The Science Behind Hurricane Forecasting

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Hurricane forecasts are particularly tricky. Fortunately, today's high-tech tools can help and WHNT News 19 morning anchor Michelle Stark sat down with meteorologist Ben Smith to learn more about the science of forecasting.

One of the things that makes forecasting Hurricanes so difficult is the many variables that have to be accounted for.

"You're talking about sea surface temperatures, upper level winds... wave action," Smith explained.

Two of the most important tools available to meteorologists are radar imagery and modeling. Sensitive radar gives meteorologists an aerial view of the storm - a way to clearly see how heavy the rains are, cloud cover and whether the storm has a concentrated "eye" or center. 

Then there are the computer models, which can track a hurricane's path and more. Decades ago, according to Smith, models might focus on a single variable like climate patterns. Now they're much more sophisticated.

"Some of the more recent models look at the completeness of the atmosphere, like absolutely everything," Smith said.

Storm Hunter 19, WHNT News 19's newest roving weather lab, is another extremely valuable piece of equipment. According to Smith, it gives an upclose, unfiltered view of a hurricane's impact... in a way even the best models can't.

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