New Hurricane Forecast Method Beats Other Models by Staggering 23 Percent

First Posted: Apr 01, 2015 06:30 AM EDT

There may be a new and better method for predicting the number of hurricanes in an upcoming season. Scientists have created a new model that improves on the accuracy of seasonal hurricane forecasts for the North Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico by an impressive 23 percent.

Hurricanes can be devastating. These massive storms have wind speeds that can be greater than 73 mph, and are among the most damaging natural disasters in the U.S. The Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June 1 to Nov. 30. That's why it's so important to be able to predict these storms.

"Our model is better at predicting the number of seasonal hurricanes in the Atlantic than the other existing models," said Kyle Davis, one of the researchers, in a news release. "On average, our model has 23 percent less error for predicting hurricanes occurring since 2001."

The researchers created the new model with data from the 1950 to 2013 hurricane seasons. Then, they tested the model to see if it could "hindcast" the number of hurricanes that occurred each season from 1900 to 1949. The model was able to predict the number of hurricanes relatively well, performing much better than other models.

Other forecasting models rely heavily on the El Niño climate cycle, a three-to-seven-year cycle that impacts weather across the globe. Yet this isn't the only impact that comes into play. The new model also incorporates the force of the wind on the ocean and the sea surface temperature over the Atlantic. It also includes the effect of El Niño for only years when the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) is in the cool phase.

The findings are important for prediction hurricanes in the future. The new model is hugely important for better understanding how many hurricanes may be headed our way in a given season.

The findings are published in the journal Weather and Forecasting.

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