Go ahead and watch that gif a few times. Did you see it? Yup, long range models are once again hinting at tropical mischief in the Gulf. While one run of a model does not a forecast make, it’s a good indicator that hurricane season is nigh and now, before any storms do actually form, is a good time to make sure you’re prepared if your location is vulnerable.
Beyond that, if you enjoy tracking hurricanes, it’s also a good time to get your “toolbox” in order. And this post is for you! Today we’re going to look at the lesser-known tools available at both weather.us and weathermodels.com that can help you in tracking or predicting hurricanes in the upcoming season.
- Sea Surface Temperatures
Hurricanes need warm water to form and thrive. Generally, they require water at or above 80 degrees. Want to know where that 80 degree line is? We have a map for that! The Weather.us map can be zoomed in to display the forecast for any area in the world while the Weathermodels map, available in the model lab, displays the water temperature forecast for the entire globe at once.
If you’re looking for real-time water temperatures instead of forecast temperatures, check out the observations section of weather.us. These stations are updated hourly so you can have an accurate look at the thermal profile of the water. Most stations are closer to land, however, there are a few “deep water” stations as well.
- Wind Shear
Hurricanes require little to no wind shear present in order for them to be able to organize and strengthen. Heavy shear can tilt the hurricane’s structure, destroying its circulation. Are conditions favorable downstream for intensification? Check out the Deep Layer Shear maps! These are available from the ECMWF via both weather.us and weathermodels, and the GFS (which is free to use!) via weathermodels.
- Atmospheric Moisture
Dry air in the atmosphere can be a hurricane killer. Hurricanes require a moist environment not only to get going, but to continue strengthening. Identifying pockets of dry air downstream can help to forecast whether or not a hurricane will survive, weaken, or strengthen. We have real-time water vapor satellite imagery available at weather.us. You can use the free zoom setting to pick any area of the globe to analyze.
Real-time water vapor imagery is helpful in certain situations, but forecasted (simulated) water vapor can help in assessing what a hurricane may encounter in a day or two upstream. Both weather.us and weathermodels have simulated WV imagery via the ECMWF.
Everyone likes to know where a hurricane is predicted to go. With Cyclone Tracks maps, you can see the spaghetti plots of possible tracks. The weather.us map is based on the ECMWF ensemble while the maps from weathermodels (available in the “Special Charts” section) include tracks from a variety of models such as the GEFS, EPS, UKMET, and KMA.
Perhaps you’ve noticed an area of low pressure that has a chance to develop in the next few days. If you’re curious about the probabilities of it becoming organized, hop on over to weather.us’s Probabilities tab via the ECMWF. You’ll find maps that display prob. of tropical depression within 48 hrs, prob. of tropical storm within 48 hrs, and prob. of tropical cyclone within 48 hrs.
- Satellite Imagery
We all know satellite imagery is useful when observing and forecasting hurricanes. Weather.us has satellite imagery for every part of the globe with a variety of enhancements available. We already talked about the water vapor imagery earlier so now let’s mention Cloud Tops and Satellite HD. Cloud tops are useful for identifying a strengthening hurricane. Colder cloud tops indicate the presence of convection and therefore a storm attempting to strengthen. As for the Satellite HD, it can be used not only to view the extent of the storm but to see if the upper and lower level circulations are stacked vertically, indicating the lack of shear and a storm ready to strengthen.
- Wind Speed
Both weather.us and weathermodels have maps for forecasted wind speed available via the ECMWF, GFS, ICON, and GEM. Weathermodels, however, also has maps from the HWRF and HMON available in the model lab. These two models are devoted specifically to tropical cyclones and have a variety of other parameters (SSTs, PWAT, etc) available as well.
These maps I’ve highlighted above are just a few of the many tools available at weather.us and weathermodels.com. I highly recommend exploring both pages to see what you can find that might be useful to you. Weathermodels is a paid subscription service BUT the GFS maps are free to use without a subscription. So, at the very least, go check those out if you’re not a subscriber. If you find any maps you have questions about, please don’t hesitate to drop us a line. We’ll do our best to answer any questions you can think of!
Special thanks to Tropical Cyclone One-A in the Arabian Sea for giving us a current storm to use for showcasing our maps.