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Earth Supercomputing Technology

Texas Supercomputer Upgrading the Hurricane Forecast 31

Posted by timothy
from the even-the-data-is-bigger-in-texas dept.
aarondubrow writes "Researchers used the Ranger supercomputer to test a new, high-resolution hurricane forecasting system that incorporates Doppler radar data from planes flying into the storm. The forecasts were shown to improve intensity predictions by an average of 20 to 40 percent over the official forecasts of the National Hurricane Center (NHC). The prediction system is being hailed as a breakthrough and is one of a handful being assessed by the NHC to become part of the operational forecasting system used in emergency situations."
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Texas Supercomputer Upgrading the Hurricane Forecast

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  • Badly needed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dtmos (447842) * on Sunday February 12, 2012 @08:00AM (#39010369)

    As TFA states, while the location predictions have been improving significantly, the best hurricane intensity predictions are only slightly better than what can be obtained from a Ouija board. (No offense intended to those in the field; I know it's a tough problem.)

    Just defining "intensity" in a useful way can be difficult. For example, if Storm A has a region in the Northeast quadrant with 100 mph (161 km/h) winds, but elsewhere winds do not exceed 80 mph (129 km/h), and Storm B has 100 mph (161 km/h) winds in all four quadrants, both have the same max wind speed. Which is more intense? What if Storm B has 95 mph (153 km/h) winds in all four quadrants? What if the two storms have the same wind speeds, but are different sizes? If Storm C has lower wind speed than Storm D but, due to its slower forward speed or other reasons, drops five times as much rain, which one was the more intense storm?

    When I counsel high school and college students, I always tell them to "work on important problems." Even though I make a point of saying that the definition of "important" is "what's important to you," I am always asked for examples of "important problems." Getting better hurricane intensity forecasts is one of the examples I always mention.

    • Re:Badly needed (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Captain Splendid (673276) <capsplendid@gmail. c o m> on Sunday February 12, 2012 @12:41PM (#39011475) Homepage Journal
      Which is more intense?

      No one cares. Honestly. Because anyone who lives in hurricane zones is already well acquainted with quadrants and which side of the hurricane they'd rather be on when it passes by.

      As long as this is an overall step up quantifying and predicting hurricanes, those little details like that will only matter to the specialists and parsers such as yourself. Everybody on the ground will just be happy that things got a little more refined and predictable.
      • by icebike (68054) *

        Everybody on the ground will just be happy that things got a little more refined and predictable.

        But who on the ground even knows that things got more refined and predictable?

        After all, everyone on the ground sees the same news media clowns struggling to stand upright in the same puddle of water getting lashed by
        winds in areas especially selected for their wind tunnel effect. The media is constantly preaching of doom and gloom and great destruction from storms which are ALREADY predicted via current methods to be largely spent by time of arrival. Disaster theater.

        When will you ever see a government a

        • by Canjo (1956258)

          But who on the ground even knows that things got more refined and predictable?

          After all, everyone on the ground sees the same news media clowns struggling to stand upright in the same puddle of water getting lashed by winds in areas especially selected for their wind tunnel effect. The media is constantly preaching of doom and gloom and great destruction from storms which are ALREADY predicted via current methods to be largely spent by time of arrival. Disaster theater.

          This is indeed a problem, but when you live in a Hurricane-prone area you typically aren't watching the national news, which is trying to make $$$ by making a spectacle. You're probably watching the local news stations which are relatively more informative. In fact, when Hurricane Gustav hit New Orleans in 2008, I remember the guy on the local Fox station explicitly told us NOT to watch Fox News, since it was just sensationalist and trying to scare people.

          In any case, it doesn't hurt to err on the side of

      • by dtmos (447842) *

        No one cares.

        C'mon -- you can do better than that. Things can't get "a little more refined and predictable" if the phenomenon we are predicting is incompletely defined, to the point that no two people have the same understanding of the concept.

        Besides, anyone who lives in hurricane zones is also well acquainted with the fact that the present intensity forecasts are terrible, which leads to cycles of over- and under-preparation by the populace. It would be nice if we could tell, say, three days in advance whether a Cat

        • Before Hurricane Katrina made landfall, the storm surged in intensity from a Category 3 to a Category 5 storm. At that point, the National Weather Service in New Orleans issued out what has since been referred to as the "Doomsday" message, making it graphically clear what was facing the region when Katrina struck. It was the first time that the NWS went to this extreme a message, and made people realize just how real the threat was.

          Having lived in the region at that time (panhandle of Florida) I can te
          • by dtmos (447842) *

            Yep. And you will notice that they did not predict the intensity surge from Cat 3 to Cat 5: They only issued the "Doomsday" message in response to the storm's increase in intensity. It would have been nice if the surge were forecast a day or two earlier, so that a more orderly evacuation could be made.

            If it had made landfall as a weak Category 3 -- especially if the high wind field was over a small area -- and the storm made landfall in a sparsely populated area, e.g., Franklin County, everyone in the mo

      • by Deus.1.01 (946808)

        Lets see, sea vessels(fishing, shipping, etc), air travel oh...and a flash flood are really....flashy in a watery grave, infrastructure damaging sorta way.

    • "Just defining "intensity" in a useful way can be difficult."

      It doesn't seem that bad. Most of the relevant disaster-planning data can be expressed by giving both the average windspeed and the maximum windspeed. That lets people know both what they're likely to expect and the worst case they should plan for.

      I strongly suspect, however, due to the rotational nature of hurricaines, that windspeed does not actually vary over "quadrants" very much, but is instead strongly correlated with radial distance from th

      • by dtmos (447842) *

        It doesn't seem that bad.

        Um, sorry, but speak to your climatologist first. These storms are big, and the problem is that, when they come ashore, each location will experience a different wind profile. Thus there is no single "average" wind speed to forecast upon landfall -- every location will experience something different, and listing some kind of two-dimensional overall average of the storm isn't much help: Not only do the storms vary significantly in size, but the size of the eye varies significantly, too. To make matters s

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...to improve intensity predictions by an average of 20 to 40 percent...

    Can someone more knowledgeable in this area explain this in laymen's terms?
    Can they now predict whether or not a specific tree will be uprooted? Or just give a 40% more accurate estimate for damage in an area?
    Or are they now 40% less off when they predict the wind speeds of a hurricane?

    Curious,

    AC.

  • by trout007 (975317) on Sunday February 12, 2012 @09:21AM (#39010509)

    Some more advances and we will be at Educated Guess.

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