Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

High-Tech Tools Dissect Hurricanes Scientists Can Better Warn Where Storms Will Hit -- and How Hard

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

High-Tech Tools Dissect Hurricanes Scientists Can Better Warn Where Storms Will Hit -- and How Hard

Article excerpt

Byline: Paul Pinkham, Times-Union staff writer

With glitzy new technology at their fingertips, government weather researchers are hoping to improve forecasts to lessen hurricane dangers and minimize unnecessary and expensive evacuations.

The 2002 hurricane season began yesterday with a milder forecast than initially predicted from America's pre-eminent tropical weather specialist.

William Gray of the Colorado State University Department of Atmospheric Science initially predicted 12 named storms with sustained winds of 39 mph or higher. He scaled that back Friday to 11, based mainly on cooling ocean temperatures in the Atlantic.

Good news? Perhaps, especially coupled with the fact that the U.S. mainland has been spared any hurricane activity since 1999. But forecasters warn that complacency isn't an option for coastal dwellers.

"We know from experience -- out of sight is out of mind," said National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield. "We don't want people to be caught off guard."

One agency working to make sure that doesn't happen is the Hurricane Research Division, which operates in the shadow of the Hurricane Center in Miami. The 45-year-old division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration uses science and technology to improve the accuracy of forecasts.

"They're getting better and better and that's because we have bigger and bigger computers and we can make better and better models," said research meteorologist Stanley Goldenberg.

A 12-hour advance tracking forecast 20 years ago would have taken 72 hours to run, rendering it virtually useless. Now, he said, the same forecast can be generated in about 10 minutes.

One of the newer areas of research involves predicting not only the track but the intensity of a storm as it approaches land. This is important, Goldenberg said, because the three strongest hurricanes to hit the United States all weakened as they approached land only to rapidly intensify just before landfall. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.