What’s with all these hurricane forecast models?

Published 3:22 PM EDT, Fri September 8, 2017
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Story highlights

Global forecast models help improve information released to the public

There have been hits, misses over the years in major hurricanes, storms

(CNN) —  

An alphabet soup of forecast models is helping the National Hurricane Center keep residents along the US East Coast up to date on the peril posed by Hurricane Irma.

Their names don’t exactly roll off the tongue. There’s the ECMWF from Europe and GFS from the United States. And HFIP, while not a model per se, is aimed at better gauging intensification of storms.

Regardless, they provide forecasters with significant tools to help track a storm. What are the top global models and what are their relative track records?

The key players

There are numerous models being followed this week, but Ryan Maue, a meteorologist with WeatherBell Analytics, mentions four to watch. Experts generally consider the US federal government’s Global Forecast System, or GFS, and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, the ECMWF, to be the premier models. He also cites a Canadian model and the Met Office in the United Kingdom.

“You want to have multiple models,” said Maue. “Different models perform better or worse at different times.”

These models use all kinds of measurements – from wind, temperature, precipitation and cloud movement – to forecast where a storm is likely to go next.

Emphasis on the word “likely.”