Know To See 'UNIQUE' - Can Researchers Predict Who Will Be Hit in the Next Hurricane Season

Know To See ‘UNIQUE’ – Can Researchers Predict Who Will Be Hit in the Next Hurricane Season?

Miami, Florida — Every preseason storm forecast this spring has had a grim, if not frightening, conclusion. The season is predicted to be active and maybe record-breaking, according to meteorologists and their computer models.

Because so many storms are predicted, it’s quite likely that someone will be hit by lightning this year.

But who and where precisely?

For a long time, many scientists have believed it was impossible to provide an answer to that question months before any storm ever formed.

But more and more professionals are beginning to try their hand at it. For example, this year’s early forecasts for hurricane season 2024, which officially begins on Monday and extends through November, from AccuWeather and Colorado State University both included landfall odds.

With CSU predicting a near-lock that the state will be touched somewhere by a tropical cyclone and a nearly one-in-three chance that South Florida will witness a hurricane, their odds will further heighten Florida’s seasonal hurricane fear. This season, Accuweather forecasts four to six direct hits somewhere near the US coastline.

Meteorologists emphasize that while there is still a great deal of uncertainty in these long-range forecasts, they also show how science is developing and our understanding of tropical weather systems is continually increasing.

According to Philip Klotzbach, a researcher and meteorologist in charge of the widely followed Colorado State University projections, “the odds of any one spot getting hit are low, no matter how bananas the hurricane season gets.” “However, the likelihood of it being a calm season for everyone is very low in an environment as charged as it is in 2024.”

Forecasting the future by looking at the past

Predicting landfalls is far more difficult than seasonal numbers for a variety of reasons. Global factors that contribute to storm formation, including the warm temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, are measurable and typically fluctuate gradually.

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However, many of the mechanisms that control them can be cyclical and regional, such as fronts of weather that move across the southeast of the United States and drive storms back out to sea. Because of this, the National Hurricane Center only projects storm tracks out to five days, and even then, their increasingly precise maps are subject to change in the final days or hours before impact. Numerous recent instances abound.

Two years ago, the eye of Hurricane Ian moved nearly 80 miles southward in the final day before slamming into Fort Myers Beach and became one of the worst storms to ever hit Florida, with 149 fatalities. Twenty years earlier in 2004, Hurricane Charley was predicted to slam into downtown Tampa, but on the final day, it also jogged east, striking Port Charlotte, which is located about 100 miles south.

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However, researching the history rather than the future is a major component of the science involved in forecasting distant landfalls. It is mostly based on something that should be evident to anyone who has spent any time living in South Florida: hurricane strikes have happened here in the past.

Forecasters refer to it as the “return period” or “return interval.” In essence, it is a statistical mean of the frequency of storms that have struck a specific location during the past 100 years or records. For instance, South Florida experiences a hurricane landfall every six to seven years, according to the National Hurricane Center’s projections.

Yet analysts are adding to that foundational information as well. To determine which locations were impacted more frequently, AccuWeather, for example, also compared the approaching season to previous seasons with similar meteorology. The rising sea surface temperatures we’ve witnessed recently as a result of human-caused global warming are also taken into account, as they are associated with an increase in storm generation.

According to AccuWeather’s senior hurricane forecaster Alex DaSilva, “we plotted storm landfalls of those years and highlighted areas there’s clustering as areas that are most vulnerable.” “It provides you with a good gauge, though it’s not perfect,”

Miami-Dade has a 36% likelihood of experiencing hurricane-related damages this year, according to CSU’s estimate; this is more than the 23% average of hurricane-related impacts from 1880 to 2020. According to CSU, Florida as a whole has a 96% likelihood of experiencing storm-related damage this season.

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However, much as in the stock market, past performance does not guarantee future outcomes. In addition, the landfall projections are somewhat wide. It’s reasonable to assume that Florida will be affected by a tropical system at any time of year. With what seems to be a busy few months ahead, no forecaster can predict with precision where or when storms will make landfall.

Distant forecasts

It’s not new to try to improve projections. There has always been a drive to find out as quickly as possible since science has always tried to explain the origins and movements of hurricanes.

A few days’ notice is enough to buy time to put up shutters, evacuate people, or arrange for nearby aid resources to be placed. It could be possible to save billions of dollars and lives if one knew weeks or months in advance the exact location and timing of a hurricane.

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Beyond the realm of public safety, there are other stakeholders who are also interested in knowing the potential timing and location of storms, including investors, insurers, and various sectors.

A popular TikTok from August of last year persuaded a number of people to believe that “September 6 of this year, Florida and the Carolinas will be hit with a Category 6 hurricane.”

Even though there is no such thing as a Category 6 (the scale ends at five), and even though the initial source of the allegation was a satirical account posing as a time traveler, the bogus information spread widely.

While more media sources are incorporating landfall probability into their preseason predictions, some experts argue that it is not only impractical to precisely predict location and power ahead of time, but that it might never be achievable.

“As for being able to predict that a storm will hit Florida on September 1st, I don’t know if we’ll ever get there in our lifetimes,” DaSilva remarked.

Changing the objective

Even Nevertheless, a lot of individuals continue to wonder why not.

According to Mike Ventrice, senior quantitative meteorologist at Chicago-based investing firm DRW Holdings, traders frequently inquire about the reason for forecasters’ inability to anticipate storms months ahead of time.

He claimed that a combination of atmospheric disorder, information gaps, and technical restrictions provide the solution.

Some components of the weather, especially those that are far away, remain unpredictable despite all the scientific advancements. In a cautious move toward longer-term forecasts, the National Hurricane Center recently increased the duration of its long-view tropical outlook from five to seven days.

That week-ahead forecast, however, is primarily intended to pinpoint the time and location of potential storm formation. There is a five-day window of uncertainty over where they are most likely to travel, which is why it is being keenly studied. The NHC projection for landfall contains an error margin of just over 100 miles, even at three days.

A seven-day cone is used by the private corporation AccuWeather, which generates comparable weather forecasts. DaSilva stated that, while there are currently no plans for it, he might see the corporation increasing it to eight or nine days at some point.

He remarked, “If you’re going that far out, once you get past 10 days, you’re basically pinpointing landfall.”

Ventrice stated that a greater comprehension of what causes a hurricane to occur would be necessary to move that goal post even further. Global weather prediction computer models would also need to produce their forecasts more quickly. Right now, the supercomputers can take days or even weeks to provide data that indicates what the atmosphere’s near-term future might contain.

“More modeling that out will require high-resolution models, for which we don’t currently have the computing power,” he stated. “Three weeks from now, you don’t want to wait a month to release a forecast.”

Determining the kind of conditions the potential storm will face near to shore is the first step toward the day when meteorologists can predict where and when a hurricane will make landfall with confidence. And it remains an unanswered question that far away, he said.

“We can’t predict whether it will be wet or dry in your area in 25 days, as everyone here is aware of,” Ventrice remarked.

Enhancing knowledge and abilities

Nevertheless, there are positive indications that the field of long-range forecasting is developing.

A technology that Klotzbach describes as having “not a lot of skill, but still cool” is used by the National Weather Service to identify areas where a storm may occur in the next two to three weeks. Furthermore, the hurricane center’s forecasting error rate for storm intensity and route has sharply decreased in recent decades.

Only recently did WeatherTiger, a Tallahassee-based meteorological analytics company, begin providing paid users with daily updated landfall probability for Florida.

Although it’s difficult, Klotzbach noted that his team’s ability to estimate larger amounts is improving. “Is progress going to occur? Yes, indeed.

He did, however, note that the accuracy of forecasting is probably limited. And the reason for that is the atmosphere’s disarray. Science is still learning about the interactions between overlapping jet streams and weather patterns that resemble a super highway in the Atlantic Ocean.

According to Klotzbach, “the system has inherent noise.” “There is a difference between a hurricane that costs $100 billion and one that costs $10 billion: a wobble.”

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