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Intense storms provide the first test of powerful new hurricane forecast tools

Instruments are slated to improve predictions of path and intensity

By
8:07am, September 21, 2017
hurricane Irma

IRMA INCOMING  Hurricane Irma passed by Cuba on September 8, 2017, as a Category 4 storm (seen in this geocolor image captured by NOAA’s GOES-16 satellite) before making landfall in the Florida Keys on September 10, 2017.

This year’s Atlantic hurricane season has already proven to be active and deadly. Powerful hurricanes such as Harvey, Irma and Maria are also providing a testing ground for new tools that scientists hope will save lives by improving forecasts in various ways, from narrowing a storm’s future path to capturing swift changes in the intensity of storm winds.

Some of the tools that debuted this year — such as the GOES-16 satellite — are already winning praise from scientists. Others, such as a new microsatellite system aiming to improve measurements of hurricane intensity and a highly anticipated new computer simulation that forecasts hurricane paths and intensities, are still in the calibration phase. As these tools get an unprecedented workout thanks to an unusually ferocious series of storms, scientists may know in a few months whether hurricane forecasting is about to undergo a sea change.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

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