there when it comes to hurricanes and tropical weather so I thought it would be easiest to break it down in parts so you're not overwhelmed with info. Please feel free to ask questions! That is what I'm here for - to teach. The more YOU know, the easier MY job becomes.
Look at how things have changed in the past 30 years. In 1989 we could only tell you the approximate point of impact within roughly 200 miles 48 hours out. Today we can hone in on about a 50 mile area. Within 12-24 hours out we can tell you almost exactly where the landfall is going to occur.
Why is this all possible? Technology is getting better. We have new satellites orbiting the Earth that are dedicated to getting high resolution images of our atmosphere which help forecasters determine what's going on in real time. All this info is getting fed into our computer models (and there are a lot of them) to come up with better forecasts. The better info that goes INTO models, the better info comes OUT.
Here's a look at the GOES 16 Satellite. The hurricane featured here is Harvey - it went into Texas back in 2017. Look at the attention to detail. This is MUCH different than how things were even 10 years ago.
Once a disturbance starts coming together and if it looks like it will enter an environment that will be favorable for development - we keep a very close eye on it. The National Hurricane Center will start tracking storms early on to give the public an idea of where they may go. They will eventually issue a "cone of uncertainty". This takes all forecasts into account and gives a range of where the center of the storm could track. The cone widens as the days go on because just like with the 7 day forecast we issue daily, the level of confidence goes down beyond 72 hours.
That cone can be updated as many as 4 times a day, so it's important to pay very close attention to it should a hurricane or tropical storm be threatening our area.
Forecasting a storm in its infancy stages is stressful because solutions amongst the models can vary so greatly. This image goes back to October 2012. The storm i'm referencing is Sandy. Look at how tightly packed together the lines are initially. This means there was good model consensus showing that outcome. Each line represents a different model. Look at where they converge. Several were out to sea, but many picked up on the "lefthand turn" Sandy ultimately took into our region. It's important to understand that when these are posted on social media, they are NOT official forecasts. The meteorologist posting is showing you the progression of how the forecast is developing. These are tools we use to predict what's going to happen in the future.
I hope this blog did it's job to give you a better insight as to what goes on behind the scenes and what we look at. Stay tuned for more this week!