Hurricane forecasts can be made a decade in advance

For the first time, scientists can predict hurricanes years ahead of time.

The destructive path of a hurricane might get a little more predictable, according to Met Office Hadley Centre scientists, who claim it's possible to predict the number of hurricanes years in advance.

By using a computer model called Decadal Climate Prediction System (DePreSys), scientists predicted how many storms occurred during past hurricane seasons. Met Office's Doug Smith ran the computer model using ocean temperature, air pressure and wind speeds, according to New Scientist:

  • First, Smith looked at the hurricane seasons from 1960 to 2007 to predict the number of storms that occurred each year.
  • Nine different models were run and then Smith took the average to get the most accurate computer model.
  • Using the model, the researchers made 10-year predictions from the years 1960 to 2005.
  • The first few years were the most accurate.
  • The computer model predicted the number of storms within 19 percent of the historical number. Not bad.

Being able to predict hurricane patterns years in advance will not only transform scientific knowledge of the destructive beasts, it will likely change how the insurance industry looks at risk and could help hard hit hurricane regions prepare better for the storm.

The study was published in Nature Geoscience.

Hurricane activity has been more active in the past 15 years. There's been an uptick in the frequency of Atlantic storms — but you can't just blame the fluctuations in ocean temperature, the scientists concluded. However, the scientists still can't gauge how other factors like solar activity or greenhouse gases might play a role.

Predicting the number of hurricanes is one thing. But it will be more difficult to actually predict how destructive the hurricanes will be. Even so, this is the first time anyone has tried to predict the number of hurricanes beyond the immediate hurricane season.

On that note, Smith is ready to use his hindcast skills to forecast future hurricane seasons.

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