Hurricanes - Predicting The Strength Of The Storm
Reported November 2011
CHAMPAIGN, IL (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- The hurricane season ends November 30th. If you think we are out of the path of the storm right now—think again. There have been 86 tropical storms in November, 57 named hurricanes, and five of them have hit the U.S. Meteorologists are good at forecasting the potential path, but forecasting the strength still needs work. Now, we’ll tell you how new technology can help predict how strong a storm will become.
Hurricane Irene kicked off the hurricane season—the first storm to hit the U.S this year. Irene’s path and impact were pretty accurate. But back in 2004, hurricane Charley started out as a category one hurricane –a minimal threat – but within 24 hours it turned into a category three storm with winds up to 130 miles per hour, catching many people off guard.
"It went into a transition into a category 3 storm before people could really be adequately evacuated the warnings did not provide enough warning, and a lot of people as a result had to weather the storm Stephen Nesbitt, Ph.D., a meteorologist at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign told Ivanhoe.
Rapid intensification is when a storm suddenly transforms into a much stronger hurricane, but identifying which storms will likely strengthen is challenging. Now, meteorologists have found something unique to help predict sudden surges in storm strength.
“The ring pattern we’ve shown is evidence that the storm is about to go under intensification, the ring starts to show up about 6 hours before the storm actually starts its 24 hour cycle of becoming an intense hurricane,” Dr. Nesbitt said.
Researchers use passive microwave satellite images that act like Xrays to see through clouds. Images show a symmetrical ring of storm clouds around the center of the storm. As the storm strengthens into a hurricane, the ring becomes more clearly defined as the clouds around the eye of the storm grow vertically creating the eyewall.
"We really need to be able to adequately predict those storms with long lead time such that we can evacuate coastal residents and save lives,” Dr. Nebitt added.
The satellites can help give forecasters about a 30 hour window before a storm hits its maximum strength. A much needed warning for people to pack up and get out.
Researchers are currently working with the national hurricane center to implement the ring technique in tropical storm forecasting. The ring patterns are not easy to recognize when storms pass over land.
The American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorological Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.
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Dept. of Atmospheric Sciences
University of Illinois
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