First Symposium on Policy Research


Hurricane Forecasting: The State of the Art

Hugh E. Willoughby, International Hurricane Center, Florida International University, Miami, FL; and E. Rappaport and F. D. Marks

The purpose of this paper is to summarize forecasting practice, the performance of the forecasting enterprise, and the impacts of tropical cyclones from a meteorological perspective. In the past, a forecast was considered successful if it specified the position and intensity of the hurricane for times ranging from 24 through 72 hours after the initial time. By the 1990s, users came to expect a great deal of specific detail, including spatial distributions of rainfall, winds, flooding and high seas, for times as long as 120 hours into the future. Meteorologists have maintained reliable, homogenous statistics on forecast accuracy for more than a half-century. These “verification” statistics provide reliable metrics of meteorological performance. In terms of outcomes, late twentieth century forecasting prevents 90% of the hurricane-related mortality that would occur with techniques used in the 1950s, but it is difficult to demonstrate any effect on property damage. Also poorly known are the economic and human impacts of the response to forecasts and warnings. A final key concern is how to frame forecasts both to address users' needs and to elicit optimum responses.

Session 1, Policy Research in the Earth System Sciences
Wednesday, 1 February 2006, 8:30 AM-5:30 PM, A307

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