The Frontal Cortex

Forecasting Hurricane Seasons

We are surprisingly bad at it:

Although last year was quieter than anticipated and the storms of 2005 caused the Weather Service to raise its prediction, the number of tropical storms predicted in May was within the expected range in 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2004.

The forecast was low in 2001 and 2003.

Got that? Since 1999, the Weather Service was relatively accurate only half the time (1999, 2000, 2002, 2004). It was inaccurate in 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2006. Maybe we should 1) rethink the models or 2) not put too much stock in these meteorological predictions.

This study may help explain why our current storm models are flawed:

Over the last 5,000 years, the eastern Caribbean has experienced several periods, lasting centuries, in which strong hurricanes occurred frequently even though ocean temperatures were cooler than those

The authors, from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, say their findings do not necessarily conflict with recent papers asserting a link between the region’s hurricane activity and human-caused warming of the climate and seas.

But, they say, their work does imply that factors other than ocean temperature, at least for thousands of years, appear to have played a pivotal role in shaping storminess in the region.

For more on this subject, check out Useless Arithmetic: Why Environmental Scientists Can’t Predict the Future. It’s a surprisingly readable take, written by two respected scientists, on the limits of quantitative modeling.

Comments

  1. #1 Schenck
    May 24, 2007

    To be fair, they fouled out half the time and struck out the remainder. They’ve never hit a home run since they are basing thier accuracy on the fourth prediction of the year. As far the new theory, a hurricane is a heat engine and therefore is most dependent on temp. differences.

    It’s a pity we pay so much for so little benefit. How did a sub tropical storm get a tropical storm’s name… could it be that thier funding is based on dissaster and storm count?

  2. #2 Schenck
    May 24, 2007

    To be fair, they fouled out half the time and struck out the remainder. They’ve never hit a home run since they are basing thier accuracy on the fourth prediction of the year. As far the new theory, a hurricane is a heat engine and therefore is most dependent on temp. differences.

    It’s a pity we pay so much for so little benefit. How did a sub tropical storm get a tropical storm’s name… could it be that thier funding is based on dissaster and storm count?

  3. #3 Schenck
    May 24, 2007

    To use a baseball analogy, they fouled out half the time and struck out the remainder. They are basing thier accuracy on the fourth updated prediction of the year. As far the new theory, a hurricane is a heat engine and therefore is most dependent on temp. differences.

    It’s a pity we pay so much for so little benefit. How did a sub tropical storm get a tropical storm’s name… could it be that funding is based on disaster and storm count?

  4. #4 Patrick
    August 19, 2009

    Speaking of baseball and weather, meteorologists and baseball players really do go hand-in-hand: both failing an average of 75% of the time.