During the record 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, something happened that many people overlooked — hurricane forecasts improved. And that saved lives. With another active hurricane season expected, that’s great news.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) believes it can build upon last year’s success thanks to a targeted initiative, new strategies and updates to long-standing computer models. It’s essential to get the forecast right because evacuation costs can soar into the tens of millions.
Most atmospheric systems that steer storms are large, easy to measure, and are easily understood, so most models forecast the track well. When a hurricane forms, NHC aims an arsenal of computer models to predict where the storm will go and how strong it will be.
Some of those models are no more sophisticated than the GPS in your car. If you’re driving north at 60 mph, you should travel 120 miles in two hours. Other models determine the track based on knowing the behavior of past storms forming in similar locations.
The 2021 season should be another above average one. Hopefully, these forecast improvements will increase confidence when coastal residents and emergency managers need to make difficult evacuation and other safety decisions.