Which Hurricane Forecast Model Should You Trust?

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:05 PM GMT on August 07, 2013

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) set a new record in 2012 for accuracy of their 1, 2, 3, and 4-day Atlantic tropical cyclone track forecasts, but had almost no skill making intensity forecasts, according to the 2012 National Hurricane Center Forecast Verification Report, issued in March 2013. The new records for track accuracy were set despite the fact that the season’s storms were harder than average to forecast. The average error in a 1-day forecast was 46 miles, and was 79 miles for 2 days, 116 miles for 3 days, 164 miles for 4 days, and 224 miles for 5 days. The official track forecast had a westward bias of 10 - 17 miles for 1 - 3 day forecasts (i.e., the official forecast tended to fall to the west of the verifying position), and was 38 and 75 miles too far to the northeast for the 4- and 5-day forecasts, respectively.


Figure 1. Verification of official NHC hurricane track forecasts for the Atlantic, 1990 - 2012. Over the past 15 - 20 years, 1 - 3 day track forecast errors have been reduced by about 60%. Track forecast error reductions of about 50% have occurred over the past ten years for 4- and 5-day forecasts. Image credit: 2012 National Hurricane Center Forecast Verification Report.

NHC Intensity Forecasts: Little Improvement Since 1990
Official NHC intensity forecasts did better than usual in 2012, and had errors lower than the 5-year average error for 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5-day forecasts. However, 2012's storms were easier to predict than usual, due to due to a lack of rapidly intensifying hurricanes. These rapid intensifiers are typically the source of the largest forecast errors. The skill of official NHC 24-hour intensity forecasts made in 2012 for the Atlantic basin were only about 15% better than a "no-skill" forecast; 2, 3, 4, and 5-day intensity forecasts had no skill.


Figure 2. Verification of official NHC hurricane intensity forecasts for the Atlantic, 1990 - 2012. Intensity forecasts have shown little to no improvement since 1990. Image credit: 2012 National Hurricane Center Forecast Verification Report.

Which Track Model Should You Trust?
As usual, in 2012 the official NHC forecast for Atlantic storms was almost as good as or better than any individual computer models--though NOAA's GFS model did slightly better than the NHC official forecast at 12, 24, and 48-hour periods, and the European model forecast was slightly better at 12-hour forecasts. Despite all the attention given to how the European Center (ECMWF) model outperformed the GFS model for Hurricane Sandy's track at long ranges, the GFS model actually outperformed the European model in 2012 when summing up all track forecasts made for all Atlantic named storms. This occurred, in part, because the European model made a few disastrously bad forecasts for Tropical Storm Debby when it was in the Gulf of Mexico and steering currents were weak. For several runs, the model predicted a Texas landfall, but Debby ended up moving east-northeast to make a Northwest Florida landfall, like the GFS model had predicted. However, the best-performing model averaged over the past three years has been the European Center model, with the GFS model a close second. Wunderground provides a web page with computer model forecasts for many of the best-performing track models used to predict hurricane tracks. The European Center does not permit public display of tropical storm positions from their hurricane tracking module of their model, so we are unable to put ECMWF forecasts on this page. Here are some of the better models NHC regularly looks at:

ECMWF: The European Center's global forecast model
GFS: NOAA's global forecast model
NOGAPS: The Navy's global forecast model (now defunct, replaced by the NAVGEM model in 2013)
UKMET: The United Kingdom Met Office's global forecast model
GFDL: The Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory's hurricane model, initialized using GFS data
HWRF: The intended successor for the the GFDL hurricane model, also initialized using GFS data
CMC: The Canadian GEM model
BAMM: The very old Beta and Advection Model (Medium layer), which is still useful at longer ranges

If one averages together the track forecasts from the first six of these models, the NHC official forecast will rarely depart much from it. As seen in Figure 3, the HWRF and UKMET were well behind the ECMWF and GFS in forecast accuracy in 2012, but were still respectable. The simple BAMM model did well at 3, 4, and 5-day forecasts. The GFDL and CMC models did quite poorly compared to the ECMWF, GFS, UKMET, and HWRF. The Navy's NOGAPS model also did poorly in 2012, and has been retired. Its replacement for 2013 is called the NAVGEM model.


Figure 3. Skill of computer model forecasts of Atlantic named storms in 2012, compared to a "no skill" model called "CLIPER5" that uses just climatology and persistence to make a hurricane track forecast (persistence means that a storm will tend to keep going in the direction it's current going.) OFCL=Official NHC forecast; GFS=Global Forecast System model; GFDL=Geophysical Fluid Dynamic Laboratory model; HWRF=Hurricane Weather Research Forecasting model; UKMET=United Kingdom Met Office model; ECMWF=European Center for Medium Range Weather Forecasting model; TVCA=one of the consensus models that lends together several of the above models; CMC=Canadian Meteorological Center (GEM) model; BAMM=Beta Advection Model (Medium depth.) Image credit: National Hurricane Center 2012 verification report.

Which Intensity Model Should You Trust?
Don't trust any of them. NHC has two main statistical intensity models, LGEM and DSHP (the SHIPS model with inland decay of a storm factored in.) In addition, four dynamical models that are also use to track hurricanes--the GFS, ECMWF, HWRF, and GFDL models--all offer intensity forecasts. With the exception of the GFS model, which had a skill just 5% better than a "no-skill" intensity forecast for predictions going out 36 hours, all of these models had no skill in their intensity forecasts during 2012. The ECMWF and HWRF models were the worst models for intensity forecasts of 3, 4, and 5 days, with a skill of 20% - 60% lower than a "no-skill" forecast. The LGEM model, which was a decent intensity model in 2011, tanked badly in 2012 and had near-zero skill. The only model that was any good in 2012 was the IVCN "consensus" model, which averages together the intensity forecasts of two or more of the intensity models such as LGEM, GFDL, HWRF, and DSHP.

Some Promising Models From the Hurricane Forecast Improvement Project (HFIP)
Last year was the fourth year of a ten-year project, called the Hurricane Forecast Improvement Project (HFIP), aimed at reducing hurricane track and intensity errors by 50%. The new experimental models from HFIP generally performed poorly in 2012. However, the new FIM9 15-km global model was competitive with the ECMWF and GFS models for track, and the new CIRA Statistical Intensity Consensus (SPC3) model for intensity performed better than many of the traditional intensity models.

For those interested in learning more about the hurricane forecast models, NOAA has a 1-hour training video (updated for 2011.) Additional information about the guidance models used at the NHC can be found at NHC and the NOAA/HRD Hurricane FAQ.

Sources of Model Data
You can view 7-day ECMWF and 16-day GFS forecasts on wunderground's wundermap with the model layer turned on.
Longer ten-day ECMWF forecasts are available from the ECMWF web site.
FSU's experimental hurricane forecast page (CMC, ECMWF, GFDL, GFS, HWRF, and NAVGEM models)
NOAA's HFIP model comparison page (GFS, ECMWF, FIM, FIM9, UKMET, and CMC models.)
Experimental HFIP models

Quiet in the Atlantic
There are no tropical cyclone threat areas in the Atlantic to discuss today, and none of the reliable models for tropical cyclone formation is predicting development during the coming seven days. I plan on having a detailed update on Friday to discuss the latest long-range forecasts for the coming peak part of hurricane season.

Jeff Masters


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

Reader Comments

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 986 - 936

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 | 40Blog Index



Cloud heights. A lot of 60,000 ft. clouds here!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting 981. BaltimoreBrian:


When's the last time 3 Atlantic hurricane seasons in a row had the same number of storms?


never that I know of


might be some kind of record
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Looks like one big mess coming more headache for us to track.

Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting 978. TropicalAnalystwx13:
The EPAC continues its train.



The east Pac train in 1994 was awesome. Emilia, Gilma, John
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
982. VR46L
the higher up wave in latitude is associated with a 1000mb Low pressure



Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting 977. MiamiHurricanes09:
I just realized that 2010, 2011, and 2012 have all had 19 named storms. Pretty impressive stuff.


When's the last time 3 Atlantic hurricane seasons in a row had the same number of storms?
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting 951. GTstormChaserCaleb:
I have a feeling the GFS will show a storm traversing the Atlantic and steam rolling into the Caribbean in the long range on this run, pattern favors it.



It's only a matter of time before something takes advantage of the forecast for significantly decreased shear in that region.

It'll either happen now, or later in the season. But either way it'll happen.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting 971. SuperStorm093:
People have been saying that for the last couple waves that come off the coast and never develop, when this one fades, people will say the NEXT one will be the one.


I for one have not been on that bandwagon. Many are trying to push the tropics to what they are not. The wave coming off Africa has a large atmospheric presence, best showed to the layman in the SAL charts. Obviously the wave behind this one will have a better chance. What this tells me is that it's go time for the Atlanic.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
The EPAC continues its train.

Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
I just realized that 2010, 2011, and 2012 have all had 19 named storms. Pretty impressive stuff.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting 973. wunderkidcayman:

look yeah whatever makes you sleep mate

look new storm here!! this not the circle at all.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting 973. wunderkidcayman:

look yeah whatever makes you sleep mate
True man, I haven't been wrong yet, so until I am, I will hopefully get a great sleep.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting 971. SuperStorm093:
People have been saying that for the last couple waves that come off the coast and never develop, when this one fades, people will say the NEXT one will be the one.

look yeah whatever makes you sleep mate
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting 966. ProgressivePulse:
Buncha model junkies.

The wave coming off Africa will be a threat to develop.

and the one right behind it. The second one had circulation judging by the cloud patterns it had.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting 966. ProgressivePulse:
Buncha model junkies.

The wave coming off Africa will be a threat to develop.
People have been saying that for the last couple waves that come off the coast and never develop, when this one fades, people will say the NEXT one will be the one.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting 966. ProgressivePulse:
Buncha model junkies.

The wave coming off Africa will be a threat to develop.
one over the CAR Central African Region has highest chance
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting 964. SuperStorm093:
Going to be another boring run of the GFS, dont know why anyone would say they think its going to be a good one. LULL until Late August Early Semptember.

yeah you keep that close to your heart
it whatever makes you sleep at night
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting 963. AussieStorm:


"The cloud that we see is a arcus. According to specialists of MRI, these clouds, which form an arc (hence their name), are at the base of cumulonimbus" (RTBF

Link
(Best viewed with Chrome and translated from French to English)
like a eyewall of rapidly rising air
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Buncha model junkies.

The wave coming off Africa will be a threat to develop.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting 960. Camille33:

the aoi not gone form!! we need to watch for new storm in 5 day in caribbean!!!

I thought I got rid of you by putting you on the list
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Going to be another boring run of the GFS, dont know why anyone would say they think its going to be a good one. LULL until Late August Early Semptember.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:


"The cloud that we see is a arcus. According to specialists of MRI, these clouds, which form an arc (hence their name), are at the base of cumulonimbus" (RTBF

Link
(Best viewed with Chrome and translated from French to English)
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quiet in the tropics today. New GFS is out. Nothing of importance to discuss.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting 954. GTstormChaserCaleb:
Fire away hurricanes2018 the carpet is yours tonight. I'll post the end of the rum.
]

OK GT, need an FIM update, just got home from work training the night people. Is it good news?
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting 959. wunderkidcayman:
hey guys sorry I'm late wasn't feeling well pass out on my bed anyway just woke up

anyway I am not surprised that NHC bumped up our AOI to 10%/10% at 8pm

the aoi not gone form!! we need to watch for new storm in 5 day in caribbean!!!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
hey guys sorry I'm late wasn't feeling well pass out on my bed anyway just woke up

anyway I am not surprised that NHC bumped up our AOI to 10%/10% at 8pm
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting 951. GTstormChaserCaleb:
I have a feeling the GFS will show a storm traversing the Atlantic and steam rolling into the Caribbean in the long range on this run, pattern favors it.


let hope not!!!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Evening All.

Quiet Atlantic is a good thing as we get ready usher our kiddies back into school. Many including our family are heading out on vaca this week and next. Wave coming off Africa shows some promising signs. Very large atmospheric presence as indicated in the SAL charts.

Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting 950. beell:




Thanks, guys
A lame attempt at sarcasm here.

Sarcasm detectors are turned off after 8pm EDT to prevent stress on the system. Sorry.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
955. JLPR2
Quoting 950. beell:




Thanks, guys
A lame attempt at sarcasm here.


Ah! Come on, cryptic sarcasm like that at 11pm, you're just cruel. :P
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting 952. hurricanes2018:
update new models are in
Fire away hurricanes2018 the carpet is yours tonight. I'll post the end of the rum.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting 950. beell:




Thanks, guys
A lame attempt at sarcasm here.
Man I knew it! Why did I even comment?
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
update new models are in
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I have a feeling the GFS will show a storm traversing the Atlantic and steam rolling into the Caribbean in the long range on this run, pattern favors it.

Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
950. beell
Quoting 941. JLPR2:


In more or less 7 hrs.


Quoting 945. GTstormChaserCaleb:
Just before sunrise, Beell. The Columbian Heat low is active


Thanks, guys
A lame attempt at sarcasm here.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
00z GFS already out to 15 hrs. looks like they fixed the bug from yesterday.

Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
You guys ready to run some models and see some storms?
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting 944. hurricanes2018:

Hurricane HENRIETTE
8:00 PM PDT Wed Aug 7
Location: 17.0°N 136.5°W
Moving: WNW at 10 mph
Min pressure: 984 mb
Max sustained: 85 mph

it holding on right now!!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting 937. beell:


What time is DMAX?


Just before sunrise, Beell. The Columbian Heat low is active
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:

Hurricane HENRIETTE
8:00 PM PDT Wed Aug 7
Location: 17.0°N 136.5°W
Moving: WNW at 10 mph
Min pressure: 984 mb
Max sustained: 85 mph
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting 902. Walshy:


Me too. I'm only 19 but pretty sure that was a once in a lifetime event to get that much snow from a tropical system in western NC.


I imagine that's the last time we'll ever see a hurricane produce snow.

But these days who knows...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting 936. TropicalAnalystwx13:
The National Hurricane Center's Tropical Cyclone Report for the East Pacific's Tropical Storm Alvin is out today.

Changes:

- Maximum intensity increased from 45kt to 50kt
- Minimum pressure dropped from 1003mb to 1000mb
- Formation time moved up from 1500 UTC May 15 to 0600 UTC May 15
- Accumulated Cyclone Energy index increased from 0.97 to 1.0175 units
- Dissipation time moved up from 0900 UTC May 17 to 0600 UTC May 17

Noteworthy:

- Alvin was the second lowest-latitude tropical cyclone to form in the East Pacific during the satellite era

P.S. there's a new format for TCRs as well

Link


Love the new look. It's clean.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
941. JLPR2
Quoting 937. beell:


What time is DMAX?




In more or less 7 hrs.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting 914. yankees440:


At the time, I was living in Coral Springs, Florida (about 20 miles NW of Ft. Lauderdale). Sustained winds were probably in the 60-75mph range, with much higher gusts, though can't be sure as I didn't have an anemometer. Wilma's eye came over us and the backside of the storm (which wasnt filmed), actually seemed to have higher sustained winds.

On a side note, i gotta head to the gym but i should be back on at around 12AM or so


have fun...
you'll be back then, but I will be out...

gnite all
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
18z GFS Ensembles spread show LA the target of the day for the GOM

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting 936. TropicalAnalystwx13:
The National Hurricane Center's Tropical Cyclone Report for the East Pacific's Tropical Storm Alvin is out today.

Changes:

- Maximum intensity increased from 45kt to 50kt
- Minimum pressure dropped from 1003mb to 1000mb
- Formation time moved up from 1500 UTC May 15 to 0600 UTC May 15
- Accumulated Cyclone Energy index increased from 0.97 to 1.0175 units
- Dissipation time moved up from 0900 UTC May 17 to 0600 UTC May 17

P.S. there's a new format for TCRs as well

Link


I like the new look.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
937. beell


What time is DMAX?


Member Since: Posts: Comments:
The National Hurricane Center's Tropical Cyclone Report for the East Pacific's Tropical Storm Alvin is out today.

Changes:

- Maximum intensity increased from 45kt to 50kt
- Minimum pressure dropped from 1003mb to 1000mb
- Formation time moved up from 1500 UTC May 15 to 0600 UTC May 15
- Accumulated Cyclone Energy index increased from 0.97 to 1.0175 units
- Dissipation time moved up from 0900 UTC May 17 to 0600 UTC May 17

Noteworthy:

- Alvin was the second lowest-latitude tropical cyclone to form in the East Pacific during the satellite era

P.S. there's a new format for TCRs as well

Link
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:

Viewing: 986 - 936

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 | 40Blog Index

Top of Page

Category 6™

About

Cat 6 lead authors: WU cofounder Dr. Jeff Masters (right), who flew w/NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990, & WU meteorologist Bob Henson, @bhensonweather