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Recipe for a Storm — Forecasting a Hurricane Season 46

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the not-just-blow-hards dept.
University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers investigating the ingredients that go into a hurricane think they have found a reliable basis for predicting the overall strength of a hurricane season. Jim Kossin and Dan Vimont have found a basin-wide circulation pattern that offer one possible explanation in the previously unexplained differences in long-term hurricane trends. "Kossin and Vimont, a professor in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, noticed that warmer water is just one part of a larger pattern indicating that the conditions are right for more frequent, stronger hurricanes in the Atlantic. The atmosphere reacts to ocean conditions and the ocean reacts to the atmospheric situation, creating a distinct circulation pattern known as the Atlantic Meridional Mode (AMM). The AMM unifies the connections among the factors that influence hurricanes such as ocean temperature, characteristics of the wind, and moisture in the atmosphere."
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Recipe for a Storm — Forecasting a Hurricane Season

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  • Canadian forecasters said that due to El Nino, the earth is cooling down by 1 degree on average and that we can expect a very cold winter - worst in 15 years - brrr...
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by timmarhy (659436)
      but but global warming...?
      • It's like your refrigerator, you know that bugger heats up a room but good!

        So remember kids, don't play with ice cubes - you're liable to start a forest fire!
    • bssh. We'll all be living in huge plastic domes by then anyway, so who cares? I'm sure the king of each dome will be merciful enough to provide climate control.
    • by mOdQuArK! (87332)
      Only in certain localized areas. Unfortunately, the global average temperature is still going up.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by aevans (933829)
        Canada isn't a certain localized area. It's a huge chunk of the earth's surface.
        • by Lars T. (470328)

          Canada isn't a certain localized area. It's a huge chunk of the earth's surface.
          Only 2% (6.7% of the land surface).
          • by jc42 (318812)
            Canada is ... Only 2% (6.7% of the land surface).

            Hey, use a Mercator projection map. It'll make Canada a lot larger than that.

    • by Brickwall (985910)
      Canadian forecasters said that due to El Nino

      I think you mean La Nina.

  • The forecasts were way off. What's that old joke? Weather forecasters have it so good. They can be wrong 75% of the time and still keep their job.
    • Success 25 times out of 100... Sounds like the batting averages of the starting lineup of the Seattle Mariners!
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by ThreeGigs (239452)
      What's that old joke?

      Dear Weatherperson,

      I'm writing to let you know I just finished shoveling 20 inches of 'partly cloudy' off of my back porch.

      Yours truly...
      • by iminplaya (723125)
        HA! You laugh. I actually have seen an half an inch of rain come down from partly cloudy skies right underneath a bright, hot sun.
    • by Titoxd (1116095)
      Hey, at least this season was within the activity estimates [wikipedia.org] made at the beginning of the year. Let's say that 2006 wasn't that accurate [wikipedia.org].
      • by iminplaya (723125)
        Maybe Katrina made them a little jumpy. They may have decided that it's better to overdo it and be laughed at than under report it and be considered incompetent. They could just as easily forgo all the fancy, expensive equipment and use a Ouija board. Weather forecasting is more of a study of the occult. "Present" casting is where we have made real headway over the years. Now we can warn people a couple days in advance of an impending hurricane, and maybe a half an hour in the case of tornadoes. Going much
        • by Titoxd (1116095)

          They may have decided that it's better to overdo it and be laughed at than under report it and be considered incompetent.
          That is the worse thing that they can do, because overdoing it causes "hurricane fatigue", which was blamed as one reason [gpoaccess.gov] (p. 113-114) behind the Katrina clusterfuck. False alarms cause people to not evacuate when they need to.
          • by iminplaya (723125)
            Yeah no doubt. The forecasters won't be able to win no matter what. I'm beginning to think that long range forecasting of this nature is fairly pointless. If a storm is coming, move away. Two or three days warning is plenty of time. It would also help if they had a building code to match the conditions of the area. The palapas on the beach hold up better than some of those apartment complexes in Florida. Hurricanes shouldn't be a big deal, except for agribusiness, which is probably the only reason they do t
    • by reboot246 (623534)
      Just saw this headline:

      The long-range weather forecasters' annual picnic scheduled for July 4th next year has been postponed because of rain.

  • Every June (Score:2, Interesting)

    by midmopub (922286)
    Every June in Florida the local news is full of reports by experts that this year would be the worst hurricane season on record. After 7 years of hearing the same stuff I started to tune it out.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Titoxd (1116095)
      Unfortunately, that is a very real risk associated with long-term hurricane forecasts: Assuming that because there may be a lot of storms, they may devastate an area in particular (something the mass media is particularly good at). A hurricane season can have dozens of storms, and having none affect land. On the other hand, a season may have very few storms but be extremely damaging, like 1992 was [noaa.gov]. It really takes only one bad storm, like Andrew in 1992 [wikipedia.org] or Mitch in 1998 [wikipedia.org], to turn lives around.

      In reality,
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by erc (38443)
        In reality, people have to realize that predicting weather is an inherently unstable mathematical problem, so longer-term forecasts are usually not that accurate.

        And probably never will be. When I studied meterology in college years ago, I remember the complex math in Methods In Climatology, one of our textbooks, and it was every bit as bad as the math I had to take for physics. And that was 30+ years ago - it's only gotten even more complicated since...
    • by erc (38443)
      Yeah, and then Katrina came and woke you up, huh?
  • by cerberusss (660701) on Saturday December 01, 2007 @04:44AM (#21542377) Homepage Journal
    You want a storm? Forget your wife's birthday, that'll bring a storm.
  • Well, yeah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FroBugg (24957) on Saturday December 01, 2007 @07:39AM (#21542965) Homepage
    These guys aren't the first to "discover" this connection. The article does a piss-poor job of explaining it, but basically the global thermohaline circulation varies in speed. Sometimes it runs fast and sometimes slow. The fast periods tend to last about 15-20 years, with the slow ones a little shorter, and it's a self-correcting cycle. Our observed records of this pattern correspond very well with the last hundred years of Atlantic hurricanes.

    Global warming is a major threat, and it's going to be responsible for a lot of weather problems, but Atlantic hurricanes aren't one of them. Once you increase Atlantic surface temperatures to a certain point, you actually tend to increase upper-level shear, which is extremely disruptive to hurricanes.

    The 2005 season was so terrible because four of the storms that made landfall passed over the extremely warm loop current in the Gulf of Mexico shortly before making landfall. It was a busy season and we just had some really bad luck on top of it. Even considering this, they were all weakening when they actually hit, and the destruction of New Orleans is entirely due to shoddy construction of the levees. Katrina may have been a cat 5 at sea, but the levees failed in category 1 conditions.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Were talking about the heisenberg principal here
      nature will most likely always be to complex to completely understand or predict.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by spvo (955716)
        Yes, nature will most likely always be too complex to predict, but that is because its a massive chaotic system. I would guess there will always be too many unforseen initial conditions that would blow up and lead to very different, and unpredictable, results.
        In any case, it has nothing to do with the heisenberg principle. It doesn't apply to macroscopic systems, and I think a hurricane definitely qualify as large.
  • Today is 1st December. A typical storm involves snow, sleet,ice and freezing rain. Maybe these guys in WI should get outside some time. (hint: a shovel would be useful )
  • I am being Devil's Advocate Here

    Devise theory -- publish
    Wait one year -- revise theory -- publish
    Repeat
    Get tenure
    Chill

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