Hurricane Forecasting Changes of 2009

By: Martha Spencer Email
By: Martha Spencer Email

Hurricane experts and meteorologists from around the country gather each year to recap the previous hurricane season and discuss possible forecasting changes.

In the 2008 hurricane season there were sixteen named tropical cyclones in the north Atlantic, including five major hurricanes of category three or higher. Despite the above normal activity, the national hurricane center in Miami has greatly improved their forecasting skills.

"We watch these birthing areas for tropical storms and hurricanes and then we monitor them from the national hurricane center, and we monitor them and as necessary we forecast the track and the intensity changes," says Bill Proenza, the director of the National Weather Service's Southern Division.

From 1994 through 2003 the national hurricane center's largest degree of error was a 200 mile wide swath three days out from land fall. Between 2008 they narrowed that margin by 100 miles.

"We actually began preparing for the next hurricane season as soon as the last one ended," says Bill Read the director of the National Hurricane Center.

In addition to better accuracy, starting in 2010 the NHC will issue a hurricane watch 48 hours out from a storm, and a hurricane warning 36 hours out extending both by twelve hours in order to give the public more time to prepare.

One of the most difficult challenges for emergency management officials is relaying to the public how dangerous storm surges can be, even from less intense hurricanes.

The NHC has tweaked a number of variables in forecasting storm surge, including making their format easier for emergency management officials to relay to the general public.

Based on the latest hurricane projections for 2009, forecasters are calling for possibly one of the quietest hurricane seasons in more than a decade, and a shifting of threat from the gulf to the Atlantic coastline.

None-the-less, it only takes *one* storm to cause devastation, and every hurricane season should be given equal attention

While this storm season is predicted to have average storm development, cooler waters in the Atlantic and the presence of an El Niño effect in the Atlantic could significantly reduce tropical cyclone development.

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