Forecast models and tropics: How accurate are they?

Hurricane - Tropics
More WFLA Tracking the Tropics

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) – With hurricane season underway, you may see forecast models shared online and social media. Jason Beaman from the National Weather Service in Mobile says that while models are getting better at finding areas of potential tropical development before a storm forms, he warns against using long range models to determine a forecast track of a storm before it has a defined center.

Jason explains, “Cristobal was a good example. Before it formed, we had models, even models that we consider good models, showing landfall anywhere from south Texas to the Florida Panhandle. Now that we have a storm we have seen that that envelope has narrowed.” 

The National Hurricane Center cone forecast goes out 5 days. The size of the cone on day 4 and 5 is not storm specific. It is based on the historical track errors from the National Hurricane Center and is often several hundred miles wide. Jason goes on to say, “Now that’s why we still have just a 5 day forecast from the National Hurricane Center. Because our skill level beyond 5 days, just isn’t there yet. Our average 5 day error is still around 170 to 200 miles.” 

Also keep in mind that meteorologists look at a wide range of forecast models, taking into account the strengths and weaknesses of each one. So it is very important to not just focus on one model.

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