Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Inexact Science of Tropical Forecasting

A recently published article in the Brownsville (Texas) Herald yielded evidence to the inexact science of tropical weather forecasting. The article caught my attention because tropical forecasts are often times frustrating for many as they are probably one of the most erratic predictions meteorologists deal with, and because the story comes from a news outlet in a region that recently dealt with the aberrant forecasts of Hurricane Alex.

Despite the fact that tropical forecasting has not changed much in the last 20 years, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) is improving its ability to forecast storm intensity and tracks through its Hurricane Forecast Improvement Project (HFIP). The Project aims to reduce the average errors of hurricane track and intensity forecasts by 20 percent within five years and 50 percent in 10 years with a forecast period out to seven days. The NHC will do so through the development of advanced hurricane models, data assimilation systems and through the optimal use of real observations.

Using regional data in the Brownsville area, the NHC is now studying six tropical cyclones — Tropical Storm Beryl in 2000, Tropical Storm Bertha in 2002, Hurricane Erika in 2003, Hurricane Emily in 2005, Hurricane Dolly in 2008 and last week’s Hurricane Alex.

Speaking of difficult forecasting, what better time than now to call attention to one of my most valued tropical forecasting and analysis resources – a blog called Eye of the Storm, written by meteorologist and storm chaser, Greg Nordstrom. I've been learning quite a bit from Greg and he said it best himself in his post,
Tropics = TOUGH!, regarding system 96L (now Tropical Depression #2):

"This was one complex situation, and makes forecasting such a challenge... 96L has completely split, as the low-level center heads toward central Texas, and the mid-level center heads toward northern Mexico! This is a prime example why forecasting the tropics is extremely difficult!"

I encourage you all to follow Greg's blog at, and be sure to keep close tabs on both The Northeast Quadrant and Eye of the Storm as I join Greg this hurricane season for the ultimate hurricane chase! You won't want to miss the footage!

And if you have not done so already, check out AccuWeather's exclusive video, Social Media's Influence on Storm Chasing, featuring both Greg and me as AccuWeather looks in-depth at how the ease of today's communication impacts your every day weather and news broadcasts.