NOAA’s 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook: What’s new?

NOAA brings exciting new observing, modeling, forecasting and communications tools to the table this year to improve our hurricane warning capabilities and aid public readiness:

  • Even before its final positioning, the sophisticated camera on NOAA’s new GOES-16 satellitewill give our hurricane forecasters a sneak peek at its greater image resolution, sharp detail and rapid-refresh rate. One of the powerful instruments aboard GOES-16, the lightning mapper, will allow forecasters to see lightning strikes that build within tropical cyclones – a possible signal of strengthening.
  • The combination of two high-resolution hurricane models will improve forecast guidance for the National Hurricane Center this season. The upgraded Hurricane Weather Research Forecast modeladds better representation of storms at higher vertical resolution, and has advanced data assimilation and improved physics. With these upgrades, the model can improve intensity forecasts by as much as 10 percent and track forecasts by as much as seven percent. NOAA’s Environmental Modeling Center also is replacing the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory Hurricane Model with a new hurricane model called HMON, for Hurricanes in a Multi-Scale Ocean-Coupled Non-Hydrostatic, which has superior track and intensity forecast skill.
  • NOAA’s National Hurricane Center is providing a suite of new forecast and communication toolsthis season. Forecasters there will issue Storm Surge Watches and Warnings operationally this year, in addition to issuing advisories, watches and warnings for disturbances that aren’t yet a tropical cyclone but still threaten land with tropical storm or hurricane conditions within 48 hours. The center added a new experimental visualization tool so the public can easily see when damaging winds are forecast to reach their community. Also, beginning this year, the public will be able to click on the hurricane track cone graphic and see how far outside of the cone hurricane and tropical-storm-force winds extend, which can be hundreds of miles.

“Regardless of how many storms develop this year, it only takes one to disrupt our lives,” said Acting FEMA Administrator Robert J. Fenton, Jr. “Get ready now with these easy, low-cost steps that will leave you better prepared and will make all the difference: Have a family discussion about what you will do, where you will go and how you will communicate with each other when a storm threatens; Know your evacuation route; tune into your local news or download the FEMA app to get alerts, and finally – listen to local authorities as a storm approaches.”

The 2016 season was the most active since 2012, with 15 named storms, including 7 hurricanes and 4 major hurricanes.