New technology from the University of Wisconsin will help prepare more detailed forecasts and provide more reliable information to meteorologists and emergency planners, which should ultimately lead to better and safer results for public safety.
The Advanced Dvorak Technique (ADT) is a satellite-based method for determining the intensity of tropical cyclones. Planned upgrades include the use of full-resolution imagery from weather satellites, better identification of each storm’s eye location, and the ability to better analyze hurricanes occurring outside the tropics.
Developed by researchers at the University of Wisconsin – Madison Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS), the ADT provides an indication of how a storm might strengthen, especially when approaching populated coastal areas.
2020 and 2021 have been very active hurricane seasons in the Atlantic, and if this year turns out to be anything like the past two, upgrades will be welcome.
How will it be used?
“For us, the goal is to provide a tool that allows forecasters to do their job better,” University of Wisconsin CIMSS researcher Tim Olander said in a press release.
The release also noted that landing preparations and evacuations are costly and disruptive, “Accurate predictions aided by ADT can have huge implications for emergency planners who must decide whether or not to issue an order. , and for the residents who must follow it”.
One of the ADT upgrades plans to tackle the problem head-on by providing better identification of the location of the center of circulation (often referred to as the eye of the storm).
“Identifying the center of circulation with the greatest degree of accuracy is very important to the National Hurricane Center because it helps us start the forecasting process with the best initial conditions, which will likely make track forecasts more accurate,” said John Cangialosi. , senior hurricane specialist at the NHC. “Furthermore, the ADT itself performs better when the center position used in the technique is more accurate, which in turn will provide better intensity estimates to the NHC.”
There are many ways to obtain information for tropical forecasts. One of the most valuable comes from hurricane hunters who fly planes directly into tropical systems to gather critical data used by NHC forecasters. The problem is that tropical systems are fluid and ever-changing, and hurricane chasers can’t fly 24/7 through every storm.
With more data, forecasters can reduce errors in the future path of the storm’s track, known as the forecast cone of uncertainty. Being able to reduce it, even a little, can help city planners, emergency managers and local residents know when to evacuate.
“When the NHC flies hurricane fighter jets into storms, it primarily relies on this ‘ground truth’ to estimate current strength,” said Colorado State University (CSU) researcher Phil Klotzbach. . “However, when there are no aircraft present, NOAA relies on a variety of satellite-based estimation tools to assess the current strength of a storm.”
One such tool includes Dvorak estimates subjectively analyzed by the Tropical Analysis and Forecast Branch as well as the Satellite Analysis Branch. Analysis of these and other tools feeds directly into forecasting.
“In addition to these subjective analyses, the ADT also runs in an automated fashion approximately every 30 minutes, providing estimates of storm intensity,” Klotzbach noted. “You can see how the NHC combines these tools in some of their Hurricane Sam forecast discussions last year.”
The new software for improving ADT storm center positions is called Automated Rotational Center Hurricane Eye Retrieval (ARCHER).
Olander pointed out that previous versions of the ADT used infrared (IR) imagery, which, unlike visible imagery, is available at all times of the day. But the new version contains additional images to facilitate predictions.
“The technique uses multispectral satellite data to provide a much better determination of the storm’s center than just using IR imagery alone,” Olander pointed out.
In addition to Atlantic Basin hurricanes, the system works well for tropical storms in other oceans, where direct measurements may be more difficult to obtain.
“Being able to estimate storm intensity is important to help emergency planners prepare for any storms that may interact with coastal regions and population centers as well as nautical interests such as shipping and the military,” added Olander.
“Places like Canada, the UK and Europe are very interested in these types of storms and how they can affect them because they can cause a lot of damage,” Olander pointed out. “Extending the ADT to provide intensity estimates when the storm is in these regions can be a huge help to forecasters in these regions.”
Another busy season?
CSU is just one of more than a dozen academic institutions, government agencies, and private forecasting companies that publish seasonal projections.
CSU’s Tropical Meteorology Project team released its annual seasonal Atlantic Basin hurricane forecast earlier this month, calling for 19 named storms this hurricane season, five more than normal. Of the 19 storms, nine are expected to become hurricanes and four are expected to become major Category 3 or greater hurricanes.
Climatologically, about 30% of all Atlantic hurricanes make landfall in the United States. However, not all predicted storms need to make landfall in the United States for this season to be considered a busy season.
“It’s important to understand that it doesn’t matter if there are 20 storms or just one; if it affects you, it’s a busy season,” said CNN meteorologist Haley Brink.
The chance of a major hurricane making landfall along the U.S. coast is now 71%, well above the 52% average of the last century, according to the CSU report.
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Statistics like these demonstrate why it’s important to start preparing now, by reviewing your evacuation plans and making sure your evacuation kit is in order and up to date.
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