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Is it possible to predict hurricane impacts?

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In the past century, weather prediction had come a long way. The modern meteorologist does not consult his oracle. He has access to far more sophisticated tools, such as satellite images and Doppler radar. He can anticipate the weather up to a week ahead of time, but even with all of this forewarning; the coast still suffers major damage every time a storm sweeps through since there isn't enough time to effectively prepare.

A meteorologist can only make educated assumptions, and guesses are invariably incorrect. Hurricanes may create a lot of damage because of the wind, waves, and rain, not to mention the chaos caused by people preparing for bad weather.

The latter is becoming more important as the monetary cost of disasters rises. The expanding coastal population and infrastructure, as well as rising sea levels, are all potential contributing factors to this increase in damage costs. This makes it even more critical to provide timely and accurate projections to the public, something that academics like us are actively working on.

Making forecasts

Hurricane forecasting has traditionally focused on predicting a storm's course and strength. The storm's path and magnitude will determine which areas are affected. To do so, forecasters use models, which are simple software programmes that are typically run on massive computers.

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Regrettably, no one forecast model regularly outperforms other models in delivering these forecasts. These projections can sometimes suggest significantly divergent courses that diverge by hundreds of kilometres. At times, the models agree almost entirely. Even when models agree, slight deviations in trajectory can result in extremely substantial variances in storm surge, winds, and other elements that affect damage and evacuations.

Furthermore, various empirical parameters in the prediction models are determined in either laboratory or isolated field trials. As a result, they may not accurately depict the current weather event.

Limited improvement

Over the last decade, track forecasts have progressively improved. Scientists use a range of data sources, including satellites, buoys, and planes flown into a forming storm, to better understand the environment around a storm and, as a result, improve their models. Some models have improved by up to 40% for some storms.

A weather buoy that collects data. United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Forecasts of intensity, on the other hand, have made minimal progress during the last few decades. This is due in part to the metric used to represent a tropical storm's severity. A popular technique to express intensity is to measure peak wind speed at a height of 10 metres above the surface. The maximum one-minute average wind speed reported at any particular location in the tropical storm is used by operational forecasters at the National Hurricane Centre in Miami to determine it.

A model, on the other hand, finds it extremely difficult to estimate a tropical cyclone's maximum wind speed at any given time in the future. The whole state of the atmosphere and ocean at the start of the model is inaccurately depicted by models. Small-scale tropical cyclone characteristics, such as substantial changes in rainfall, surface winds, and wave heights inside and outside of tropical cyclones, are not reliably reproduced in forecast models.

Storm strength can be influenced by both atmospheric and ocean factors. Scientists currently believe that greater ocean information might give the largest increases in forecast accuracy. The quantity of energy stored in the upper ocean, as well as how it varies with ocean features like eddies, is of particular interest. Current measurements are insufficient for correctly detecting ocean eddies or determining the size of these eddies.

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