It’s hurricane season: 4 things to know

earthsky.org | 5/31/2019 | EarthSky
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The official Atlantic hurricane season begins on June 1, even as many communities are still recovering from a destructive year in 2018. Hurricane Florence swamped much of the Carolinas in September, followed by Hurricane Michael, which battered the Florida Panhandle less than a month later. Together, these two storms killed at least 113 people and caused billions of dollars in damages.

For 2019, federal forecasters are predicting a “near-normal” hurricane season, with nine to 15 named storms expected to form and two to four of them developing into major hurricanes. But as weather experts warn, it only takes one storm making landfall to make it an active season for people in harm’s way. Here are five expert takes on preparing for whatever the 2019 hurricane season brings.

Expert - Forecasters - Hurricanes - Odds - Landfall

We rely on expert forecasters to tell us how strong hurricanes will be, the odds that they will make landfall and where they’re most likely to come ashore. But how do stormcasters develop judgments from enormous quantities of data?

As Florida State University meteorologists Mark Bourassa and Vasu Misra explain, models – complex software packages that run on large computers – are essential. But models’ results don’t always agree with each other. That’s why forecasters use collections of storm models instead of just one. And they may tweak certain assumptions built into the models to account for uncertainty about conditions in a particular storm.

Storm - Track - Forecasts - Decades - Predictions

Storm track forecasts have become much more accurate in recent decades, but predictions of storm intensity have changed little. That’s because it’s hard to capture all the variables that determine storm intensity. “Models are inexact in their descriptions of the entire state of the atmosphere and ocean at the start time of the model,” Bourassa and Misra acknowledge – a point worth remembering if a storm heads in your direction.

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