Boston Blog

The science of predicting a hurricane’s path

As Bay Staters stock up on bottled water and batteries, NNB offers some links to the science of hurricanes.

The Museum of Science offers a site for kids called Weatherwise. If the MOS windows hold up, you can watch the storm come in on their weather cam.

An MIT class called “”“>Solving Complex Problems” tried to figure out how to protect New Orleans as part of a 2010 project.

They set up a web site that includes a page called “Predicting Hurricanes” with some very basic information on the science of tracking storms.

Once a hurricane has formed, it can be tracked. Scientists can usually predict its path for 3-5 days in advance. A hurricane’s possible trajectory is usually represented as a cone, which shrinks over time as the error in the prediction decreases. To predict the path of these storms, meteorologists can use many different models. The original best model was CLIPER (Climate and Persistence). It is designed as a statistical regression equation based on past data and current climatological data. This was the major forecasting model used up until the 1980’s. Today it is used primarily for testing and comparing new models. NHC90 and BAM (Beta and Advection Model) are two models based on data gathered by planes. They use measurements taken multiple times in a day, and the models themselves are updated every couple of years. The National Hurricane Center relies heavily on two different international forecasting systems, the United Kingdom Meteorological Office’s global model and the United States Navy Operational Global Atmospheric Predictions Systems (NOAA, 2004). There are many more models used. This list includes only several of the major, most common models used to forecast the movement of storm systems.

Researchers at Colorado State University offers these predictions

Information obtained through July 2011 indicates that the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season will be much more active than the average 1950-2000 season. We estimate that 2011 will have about 9 hurricanes (average is 5.9), 16 named storms (average is 9.6), 80 named storm days (average is 49.1), 35 hurricane days (average is 24.5), 5 major (Category 3-4-5) hurricanes (average is 2.3) and 10 major hurricane days (average is 5.0). The probability of U.S. major hurricane landfall and Caribbean major hurricane activity is estimated to be well above its long-period average. We expect Atlantic basin Net Tropical Cyclone (NTC) activity in 2011 to be approximately 175 percent of the long-term average season. We have maintained our seasonal forecast from early April and early June.

For this seasone, they predicted that the chance of a hurrcane hitting massachusetss is 11% — higher than the 7% average and the chance of a major hurricane at 3%, compare to a 2 percent average.

More from The National Hurricane Center.


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