Government Upgrade Might Make Hurricane Forecasts Less Reliable
The science of tracking hurricanes is still a long way from being totally on target. Predicting where these monster storms might go and how strong they might be when they get there has been a mission of meteorologists with the National Hurricane Center since its inception.
However, many forecasters at the Hurricane Center are quite perplexed by changes in one of our country's most prominent forecast models. That model is the GFS or Global Forecast System.
This is one of the models that is used by forecasters to issue track forecasts as well as issue hurricane watches and warnings. It might not seem like a big deal now, but trust me this could be a really big deal during the summer months of the 2017 Hurricane Season.
The changes in how this forecast model receives and interprets data should make the forecast product more reliable. However, over 700 tests run on previous storms seem to indicate that the "upgrade" actually reduces reliability by as much as 10 percent. The more frightening aspect of that decrease in reliability is that it comes in the short-term portion of the projection.
Here in Louisiana, we all know the different 50 miles can make when it comes to a landfalling tropical system. In the case of hurricane Rita in 2005 a shift in the track 50 miles to the east would have been totally devastating for the Lafayette area.
What I don't understand about these proposed changes is this. If you have a large number of your most trusted forecasters concerned or even more animated about making the changes in the forecast model then it makes sense to delay the upgrade and make sure you aren't upgrading to a worse product.
Too late, the new system went online Wednesday, May 3rd at 6 AM.
Reportedly many of the top government brass signed off on the upgrade without hearing the scope of the Hurricane Center's concerns. They believe it will work better. That's the view from the top anyway.
That's a lot like asking the President of Ford Motor Company what's the best way to hang a door on a new car. He probably doesn't know as much about the subject as the guys who do it every day.
To the suits in Washington, this is just another change that people always seem to complain about. Let's hope these complaints ring through to the powers that be in time to prevent the loss of life and property because of potentially flawed information.