Traditionally, when meteorologist set out to predict the upcoming hurricane season they forecast the number of tropical storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes. Coastal Carolina University (CCU) will not only continue with tradition, but they will be adding to the list/outlook the “number of landfall hurricanes along the Atlantic seaboard.” Issued as early as April, the forecast will then be updated throughout the season to incorporate a wide range of fluctuating climate factors. Interestingly, the August 10th update will take into account African rainfall totals as well as mountain snow melt in the United States.
As helpful as the traditional outlooks are, the question always comes back to impacts. As brought up many times, the only number that really matters is 1, the one that impacts your location. CCU will attempt to help in this area with an outlook that delves “directly into the past histories (of hurricanes), calculating a multitude of climate factors vs. landfall outcomes.”
The forecast will breakdown into three decreasing probability categories; Most likely, Second most likely and Third most likely. The updated July outlook for the East Coast is 1, 2, 0. Thus, there is most likely going to be 1 landfall hurricane along the East Coast and less likely, but still possible 2 landfall hurricanes this season. Of the three solutions, the least likelihood is that no hurricanes impact the East Coast this season. At this point I need to remind you that this is a forecast and does not guarantee any of these outcomes. Furthermore, it does not include a date or time of arrival for these very complex, tropical systems.
Additionally, HUGO (Hurricane Genesis & Outlook Project) will also go beyond a seasonal outlook and take on forecasting a storm's strength and path and if necessary, surge and inundation five days before landfall. Assistant Professor Shaowu Bao is the coding expert on the project.
Some may recognize Professor Bao's work when glancing at a hurricane spaghetti plot. He was instrumental in coding the Hurricane Weather Research Forecast Model (HWRF).
Will We (WITN) Use It?
Len Pietrafesa, Burroughs and Chapin Scholar at CCU, mentioned a number of times during the press conference that waves (oceanic and atmospheric) have a huge influence on storm direction, and I couldn’t agree more. By including high resolution topography of the seafloor you are dramatically increasing HUGO’s sight of the forecast problem and its ability to solve it. For this reason alone I find myself intrigued by what the model can/will do. In other words, I’m more curious than convinced, obviously because it is still in its infancy. Like any model or seasonal outlook, HUGO will be another tool I put in my forecasting toolbox. All alone HUGO may not be exceptionally helpful, but when a meteorologist assembles various models of different strengths and weakness better conclusions or forecasts are ultimately drawn.
Finally, the team’s impressive weather credentials and past experiences make it irresponsible to ignore their work. In a nutshell, don’t be surprised to see a World of Weather in the future regarding HUGO’s forecast solutions. Going beyond a local television meteorologist, the CCU team would eventually like to see their data incorporated into the National Hurricane Center’s forecast products.