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Recipe for a Storm — Forecasting a Hurricane Season

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 5 years ago | from the not-just-blow-hards dept.

Science 46

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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the hole in the center of a hurricane? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21542159)

it's too small for my intergalactic dong.

Wisconsin (0, Redundant)

MisterLawyer (770687) | more than 5 years ago | (#21542181)

University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers...
Good thing these fine young scholars are boldly venturing forth into the areas of meteorology most crucially important to the Midwestern region of the United States.

Re:Wisconsin (1)

crowbarsarefornerdyg (1021537) | more than 5 years ago | (#21542209)

Maybe their inlaws live in Florida...

Re:Wisconsin (4, Informative)

nido (102070) | more than 5 years ago | (#21542257)

Good thing these fine young scholars are boldly venturing forth into the areas of meteorology most crucially important to the Midwestern region of the United States.
Oceans drive climate systems across the entire planet. Surely you've heard of El Nino [wikipedia.org] and La Nina [wikipedia.org] ? One is a 'warm ocean', and the other is a 'cool ocean'.

Furthermore, the positions of warm and cool spots in the ocean [noaa.gov] control where the jet streams [sfsu.edu] flow, and the jet streams determine who gets rain and who gets drought. I understand that the warm anomalies are probably caused by underwater volcanic activity, but this is one aspect of the earth's geology that we have precious little data about - those underwater volcanoes are notoriously difficult to study...

Wisconsin has lots of farming which is dependent on rainfall, so it's entirely appropriate that they're trying to improve their forecasting models.

In fact, more so (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#21544497)

With climate change occurring, the norms are shot to hell. Worse, the great lakes appear to be losing water (wether it is long term or not remains to be seen), which will hurt the aquifers AND change their rain in the long run. Yes, If I were a state that depends on rainfall water (which is all states not on the oceans or that are large; alaska, texas), I would be spending some time checking out what is going on.

Re:Wisconsin (1)

erc (38443) | more than 5 years ago | (#21542533)

Yet another idiot trying to be a smartass who winds up showing his ignorance to half the technical world. Since the Earth is more-or-less a closed system (ignoring the negligible effect of heat radiating off into space), everything that happens affects everything else. You just think that because hurricanes are getting stronger that it won't affect folks in the corn belt? Then you wonder why you're freezing your ass off in the middle of the coldest winter in 70 years... it's all related...

Re:Wisconsin (1, Informative)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 5 years ago | (#21544299)

Can we also ignore the negligible effects of the sun heating the earth?

Re:Wisconsin (0)

erc (38443) | more than 5 years ago | (#21544799)

Was that smartass remark supposed to be insightful, or just an attempt at a slam? What a clever little boy you are to point out the obvious!

Re:Wisconsin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21553125)

Oooo somebody got snarky. I guess maybe next time you call something a closed system, you won't so quickly ignore that it gets it energy from outside, dumbass.

Canadian forecasters: Very cold winter ahead (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 5 years ago | (#21542227)

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:Canadian forecasters: Very cold winter ahead (1, Insightful)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 5 years ago | (#21542247)

but but global warming...?

Re:Canadian forecasters: Very cold winter ahead (1)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 5 years ago | (#21542315)

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!

Re:Canadian forecasters: Very cold winter ahead (1)

garbletext (669861) | more than 5 years ago | (#21542371)

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.

Re:Canadian forecasters: Very cold winter ahead (1)

mOdQuArK! (87332) | more than 5 years ago | (#21542535)

Only in certain localized areas. Unfortunately, the global average temperature is still going up.

Re:Canadian forecasters: Very cold winter ahead (2, Funny)

aevans (933829) | more than 5 years ago | (#21544289)

Canada isn't a certain localized area. It's a huge chunk of the earth's surface.

Re:Canadian forecasters: Very cold winter ahead (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21545697)

Canada isn't a certain localized area. It's a huge chunk of the earth's surface.

Since when did local mean small?

Re:Canadian forecasters: Very cold winter ahead (1)

Lars T. (470328) | more than 5 years ago | (#21545747)

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).

Re:Canadian forecasters: Very cold winter ahead (1)

jc42 (318812) | more than 5 years ago | (#21546505)

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.

Re:Canadian forecasters: Very cold winter ahead (1)

Brickwall (985910) | more than 6 years ago | (#21548769)

Canadian forecasters said that due to El Nino

I think you mean La Nina.

A little late for this past season (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 5 years ago | (#21542335)

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.

Re:A little late for this past season (1)

LynnwoodRooster (966895) | more than 5 years ago | (#21542411)

Success 25 times out of 100... Sounds like the batting averages of the starting lineup of the Seattle Mariners!

Re:A little late for this past season (2, Funny)

ThreeGigs (239452) | more than 5 years ago | (#21543037)

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...

Re:A little late for this past season (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549139)

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.

Re:A little late for this past season (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21543315)

how true

Re:A little late for this past season (1)

Titoxd (1116095) | more than 5 years ago | (#21546821)

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] .

Re:A little late for this past season (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 5 years ago | (#21547109)

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 more than 48 hours is more art than science. The only long term forecasting we are capable of is that of the seasons. Winter = cold, summer = warm.

Re:A little late for this past season (1)

Titoxd (1116095) | more than 5 years ago | (#21547669)

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.

Re:A little late for this past season (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 5 years ago | (#21547963)

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 these forecasts. Neat way to manipulate the futures market or commodities trade though. Watch the price of orange juice or sugar.

Re:A little late for this past season (1)

reboot246 (623534) | more than 5 years ago | (#21547621)

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 (2, Interesting)

midmopub (922286) | more than 5 years ago | (#21542345)

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:Every June (3, Interesting)

Titoxd (1116095) | more than 5 years ago | (#21542437)

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, people have to realize that predicting weather is an inherently unstable mathematical problem, so longer-term forecasts are usually not that accurate. On the other hand, short-term forecasts keep getting better [noaa.gov] as the understanding of the physical phenomena increases, along with more computational power to throw at the good old models. A bit of preparation before hurricane season never hurts, though.

Re:Every June (2, Insightful)

erc (38443) | more than 5 years ago | (#21542549)

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...

Re:Every June (1)

erc (38443) | more than 5 years ago | (#21542499)

Yeah, and then Katrina came and woke you up, huh?

Re:Every June (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21555445)

Nah, been saying for years New Orleans was a sitting duck. People pretend that Katrina was the hurricane from hell, but New Orleans was only subject to Cat 3 winds.

Anyway, it was 2004 woke most of us up. 4 hurricanes hit Florida, 3 in the peninsula (and all 3 hit Orlando.) One hell of a summer...

I'll give you a storm (3, Funny)

cerberusss (660701) | more than 5 years ago | (#21542377)

You want a storm? Forget your wife's birthday, that'll bring a storm.

Re:I'll give you a storm (3, Funny)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 5 years ago | (#21542447)

No, it will cause the start of an ice age.

"I'm so hot and she's so cold... cold as a tombstone."

I wonder how many times Mick forgot Jerry's birthday.

Re:I'll give you a storm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21543239)

I'm so hot and she's so cold...
sounds like a storm recipe to me!

Who cares how strong it will be (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21542717)

This would be really newsworthy if their model could predict where and when, not just how strong the entire season will be. ;-)

Well, yeah (4, Insightful)

FroBugg (24957) | more than 5 years ago | (#21542965)

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:Well, yeah (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21543509)

Were talking about the heisenberg principal here
nature will most likely always be to complex to completely understand or predict.

Re:Well, yeah (2, Informative)

spvo (955716) | more than 5 years ago | (#21544707)

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.

They cannot even predict tomorrow's weather... (0)

howardd21 (1001567) | more than 5 years ago | (#21543641)

Why do we listen to people that cannot reliably tell us what will happen tomorrow in terms of weather? We are supposed to attribute credibility to them for prediciting hurricanes, and even global warming, a much longer cycle of data and extrapolation, when I am not sure if I need an umbrella or not. Ridiculous.

Season (1)

rossdee (243626) | more than 5 years ago | (#21544257)

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 )

This forecast may be useful in the future (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21544461)

But not now. The forecasts are never even close. They change their forecast several times during each season otherwise it would not even resemble reality. Hurricane forecasting will probably be decent at some point but it is worthless right now.

Wait one year to confirm results (1)

Jeff1946 (944062) | more than 5 years ago | (#21544553)

I am being Devil's Advocate Here

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

The Model is Flawed - No Al Gore (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21551359)

The proposed model is obviously flawed. Everyone knows you can't have a hurricane model which doesn't account for Al Gore.
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