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US weather centers roll out new tools as hurricane season begins

The US National Hurricane Center issued an advisory for Tropical Storm Cindy on Tuesday after the disturbance strengthened into a tropical storm

The US National Hurricane Center issued an advisory for Tropical Storm Cindy on Tuesday, June 20 after the disturbance strengthened into a tropical storm.

NHC issued a Tropical Storm Watch for the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao) and extended warnings for the coastal areas of Venezuela.

If Cindy remains on its current path, it will turn toward the state of Louisiana on Wednesday and bring rain to the Gulf coast areas in the southern US throughout the week.

New tools to study the heat and its impacts

The NHC, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Weather Service are using new tools to study tropical weather and their potential impacts. In early March, NOAA/NWS published their new NHC products and services for 2017.

The NHC announced that potential tropical cyclones will share the numerical naming convention currently in place for tropical and subtropical depressions, all numbered from a single list.

The corresponding number will always match the total number of systems that have occurred within that basin during the current season.

If a system changes to another type, its numerical designation will remain the same.

Under the new guidance, tropical cyclone advisory information is issued at the standard times – 05:00, 11:00, 17:00 and 23:00 EDT.

Public advisories for potential tropical cyclones will be issued every six hours – at 0200, 0800, 1400 and 20:00 EDT – and remain valid for three hours when watches or warnings are in effect.

Forecasts are moving away from longer advisories after studies found people tend to get lost in the details and not fully understand what was happening when.

Along with the updated Watch/Warning/Advisory information, NHC has also introduced updated the tropical cyclone advisory graphic products and storm surge maps, and introduced the new earliest reasonable arrival time of tropical-storm-force winds forecast.

Key Changes to Tropical Cyclone Graphics

What changed? Grasswire’s conversation with NHC’s Branch Chief James Franklin of the Hurricane Specialist Unit revealted that one of the major overhauls was to the NHC’s “cone of uncertainty” product.
What impact do these changes make? With the improved graphics changes, news outlets, emergency management agencies, and local NWS offices are better able to convey risk and impact to their viewers, constituents, and followers. This allows everyone to make better preparedness decisions further in advance.
Why were the changes needed? The previous iteration of the cone of uncertainty, social studies indicate, was very confusing to many. The updated graphics, however, include more precise information that better articulates the exact impacts citizens can expect.

When Grasswire spoke with Branch Chief Franklin about these updates to their graphics, he explained there were a number of reasons for the graphics redesign. In addition to adding tropical-storm and hurricane-force winds to the cone graphic, NHC also added the “experimental graphic showing the earliest reasonable and most-likely arrival times of tropical-storm-force winds.” Franklin added, “This new graphic is (we think) a great way for members of the public to easily see how much time they have to prepare in advance of a tropical cyclone.”

These new NHC-released graphics include a five-day track and intensity forecast. In addition, the Potential Storm Surge Flooding Map and Storm Surge Watch/Warning graphic will also be issued when appropriate.

The new graphics were created in partnership with local and emergency national emergency managers, meteorologists, and members of the public over several rounds of polls, emails, and question-and-answer sessions.

Studies have shown that when the general population understands the impact to them personally, they are able to take better preparedness actions, which in turn helps to minimize loss of life and property.

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