How do meteorologists predict the path of storms and hurricanes?

In order to safeguard against unforeseen destruction by hurricane winds and floods, the National Weather Service, after detecting a storm, tries to predict its course.

Forecasting, in actual practice, is very technical, but it rests on several methods that may be described broadly.

According to a theory of persistence, forecasters assume a storm will persist along its present course. This information can supplement findings based on climatology, a study in which the current storm is compared with historical ones that resemble it.

There are “families” of storm tracks, and the current storm may behave like one a hundred years earlier that traveled along approximately the same latitude at a similar speed.

Another factor to consider is surrounding weather, or large scale wind patterns, such as the Bermuda high in the Atlantic. Prediction along these lines is called a steering forecast.

A numerical weather prediction can be made by modeling the winds around a storm in a computer, which can predict where the vortex of the hurricane will shift. The drawback to this method is that a substantial amount of meteorological data, which may be very difficult to obtain is required, particularly if the storm is mid oceanic.

Finally, a statistical forecast may be drawn up by collating information from the other four methods and actually formulating an equation that can indicate the future behavior of the storm.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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