Hurricane Forecasting and Tracking: Detecting the threat before it hits

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) is responsible for forecasting all tropical cyclone activity in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific basins around North America. The NHC forecasts the track, intensity, size, and structure of tropical cyclones, storm surges, rainfall, and tornadoes associated with tropical cyclones, and the likelihood of tropical cyclone formation within 48 hours.

The NHC hurricane forecast process begins with available observations: Satellites, reconnaissance aircraft, Ships, buoys, radar, and other land-based platforms are just some of the important tools used in hurricane tracking and prediction.

Forecasters use satellite data to estimate characteristics of a storm, including the location of its center, its past motion (within 6-12 hours), and its intensity (maximum wind speed).

Once an Atlantic hurricane becomes a threat to land, it is directly monitored by U.S. Air Force and NOAA hurricane aircraft, dropsondes, and land stations.

During flights, data is transmitted back, checked for errors, and given to both NHC forecasters and the public. As the storm approaches within about 280mi of the coast, land-based radars provide critical precipitation and wind velocity data.

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