Hurricane Experts Track 2013 StormsBy Evelina Burnett | Published 12 Jul 2013 09:31am |
The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, known as the Hurricane Hunters, fly into the middle of a hurricane to gather data such as temperature, wind speed, dewpoint and air pressure. All that data is sent by satellite to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Forecasters are predicting 13 to 20 named storms this hurricane season, with 3 to 6 expected to be major storms and Hurricane Hunters, based at Biloxi’s Keesler Air Force Base, help make hurricane forecast tracks more accurate.
Lt. Col. Jon Talbot, the squadron’s chief meteorologist. He says that the data the Hurricane Hunters provide shaves off about 25 miles on either side of the warning area.
"Generally the track forecasts have gotten very, very good, it's because we have high resolution models that utilize a lot of different types of information, and our information is part of than. So we make the model forecasts about 15 percent better when you consider all the different data sources there are," says Talbot.
He says that the data the Hurricane Hunters provide shaves off about 25 miles on either side of the warning area. The smaller evacuation zones disrupt fewer people and businesses. It also lends more accuracy to forecast tracks, which, he hopes, will make people more likely to heed warnings.
"We're trying to you know, save lives at the same time, that's a big part of what we're doing to get people aware of , 'Hey this thing is coming you need to leave, you need to get out of the way,' we definitely do not want to have another 300 deaths like we had here along the Mississippi Coast during Hurricane Katrina," explains Talbot.
Talbot says the planes can provide accuracy that satellites, for example, can’t. For example, sometimes the eye of a hurricane is not clearly visible because it isn’t well formed or it’s covered in clouds. The planes use barometric pressure to locate it exactly.
"What's very important about that is if you tell the models that forecast where the storm is gonna go, if you give it a bad position and you're off by about 20 miles, 3 or 4 days later, you're off by about 250 to 300 miles from where that thing is, so you've got to be precise, where you tell the model, 'This is where it is.'" emphasizes Talbot.
Talbot spoke to a group this week at the Biloxi Visitors Center, part of a speaking series the Hurricane Hunters are giving monthly in Biloxi through the end of hurricane season this November.
Follow the Hurricane Hunter flights live online using Google Earth and this website:
The upcoming Hurricane Hunters information seminars are on Aug. 1, Sept. 5, Oct. 3 and Nov. 7. All the seminars will be from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Biloxi Visitors Center, 1050 Beach Blvd., Biloxi. For more information, contact Brian Lamar, 403rd Public Affairs, 228-365-2999.
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