Communicating Joaquin

Let me vent.

The “cone of uncertainty” has become a “cone of discontent” for me with this storm. 24 hours ago it appeared that there were two possibilities for Joaquin’s track – a bifurcated set of solutions – some toward Bermuda and some toward the Mid Atlantic. As of yesterday both seemed equally probable. What no model really showed was a realistic threat to New York City and New England.

Even so, the National Hurricane Center forecast sort of “split the difference” between the two camps resulting in what I believe is an unrealistic forecast. Their deterministic forecast was based in part from a blend of 2 disparate solutions resulted in this forecast.

AL112015_5W_011_0

This forecast is probably coming from 2 schools of thought. 1) the split the difference forecast results in fewer wild swings advisory to advisory. 2) this forecast is a prudent one if your ultimate goal is to produce a forecast that has the lowest track error. Unfortunately, this is one of the least likely scenarios.

Today, the NHC forecast is equally confounding.

AL112015_5W_015_0

This would give one the indication that southern New England is in the crosshairs of Joaquin. Right? This also gives the end user the sense that a southern New England hit is the most likely scenario. It is our opinion that this is one of the LEAST likely scenarios to occur. How the hell do you communicate that effectively to the viewers? I don’t really know the answer – especially since some local media outlets who skew toward hype are talking about a major overnight trend that’s concerning and troubling for Connecticut.

Back to reality, here are the overnight Euro Ensembles. Where’s most of the clustering?

0_es3 (1)

The operational GFS is trending east in an extreme fashion as well (giant jumps east for each of the last 4 runs) toward the operational European that has insisted on an “out to sea” solution.

The problem is that the National Weather Service and the media has put all of our eggs in the “cone of uncertainty” basket. It works a lot of the times. When it doesn’t work it’s an absolute nightmare. How do you show a 5-day NHC forecast (which people expect to see – you can’t NOT show it) and say it’s really not the most likely scenario.

There aren’t easy answers. This forecast was unusually challenging. The NHC is about as good as it gets with tropical forecasting but communicating risk remains very hard for all of us. This storm is really frustrating.

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3 thoughts on “Communicating Joaquin

  1. I totally agree! I see NBC Connecticut saying that we are not getting a hurricane, but you look at the cone and we are ground zero! If the spaghetti models are all pulling it east, why is the cone still showing a New England landfall???

  2. The models have been all over the place. Was the Euro right all along? (again). The problem is people are still shell shocked from Sandy. Granted that was a 1 in a million type of storm with astronomical tides. Even if Joaquin makes a close pass we would not have the destruction of Sandy. The problem I have with the cone is they seemed to ignore the models. Sure they wanted to leave all options on the table. But when they usually say the center of the cone is the center track, today they are saying don’t just look at the cone. Well we have been trained to look at the cone. Either make the cone huge or don’t do 5 day guidance when you really don’t have a clue. I have heard TWC say that if this storm stalls longer in the Bahamas that the trough might not pick it up. How much of a wrench would that throw into the track?

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