Inaccurate Forecasts

Hurricane Irma must be the most closely tracked hurricane in history. There seem to be dozens of US TV stations following it minute by minute. It’s been called a “nuclear” storm by the governor of Florida. And the point where it’s been due to make landfall is being called “ground zero”. Literally millions of people have been fleeing northward from southern Florida.

But do the weather forecasters really know where it’s going? Two or three days ago lots of the forecasts had Irma tracking up the east side of Florida (orange line below). It was supposed to perform a sharp turn right. And as time wore on, the expected turn got sharper and sharper. Now they’ve got the expected path tracking up the west side of Florida (red dotted line). That’s a 180 km shift westward in about 3 days. And even to get to do that, Irma is still going to have to take a pretty sharp turn right.

To my untutored eye, extrapolating Irma’s path in the direction it has actually been going, it looks like it’s going to track way west  of Florida (yellow line), and could end up in Alabama. After all, a hurricane is a mass of air rolling across the surface of the Earth, not much different from a freewheeling truck.

Maybe I could use my orbital simulation model on it. Last night on the Smoky Drinky Bar, Brigitte was wondering if I could do that, and I was saying that I couldn’t. But in fact I can model the motion of a ball rolling over the surface of the Earth, in unimpeded motion. The thing that jumped the idea into focus this morning was when one of the breathless TV weather reporters spoke of a “closest approach” of Irma to Florida. That made Irma sound like one of my asteroids, which are usually making close approaches to the Earth.

I’m beginning to wonder whether the hurricane weather models they’re using are any better than their long-term climate models, which didn’t predict the past 18 – 20 year “pause” in global warming. And I’m wondering whether they’ve just evacuated millions of people from Florida when it wasn’t really necessary. And I’m wondering whether there’s going to be political storm breaking out when Irma misses Florida completely.

Which reminds me: did anyone predict that Hurricane Harvey would double back on its path, and so hang over Houston for much longer than it might ordinarily have done? I don’t remember anyone forecasting that.

I was writing a couple of days ago that these hurricanes made life a lot busier for everyone in their path, as they worked to clear up the mess and repair stuff after they’d passed by. It could well be that hurricane predictions are now also making life harder for anyone in their predicted paths. And that’s most likely going to be a lot more people than the number of people who are actually affected. From the Independent a day ago:

More than six million people – a quarter of the Florida’s population – have been ordered to evacuate.

That’s six million people who have been ordered to up sticks and move away for maybe two or three days, on the basis of a false prediction of Irma’s path. And for them that’ll be 10 million days lost, sitting wrapped in blankets on the floor of a community centre somewhere in the middle of nowhere.

Hurricane Irma was reported to be at latitude 23.9º, longitude -81.3º at 2.00 am EDT today, and at latitude 24.1º, longitude -81.5º at 5.00 am EDT, moving pretty much along the direction of my guessed path. The eye is going to pass over Key West, about 50 km from the southern tip of Florida. And hurricane force winds will barely brush it, now that Irma has been reduced to a Category 3 hurricane.

Clearly it’s going to be very wet and windy over most of Florida, but was it really necessary to order the evacuation of 6 million people?

P.S. Two hours after I posted this, Irma turned north and moved up the west coast of Florida almost exactly as forecast in the map above. Shows what little I know about weather forecasting.

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About Frank Davis

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11 Responses to Inaccurate Forecasts

  1. castello2 says:

    I’ve only hear once that a high pressure zone was/is sitting to the west of Irma and supposedly pushing it north. We shall see but they sure don’t talk about it much,,,,,yet. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSMSnjsS57M

  2. RdM says:

    Well, it’s hardly any comfort, but in the background,

    Defense Secretary Cohen’s 1997 Warning
    about Scalar EM Geotechnical Terrorism

    “Others [terrorists] are engaging even in an eco-type of terrorism whereby they can alter the climate, set off earthquakes, volcanoes remotely through the use of electromagnetic waves… So there are plenty of ingenious minds out there that are at work finding ways in which they can wreak terror upon other nations…It’s real, and that’s the reason why we have to intensify our [counterterrorism] efforts.”

    Secretary of Defense William Cohen at an April 1997 counterterrorism conference sponsored by former Senator Sam Nunn. Quoted from DoD News Briefing, Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen, Q&A at the Conference on Terrorism, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and U.S. Strategy, University of Georgia, Athens, Apr. 28, 1997.

    http://cheniere.org/correspondence/082705.htm

    Conspiracy theories?

    Who knows?

    http://cheniere.org/toc.html

  3. Joe Public says:

    “Clearly it’s going to be very wet and windy over most of Florida, ……….”

    Current wind, weather, ocean conditions on an interactive animated map. Updated every three hours, so up to 3hr out of date

    https://earth.nullschool.net/#current/wind/surface/level/orthographic=-80.45,25.17,3000/loc=-81.320,24.337

    • jaxthefirst says:

      I always check that site as a double-take on the weather forecasts as it seems to be much more accurate than theirs are. Maybe the weather channels are deliberately vague to cover themselves, whereas this site is all done by satellite. I’ve been looked at the predicted path of Irma over the last few days (because you can jump forwards or backwards by several days), and so far, the actual path of Irma has been spot on according to yesterday and the day before’s images. Jumping forward a day or two, and it looks like Irma is going to stick largely to the east of the State before petering out around Tuesday/Wednesday once it gets off the smaller landmass of Florida and hits the larger landmass of Alabama/Georgia to the north. We’ll see.

      And it’s also a fascinating site just to sit and watch. Very pretty! Much more interesting than some dippy weather forecaster waving their hands around in front of a relatively static map!

  4. beobrigitte says:

    Quick update: There is a tornado forming between Orlando and Haines City.
    Another touched down earlier causing roof damage. Not sure where exactly.

  5. garyk30 says:

    The weather forecasters try to educate folks, it is the politicians that order folks to do this or that.

    No doubt the politicians have a great feeling of self importance and feel good power in many of their proclamations.

  6. george brown kinghorn says:

    I think the great and good are much prone to flappimg nowadays.While we the great unwashed do what we allways did and sort it out.

  7. beobrigitte says:

    But do the weather forecasters really know where it’s going?
    I wondered about this, too. By last night I had watched many hours of live covering of Irma’s predicted path – and found the predicted paths did change, maybe not much initially, but this change did make a difference on what part of Florida is being hit the worst. A few hours ago Irma slightly changed it’s path again and due to this it’s landfall will be Marco island.
    I wish I had asked Frank much earlier to try and predict Irma’s path. I’m sure Frank’s model would have been very reliable!

    I’m beginning to wonder whether the hurricane weather models they’re using are any better than their long-term climate models, which didn’t predict the past 18 – 20 year “pause” in global warming.
    It’ll be too late when the climate change industry admits that our planet is doing what it always has done. How many climate changes in the past can be traced? All “man-made”?
    In the name of “progress” fashionable new industries appear to concentrate on destroying old, established, industries at a huge cost of any population. The climate change industry is hellbent on fighting climate change, perhaps it needs to justify it’s existence?
    In any case, if we don’t learn to live with our ever changing planet all the the things it serves us will decimate most animal and plant life and will leave the last climate changer standing with egg on his/her face.

    And I’m wondering whether they’ve just evacuated millions of people from Florida when it wasn’t really necessary.
    I’ve followed live streams for a few days. Although there were mandatory evacuations, they could not force the ones who want the ride Irma out to go.

    And I’m wondering whether there’s going to be political storm breaking out when Irma misses Florida completely.
    Unless Irma does another unexpected turn it is not going to miss Florida. Neither will the political storm that follows.

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