Hurricane Forecasts Can Be Made Years in Advance
The parade of storms that pummels the western fringe of the North Atlantic every year just got a bit more predictable. Scientists say they have developed a way to forecast how many Atlantic hurricanes there will be — not just for the upcoming year, as some groups already do each spring, but for several years out.
“This is the first time anyone has reported skill in predicting the number of hurricanes beyond the seasonal time scale,” says Doug Smith, a climate modeler at the Met Office Hadley Centre in Exeter, England. A paper by Smith and his colleagues appeared online Nov. 7 in Nature Geoscience.
Knowing how hurricane trends could change in the future, he says, will help society prepare for the damage of the kind that Hurricane Tomas recently dealt the Caribbean.
Atlantic hurricane activity waxes and wanes over a cycle of several decades, and since 1995 has been in an active part of that cycle. Researchers have been working to tease apart the causes of this cycle and to predict how future changes, like rising sea-surface temperatures, might affect storms.
Smith’s team uses one of the hottest areas of climate modeling: decadal climate prediction, which aims to understand both how the climate system varies internally, along with external factors like greenhouse gases and volcanic eruptions.