Meteorological Mysteries: Hurricane forecasting

Meteorological Mysteries: Hurricane forecasting
Published: Jun. 23, 2021 at 7:20 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - We’re several weeks into hurricane season, and it’s busy in the Atlantic already with three named storms. Here in Florida and Georgia, we’re used to seeing those spaghetti models and cones of uncertainty.

When tropical disturbances first develop, meteorologists scour the oceans, scanning upper air charts and temperature maps and search for clues to track the storm through the Atlantic.

For a disturbance to strengthen into a tropical storm or hurricane, you need sea surface temperatures of at least 80°F of 26.5°C.

“It’s a source of warmth and humidity. Those two things lead to buoyancy, and buoyancy allows air to rise more efficiently, so you will get much stronger updrafts in a hurricane,” Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service Mark Wool explained.

Wind shear, or the change of wind speed and direction with height, tends to break apart tropical storms, preventing systems from organizing.

Next, forecasters turn their attention to the tropical cyclone’s track, which is determined by the storm’s intensity.

“Weaker, shallower tropical cyclones, tropical storms, depressions and more will tend to be steered by lower-level winds. When you get a more mature, taller, depth of hurricanes, etc., then it’s going to come under the influence of those winds aloft too,” Wool said.

Weather models can also guide forecasters when issuing advisories.

“Once we have all that information, all the radar data, all the satellite data, the hurricane reconnaissance data from the Hurricane Hunters then the Hurricane Center looks at some computer models and that’s kind of an understatement, there’s twenty-seven different models the National Hurricane Center look at,” explained Wool.

With model guidance and conditions over the water constantly changing, forecasters continually issue updates throughout hurricane season.

For timely tropical updates throughout hurricane season, you can download the WCTV Pinpoint Weather App. Another useful tool is the WCTV Hurricane Guide, which can be found by clicking here.

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