by Glenn "Hurricane" Schwartz
Yes, tropical storm and hurricane forecasts have gotten a LOT better over the decades. When I worked at the National Hurricane Center in the 1970s, track error averaged about 400 miles in their 72-hour forecast. In 2020 it was around 50 miles! And a 120-hour (5-day) forecast today is close to the 24-hour forecast accuracy in the 70s!
Of course, intensity forecasting improvement is still minimal (the subject of a future post).
We have been spoiled by the amazing accuracy of NHC and the constantly improving computer models it uses (their official forecasts still beat any single model). But that is only for tropical cyclones THAT ALREADY EXIST!
When we can't even find a center of circulation, we can't even initialize a forecast accurately. So, how can we rely on computer model forecasts OF ANY TYPE to tell us where the system will be even a couple of days out? We have seen that typical problem in the disturbances being followed this week.
Looks like the start of a big ramping up of tropical activity in the Atlantic, right? Well, not exactly. Read the discussions that come with the impressive probabilities of development. It sure seems like NHC isn't too concerned about what might happen as we approach Labor Day weekend. NONE of those disturbances pose any threat to land in the foreseeable future.
The one farthest north could have the best chance to intensify into a hurricane, but it's in the middle of the ocean! Unless it ends up hitting the Azores-or Europe, it will be remembered as a "fish storm" (a common way meteorologists refer to storms that are only a danger to fish).
There's still too much shear, too much Saharan dust, too much dry air, and more factors that continue to limit tropical potential. Which is fine-especially for the historical peak of hurricane season.
In the meantime, no tropical storms have developed in the Atlantic basin in August since 1997. That was a strong El Nino year, so that was no surprise. This year is a surprise-so far.
What you need to know, currently.
“How inappropriate it is to call this planet Earth,” science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke once remarked, “when it is clearly Ocean.” The ocean covers more than seventy percent of the world and absorbs roughly a third of mankind’s carbon emissions — yet it remains largely unprotected and unregulated. This past Saturday, negotiations at the UN headquarters stalled when diplomats failed to reach a decision on a treaty deal that would protect biodiversity in two thirds of ocean areas that remain outside of individual countries' jurisdictions.
“The oceans sustain all life on Earth, but for the last two weeks, the self-proclaimed High Ambition Coalition has not shown enough ambition or urgency until the final hours,” said Laura Meller, of Greenpeace. “As a result, they have failed to deliver a strong Global Ocean Treaty that can protect the high seas. They promised a Treaty in 2022, and time has all but run out. They shouldn’t shoulder all responsibility, other countries have been deliberately obstructive, but failure to deliver a Treaty at these talks jeopardizes the livelihoods and food security of billions of people around the world.”
Protecting marine biodiversity is particularly important as the ocean is opened up to deep sea mining and becomes yet another extraction zone.