CAPE CORAL, Fla. — The National Hurricane Center’s goal, over the next several years, is to rethink how the public ultimately views forecasts and models. They are working to use Ian’s lessons to make future forecasts more accurate and easier to understand.
One such impact that the NHC is looking for to improve forecasting and communication is storm surge. Storm surge from Hurricane Ian here in Southwest Florida resulted in 41 drowning deaths.
“Storm surge has the potential to kill the most people in a single day in any of the hazards we saw during Ian last year.”
Tropical storms and hurricanes come with the threat of torrential rain, damaging winds, and tornadoes, but 90% of deaths come from storm surge.
NHC Director Dr. Michael Brennan says he is working on ways to better demonstrate surf, especially when it’s hard to visualize a 10- to 15-foot swell at Fort Myers Beach.
“That’s a number we think about as physical scientists,” Dr. Brennan said. “It means something to us, but the people who live in an area, what does that mean? What does 10 to 15 feet of water mean… What will that do to my house? What will that look like, the landmark that I recognize in my city?
NHC is working with social scientists on ways to better visualize the rise, in the hope that it will raise awareness. They are also using a new storm surge model this season.
“Helping us drive real-time storm surge predictions 72 hours before the storm to bring that critical lifeline to emergency managers and others making those evacuation decisions,” said Dr. Brennan.
In addition to a new surge model, NHC will also use a next-generation hurricane-specific model called HAFS. The model will provide a 7-day forecast with enhanced intensity and tracking guidance.
Dr. Brennan says the hurricane center is also moving forward on rapid intensification forecasts.
“We’ve made some of the most aggressive forecasts ever in terms of early intensity forecasts for storms like Ian and Ida in the last two years that have really built expectations,” Dr. Brennan said.
And this summer, the NHC further expanded the forecast outlook from 5 to 7 days.
“So it gives additional notice, that these are the systems that the hurricane center is looking at,” Dr. Brennan said.
While the NHC and researchers across the country seek to improve forecasts, the message is clear. It only takes one storm to make it a busy season for you.