BahaHurican's WunderBlog of 2015 Storms that Impact the Bahamas

Does Climatology Have a Role to Play in Hurricane Forecasting?

By: BahaHurican, 6:13 PM GMT on September 17, 2006

I spend a lot of time in Dr. Jeff Master's Blog. From time to time I observe a comment like "I don't pay attention to the tracks of old storms". Since I was brought up on stories of the "big ones" of 1926, 1928, and 1929, (hurricanes which had devastating effects on the Bahamian islands where my family was living and on the capital city of Nassau) I find this comment rather strange. Is it really good scientific policy to ignore the climatology of tropical systems in the Atlantic basin?

It doesn't seem so to me. I think there is a lot to be learned from climatology. Take for instance the current hurricane of interest, Helene. While much is being made of the hurricane models and how they interpret current data, there is also room to examine the record of past storms. It seems logical to me that if current conditions are replicating some conditions that existed in the past, it is likely that Hurricane Helene will behave in ways that mimic the track or tracks of previous storms.

For example, I did a quick search of the historical record for September storms passing within 100 miles of Helene's position as of 1200 UTC today. I found about 35 storms, only about 7 of which affected land (either Bermuda, in four cases, or the East Coast of the US). Obviously there must be some regular feature which cause most of these storms to curve out to sea well before land. The trick with the climatology is to examine the conditions existing at the time these storms were traveling and compare them with the current conditions.

Even in the instances where the storms affected land, climatology can be of some use. Take hurricane Isabel of 2003, which took a very similar track to Helene up to this point.

I'd take a look at the prevailing conditions during Isabel's earlier track to see if they match the current ones; I'd also look at her later track to see if conditions then appear similar to what is being forecast based on the currently existing data for Helene.

I firmly believe climatological data can be of use in establishing probabilities. It's not the only factor to be considered, but I don't think it should be brushed off as irrelevant.

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

BahaHurican's WunderBlog of 2015 Storms that Impact the Bahamas

About BahaHurican

During the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season, this blog will focus on tropical systems that impact The Bahamas and Turks & Caicos Islands.

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