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What Is the Best Hurricane Model?

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By    |   Thursday, 07 September 2017 07:22 AM

Storm trackers are asking, what’s the best hurricane model to follow as they keep an eye on Irma and the two tropical storms flanking it on Wednesday? How did the different models hold up for Hurricane Harvey?

The models produce all those predicted storm paths that you see in weather stories, often with multiple models overlaying each other and often widely disagreeing on exactly where and when, say, Irma is going to strike and where it will go afterwards.  

The model used by the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasting has proven to be the gold standard for some experts in recent years, but a consensus model used by the National Hurricane Center has proven to be the best indicator overall.

Weather Underground’s director of meteorology, Jeff Masters, said the best hurricane forecasting models tend to be "global" models that solve mathematical equations governing the behavior of the atmosphere at every point on the globe.

He said models that solve those types of equations are called "dynamical" models.

"The European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasting model is the premier global model in the world for medium range weather forecasting in the mid-latitudes," Masters said. "In 2006, the ECMWF made improvements that started producing very accurate hurricanes forecasts."

However, Masters said, the National Hurricane Center's consensus forecast, using the models from Europe, the Global Forecasting System, the National Weather Service/Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, U.S. Navy's Navy Operational Global Prediction Center System, the United Kingdom Met Office, and the NWS/Hurricane Weather Research, have proven the best.

"Over the past decade, NHC has greatly improved their forecasts by relying on consensus forecast models made using various combinations of the GFS, GFDL, NOGAPS, UKMET, HWRF, and ECMWF models."

Eric Berger, the senior space editor at Ars Technica, said on Tuesday that the European model was the first to pinpoint Hurricane Harvey's actual track, alerting weather watchers of a landing near Victoria, Texas, and then stalling over southeast Texas.

"The European model is the best forecasting system in the world for several reasons, most notably because the European modeling center has invested heavily in their model," Berger said. "It has the most advanced computer hardware and has devised the best system to assimilate real-time meteorological observations into its model for future runs."

Berger said the European model outperformed the consensus model and human forecasters at the National Hurricane Center who draw upon similar data to make their five-day forecasts and draw the cone of uncertainty.

He added that NOAA's new hurricane model, the HMON was unreliable, saying its average error on Harvey at four days was off 630 nautical miles, compared to about 170 nautical miles for the European model.

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Storm trackers are asking, what’s the best hurricane model to follow as they keep an eye on Irma and the two tropical storms flanking it on Wednesday? How did the different models hold up for Hurricane Harvey?
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2017-22-07
Thursday, 07 September 2017 07:22 AM
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