- The Washington Times - Monday, March 10, 2003

MIAMI, March 10 (UPI) — The National Hurricane Center said Monday it will begin issuing five-day hurricane forecasts this year, extending the three-day forecasts in use since 1964.

The change comes after two years of testing the longer range forecasting.

Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center, said data from two years of testing shows that the five-day track forecast will be as accurate as the three-day forecast was 15 years ago.

Officials said the longer forecast would be a big help for several interests, including the Navy.

"This five-day forecast provides a valuable planning and preparedness tool, and is a tangible step forward in our efforts to protect lives and property, and enhance the U.S. economy," said James R. Mahoney, deputy administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"The new forecast is particularly useful for those who need more than 72 hours advance notice to move resources out of harm's way, such as U.S. Navy ships," Mahoney said.

Capt. Jeff Bacon, commander of the Naval Atlantic Meteorology and Oceanography Center at Norfolk, Va., said the Navy's interest in the longer range forecasts are driven by the lengthy time required to protect activities on shore, move ships from port or divert those at sea.

"Decision timelines often extend beyond four days in advance of the onset of destructive conditions," Bacon said.

Mayfield said the longer forecast, which will be used by the Central Pacific Hurricane Center as well as for Atlantic-Caribbean storms, said the tests were successful largely because of improved computer modeling techniques developed jointly by NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Environmental Modeling Center and other researchers.

Accuracy in hurricane track forecasting is measured by the distance between the predicted position of a storm's center and its later, actual position.

The two-year trial showed the five-day average track area for Atlantic tropical storms and hurricanes was 214 miles and 126 miles for storms in the Pacific.

Pacific errors are usually lower because many of the storms move generally east to west.

Atlantic storms also often track east to west, but many curve toward the northwest and north and often accelerate, making them more difficult to forecast.

Long-range forecaster William Gray of Colorado State University has predicted 12 named storms for the 2003 Atlantic-Caribbean hurricane season, including eight hurricanes and three major storms.

The season begins June 1 and runs through Nov. 30.

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