The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) launched a new model for hurricane forecasts this season called the Hurricane Analysis and Forecast System (HAFS).
According to a press release, HAFS is as good at forecasting storm intensity as existing NOAA models but is better at predicting rapid intensification. The model is also 10%-15% better at hurricane track predictions.
The foundational component of HAFS is its “moving nest,” which zooms in on storms to better predict wind speeds and precipitation.
“It’s like zooming in on the region of interest like a telescope,” said Sundararaman Gopalakrishnan, senior meteorologist and leader of the modeling team. “You can see very high resolution especially in the water and in the inland region.”
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This zoom is particularly helpful for observing a hurricane’s eyewall and rainbands. By focusing on the eyewall, models can better forecast storm intensity, including quick bursts of intensification that are usually difficult to predict.
Gopalakrishnan and his team began working on HAFS at the end of 2018 in response to the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017. He says that with each new model, more people are looking for products that give them information about storm impacts.
“People want more information,” Gopalakrishnan said. “First it started with [hurricane] tracks. Then we went to intensity. Now it’s tracks, intensity as well as the impacts related to rainfall, related to severe weather and such.”
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Even as HAFS is released early in the 2023 hurricane season, Gopalakrishnan is already looking at the next generation of models, which he says should be able to track multiple hurricanes at once.
Like HAFS, these models will be created as part of the United Forecast System (UFS), which will facilitate collaborations both within and outside of NOAA. Gopalakrishnan says that these collaborations will accelerate the development of new models and improve hurricane forecasting.
“It’s a systematic progress that’s been made and we’re coming to a point where this model is more community-based,” Gopalakrishnan said.