The NHC Tests Five-Day Forecast

With the 2002 Atlantic hurricane season set to begin June 1, NOAA’s National Hurricane Center, part of the National Weather Service, is gearing up for the second year of an experimental forecast project that may enable it to issue five-day tropical cyclone forecasts in 2003. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is part of the Department of Commerce.

“We saw some promising results in the first year of the experiment,” said Brig. Gen. Jack Kelly, USAF (ret.), the director of the National Weather Service. “But one year of research statistics is a small sample. If success can be maintained across two seasons, we will have more confidence it could prove to be a valuable tool in increasing public safety during tropical cyclone season.”

Statistics from the first year of the experiment indicate, if implemented, the five-day forecast will be more accurate than the three-day forecast when it was introduced in the 1960s, according to Kelly.

The project began during the 2001 hurricane season, when the National Hurricane Center developed experimental in-house, five-day forecasts of Atlantic and eastern North Pacific tropical cyclones. At the conclusion of the 2002 hurricane season, the NOAA Weather Service will evaluate the experimental forecast results in terms of forecast accuracy and customer needs.

NOAA Weather Service, in consultation with its customers, will determine whether the forecasts will be used operationally in 2003. The NWS provides tropical cyclone forecasts, watches and warnings to emergency managers, government officials, as well as the military, international community, media, public and others. The Navy, which needs up to 96 hours to move docked ships and other equipment out of harm’s way, is one of the customers requesting an extended forecast product.

“The increase in coastal populations necessitates longer lead times for evacuations and emergency measures,” said Ed Rappaport, the deputy director of NOAA’s National Hurricane Center. “With accurate forecasts, public safety is enhanced. We hope the second year of the experiment will give us and our customers confidence that we can provide a valuable product.”

Bill Johnson, the assistant director of the Miami-Dade Office of Emergency Management, said the five-day forecast can greatly increase his agency’s effectiveness.

“We are looking forward to the completion of the second year testing of this product. Any tool that will give us earlier information will make our protective actions more effective and help improve public safety,” he said.

The 2001 hurricane season was a more active season than usual, even though none of the hurricanes made U.S. landfall for the second consecutive year. NOAA Weather Service will release the outlook for the 2002 hurricane season in May. The National Hurricane Center will continue to provide three-day forecasts for the 2002 hurricane season.

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