TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A revolutionary weather model that accurately predicted the rapid intensification of Hurricane Ian will assume the position as the National Hurricane Center’s premier hurricane forecasting model.
The NHC said its new “Hurricane Analysis and Forecast System,” or HAFS for short, went operational on June 27 alongside older models for the 2023 hurricane season. The system is the first new major forecast model to use NOAA’s updated weather and climate supercomputers.
An experimental version of HAFS which ran from 2019 to 2022 showed a 10-15% improvement in track predictions compared to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s existing hurricane models.
“HAFS provides more accurate, higher-resolution forecast information both over land and ocean,” NOAA said.
HAFS can zoom in with a resolution of 1.2 miles on areas of a hurricane that are key to improving wind intensity and rain forecasts, the NHC said.
“One unique aspect to HAFS is we have this moving nest which is basically an area of high-resolution fine grid that follows the storm as it moves and allows you to simulate the eyewall, the eye, the rainband, all those features of a hurricane in more detail,“ said University of Miami Meteorologist Andy Hazelton.
During the 2022 hurricane season, the NHC said HAFS was the first model to accurately predict that Hurricane Ian would undergo secondary rapid intensification as the devastating storm swirled off the coast of Cuba and barreled toward southwest Florida.
Although HAFS showed a substantial improvement in track predictions, researchers said they plan to upgrade the model further over the next four years, enabling even more accuracy of forecasts, warnings, and life-saving information.
“We’ve still seen some other cases where it missed. That’s an ongoing research challenge,” Hazelton added. “There are lots of things you have to get right. You don’t want to have every storm rapidly intensify because we know that’s not what happens in reality, but you want to be able to pick up those cases that do.”
NOAA says by 2027, its objective is to reduce all model forecast errors by nearly half compared to errors seen in 2017.
“With the introduction of the HAFS forecast model into our suite of tropical forecasting tools, our forecasters are better equipped than ever to safeguard lives and property with enhanced accuracy and timely warnings,” said Ken Graham, director of NOAA’s National Weather Service.
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