Communication Is Often An Issue With Hurricane Forecasts

hurricane forecastIt’s no secret that many of meteorologists’ predictions can oftentimes be skewed or inaccurate. Now, this most certainly is not because they aren’t good at their jobs or don’t know what they are doing, it’s more or less due to the weather’s fickle nature. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) in particular receives multitudes of this type of backlash when their predictions don’t match the outcome of the storm. Though they are usually on par with the predictions they make, sometimes it comes down to the communication systems getting in their way. This especially was the case when hurricane Irma made its way to Florida. NHC believes that it all comes down to the lines of communication after the predictions are made.

Hurricane Forecasting Issues

The meteorologists of The National Hurricane Center were very adamant about their accuracy in predicting the course of hurricane Irma’s fury along the southern tip of Florida. Many of their experts claim that their forecasts and predictions for Irma’s weather were as accurate as it could possibly get–even better than average. However, whether you lived in Florida or were keeping up with the constant updates of Irma’s path, you’ll know that despite the predictions made by the NHC and the local weather channels, Irma made a sudden turn and rather than directly hitting Miami and Fort Lauderdale, it instead, traveled up the west coast to Naples.

The National Hurricane Center is very insistent on the fact that the issue with their forecasts falls on communication lines, or more specifically, the misinterpretation of their forecasts by the local weather channels. Unfortunately, the combination of graphs, possible courses, and weather jargon can be slightly overwhelming and easy for fellow meteorologists–and the public–to skew and misconstrue.

During the time of Irma’s travels up towards Florida, many broadcasters and officials were mainly discussing the ‘fact’ that Irma was going to ‘directly hit’ Miami–a big misinterpretation of the NHC’s advisories–which led to surprise and disbelief when it made its way to Naples. With that being said, the NHC has pinned down the exact spot where the miscommunication begins: the cone of uncertainty.  

The Cone of Uncertainty

The cone of uncertainty is usually a graphic with possible paths that the hurricane can take during its course. Usually, the NHC creates these graphics in order to prepare the surrounding states that could potentially face the storm’s fury. The cone of uncertainty also depicts where the center of the storm could go at any point. So, when the NHC released the cone of uncertainty graphics to the local weather station channels, many saw that big, bold M right next to Miami and automatically assumed that Irma was going to make a direct hit there. However, many not only failed to realize that the ‘M’ really stood for the type of category the storm would be at that certain point, they also did not note that the hurricane had the potential to hit not only Miami but the whole southern area of Florida’s peninsula as well. To make matters worse, local weather stations and TV networks replaced the ‘M’ with a hurricane symbol which really scared a lot of people.

So, in wake of Irma’s destruction and deception, the National Hurricane Center and local weather stations really need to work more closely together in order to provide viewers with insight, forecasts, and graphics that won’t cause a breach of communication or misinterpretation.

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