Web Watch

Hurricane background for kids and experts

Hurricane Strike! is a multimedia package aimed at middle schoolers that conveys basic concepts of atmospheric science, climate, and geography, as well as key safety and preparedness skills. The learner is a virtual house guest of the Castillo family in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Photos, sound, animations, and reports from expert Steve Lyons (The Weather Channel) take the learner through the course of a seven-day hurricane threat. The package was developed by UCAR’s Cooperative Program for Operational Meteorology, Education and Training (COMET) in collaboration with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Weather Service, and the American Red Cross.

On COMET’s MedEd site, several case studies illustrate the challenges of hurricane forecasting. Three case studies, each focusing on Tropical Storm Allison, were created by COMET project scientist William Bua to train forecasters on the potential shortcomings of high- resolution numerical models in predicting flooding from tropical storms. Allison broadsided Houston in June 2001 with up to 900 millimeters (36 inches) of rain—well above even the amount called for in strongly worded flood warnings. Among Bua’s findings: “A good storm track does not necessarily produce a good precipitation forecast.” His study also shows that a fourfold increase in the Eta model’s horizontal resolution actually degraded the rainfall forecast for Houston. Bua found that a comparison of the model’s predicted precipitation to its precipitation climatology can help forecasters adjust and improve their rainfall outlooks.


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