Sunday Story: Highs and Lows of Hurricane Forecasting

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I don’t think this week’s article could have been better planned. Read along and you’ll see what I mean. I hope you enjoy the Sunday Story!


Long-range forecasting poses one of the greatest challenges in weather forecasting. In an atmosphere where trillions of equations are changing by the second, it’s a wonder short-range forecasts are ever right, much less long range!

Thankfully, people have been studying the weather since the dawn of man, so we’ve learned a thing or two. The addition of supercomputers took us forward by leaps and bounds. 

Meteorologists are often asked to look far into the future. Folks make plans well in advance of a trip in order to get the best deals, but they want to be assured that the weather will cooperate. 

I recently had someone ask if I thought the hurricane season would get more active in September. After all, they had beach plans and they wanted them to be hurricane free. 

Guidance does suggest a more active period coming. One of the things we look for is high pressure in the Southeast US. High pressure typically brings sunny skies and pleasant weather for us, but that same high could be consequential for the tropics this time of year.

When high pressure is in control of the Southeast, that means the air is sinking and suppressing cloud development across that region. That sinking air must eventually rise again. The edge of the clockwise-spinning center of high pressure is where that air begins to rise again, leading to storminess there.  

With high pressure and sinking air over the Southeast, the edge of the high pressure is often found across the Gulf of Mexico. If storminess develops along that edge and in the Gulf this time of year, we have to monitor it for tropical development.  

So, the next time the forecast calls for high pressure and clear skies for Tennessee, keep an eye on the tropics. Our good weather fortune could be their tropical misfortune. 

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