New Hurricane Tracking Technology May Make Predictions WAY More Accurate

Do you live someplace where hurricanes are a huge concern? Do you worry about visiting Disney World during hurricane season?

EPCOT after Hurricane Idalia in 2023

If so, you might be happy to hear about a new, technologically advanced hurricane-tracking model! Each year, meteorologists and other atmospheric scientists work to predict where hurricanes may land throughout the season. This can help anyone living in those areas be prepared, and it can help you plan your Disney World vacation.  Now, we have the details behind how this technology works and what, specifically, it might be able to predict!

According to the Orlando Sentinel, the new computer model, called the Hurricane Analysis and Forecast Systems (HAFS) went fully operational last year. Developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the model uses advanced supercomputers — developed in recent years and completed in 2022 — to use the most in-depth and detailed images and data analysis of storms ever to calculate potential storm paths and attempt to predict them, which in turn could save countless lives.

The Magic Kingdom during Hurricane Idalia

As explained by Bill Ramstrom, the senior software engineer at NOAA’s hurricane research division, “Just like with your phone, if you get more pixels in your camera, you get a nicer looking photo. We have the same sort of idea of simulating the hurricane.” He went on to say that the system “gives you some more confidence that the model is really capturing what’s going on in nature.”

©NOAA | Hurricane Laura over the Gulf of Mexico in 2020

That confidence seems well-founded so far. The Orlando Sentinel says that since “its experimental debut in 2019, HAFS has shown an improvement in track predictions for storms by 10 to 15%. In 2022, Hurricane Ian rapidly intensified off Florida’s southwest coast to a powerful Category 5 storm. The only model to correctly predict that period of rapid intensification was HAFS – while it was still in its testing phase.”

In addition, HAFS uses a “a new suite of graphics, visualizations of a developing storm that haven’t been reproduced by any models before,” which allows them to potentially better predict how strong a storm could potentially become and what category it could reach with much more accuracy than in the past. 

Fantasyland after Hurricane Idalia in 2023

While the Hurricane Analysis and Forecast Systems hasn’t been perfected yet, Dr. Andrew Hazelton — an associate scientist who works at NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division — is confident in its future. “HAFS has come a long way and continues to show promise. And with the success the team has seen so far, they hope it continues for another hurricane season. But there are still some problems the team is looking to solve, including the problem of multiple nests. But seeing the success this team has brought so far to the model, it’s safe to say the future of hurricane forecasting is in good hands.”

Hurricane Ian looming at Disney’s Polynesian

The potential of the HAFS system to save lives and even safeguard property through storm preparation is huge, and the early results are already promising. Stay tuned to AllEars for further coverage of these developments. 

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Have you ever experienced a hurricane first hand? Let us know in the comments below. 

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