After Charley, a Better Crystal Ball

By Peter N. Spotts writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, August 19, 2004 | Go to article overview

After Charley, a Better Crystal Ball


Peter N. Spotts writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


It sat silently off the southwest coast of Florida last Friday - a vast pool of unusually warm seawater as well suited to a salt- water spa as to the open subtropical ocean. Meanwhile, high above, a filament of high-speed air had peeled away from its mother flow, the jet stream.

For hurricane Charley, heading north after clearing Cuba, meeting this patch of ocean was like turbocharging a locomotive. Fueled by the unusually warm water below and the right wind environment aloft, Charley stunned forecasters as it grew from a worrisome storm to a major hurricane shortly before landfall, packing sustained winds of more than 145 miles an hour.

"It was like a runaway train," says Peter Black, a scientist at the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory in Miami, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). "It was our worst nightmare."

Charley's sudden growth spurt represents one of the most challenging aspects of hurricane forecasting. Yet atmospheric scientists say they are hopeful that over the next few years, they will be able to provide forecasters with the tools to significantly improve forecasts of hurricane intensity. New forecast models are being assembled and tested. New sensors, satellites, and field studies are being planned. And recent field and lab studies are yielding fresh insights into the conditions that give tropical cyclones more kick.

It's a long, grinding process that moves only as fast as budgets and storm frequency allow. Still, "within the next five years it will be possible to do 20 to 25 percent better than we're doing now" just by making better use of available reconnaissance data gathered from storms, says Mark DeMaria, a NOAA researcher who developed the rudimentary tools for forecasting intensity that the National Hurricane Center now uses. Over the next decade, the highly sophisticated computer models under development should boost improvements further, he says.

What makes the intensity problem so fiendishly difficult to solve? "It's far more complex" than track forecasting, acknowledges Naomi Surgi, who heads the hurricane forecasting modernization effort at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) in Camp Springs, Md. Scientists must identify and understand how large-scale factors, such as regional atmospheric circulation patterns, affect tropical cyclones. They also have to focus on processes within hurricanes that can occur on scales as small as a few tens of meters across. It's all about heat moving from the ocean into and through the storm and the factors that can affect the storm's momentum.

Take the boundary between air and ocean, for example. Existing forecast models assume that when a hurricane grows stronger and its wind speeds increase, the wind kicks up ever-larger waves. As the waves grow, friction increases between wind and wave, slowing the pace at which a storm strengthens.

Studies published over the past year, however, suggest that this assumption is wrong. The ocean's drag on the wind grows until the winds hit hurricane force, says Isaac Ginis, a professor of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island's Graduate School of Oceanography in Narragansett, R. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

After Charley, a Better Crystal Ball
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.