Hurricane season in the Atlantic brings powerful storms that can wreak havoc on coastal communities. Having access to live hurricane tracking maps and forecast models is critical for both meteorologists predicting storms and residents preparing for potential impacts. This comprehensive guide examines the various hurricane tracking maps and forecast models available, how they work, their features, limitations, and value for storm forecasting.
Overview of Live Hurricane Tracking Maps and Models
Hurricane forecasting relies on various data sources and technologies to predict storm paths and intensity. Key elements include:
- Reconnaissance – NOAA hurricane hunter aircraft collect real-time data by flying into storms. Dropsondes measure pressure, temperature, winds etc.
- Satellite Imagery – Geostationary and polar-orbiting satellites provide visual and infrared views of storms.
- Ocean Buoys – An array of buoys across oceans measure wind, pressure, temperature and wave height data.
- Doppler Radar – Assesses precipitation and winds as storms approach land.
- Computer Models – Complex numerical models ingest the data to create storm projections.
- Forecast Maps – Maps plot model data and official forecasts from the NHC for storm position, winds, surge.
Advanced mapping platforms combine various datasets for live storm tracking and analysis.
Live Hurricane Tracking Map Options
There are a variety of live hurricane tracking maps available online, both from government sources and private weather services.
Government Tracking Maps
- National Hurricane Center – The official storm analysis and forecast center. Provides multiple tracking maps.
- NOAA Hurricane Tracker – Plots the latest positions and forecasts with coastal watches/warnings.
- NOAA Hurricane Models – Spaghetti models, ensemble models, and projected paths.
- NOAA Radar & Maps – Doppler radar loops, warnings, and local forecasts.
- NWS Environmental Modeling Center – Wave height and wind analysis maps.
Academic & Non-Profit Tracking Maps
- Hurricane Prediction Center/WU – Modeled forecast data and satellite views.
- SCIPP Hurricane Tracker – Research lab tracker with wind probability models.
- RAMMB/CSU Real-Time Hurricane Products – Experimental imagery and forecast data.
- Hurricane Research Division Models – Wind analysis and prediction maps.
Commercial Tracking Maps
- Windy.com Hurricane Tracker – Interactive map with multiple weather layers.
- Ventusky Hurricane Tracking – Visualized model data forecast maps.
- AccuWeather Hurricane Center – Satellite views, projected paths, and videos.
Table comparing features of the main live hurricane tracking maps:
| Map | Layers | Models | Forecast Data | Satellite/Radar | Alerts | Customization |
| NHC | Storm position, cones, watches/warnings | Spaghetti models, ensemble guidance | Wind speed probabilities, surge levels | Satellite, radar on separate sites | Storm alerts by region | Minimal |
| NOAA Hurricane Tracker | Same as NHC | None directly shown | Position, cone, forecast track | Satellite and radar loops | Watches/warnings | Choose storm overlay data |
| Ventusky | Wind, pressure, precipitation | GFS, ECMWF, ICON, other model layers | 12+ forecast intervals | Visualized model data | None shown | Full customization |
| WU Hurricane Center | Storm position, cones | Spaghetti models, ensemble means | Minimal forecast data | Satellite and radar imagery | None shown | Moderate customization |
| Windy | Wind, waves, pressure, precipitation | GFS, ECMWF models | Minimal forecast tracks | Weather model visualization | None shown | Extensive customization |
Comparing Map Utility
- NHC – As the official source, provides the most accurate forecasts and essential watch/warning data. Limited customization.
- NOAA Tracker – Convenient overlay of key NHC forecast elements on interactive map.
- Ventusky – Excellent for analyzing forecast model trends with many weather parameters.
- Windy – Highly customizable for storm impacts with interactive layers.
- WU – Good supplemental source with models and satellite imagery.
Most comprehensive overall view comes from utilizing NHC official forecasts alongside Windy and Ventusky for interactive weather data layers.
Hurricane Forecast Models Overview
In addition to tracking maps, examining the various hurricane forecast models provides deeper insight into potential storm paths and impacts.
- Dynamical – Physics-based simulation using equations on environmental interactions. Examples: GFS, ECMWF, HWRF.
- Statistical – Empirically based on historical hurricane data/trends. Examples: CLIQR, OFCL.
- Ensemble – Multiple runs of a model with varied initial conditions. Reduces uncertainty.
Key Hurricane Models
- GFS – Global Forecast System (NOAA). Global dynamical model run 4x daily. Primary guidance 0-5 days.
- ECMWF – European Centre for Medium-Range Forecasts. Highly regarded global model with low errors.
- HWRF – Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting System (NOAA). Regional dynamical hurricane-specific model. High resolution inner core detail.
- UKMET – UK Met Office global model. Relied upon for medium range outlooks.
- CMC / GEM – Canadian Meteorological Centre model. Global model often used for ensembles.
- ICON – ICOsahedral Non-hydrostatic model (German). Global model with consistent performance.
- NGPS – Navy Global Environmental Model. Relatively new global model with additional ocean-atmosphere variables.
Model Uses and Limitations
- Models complement recon data providing longer range forecasts and storm environment insights.
- Variability between models highlights uncertainty. Using consensus or ensembles improves accuracy.
- Models struggle with rapid intensity changes, eyewall replacements, and small-scale features.
- Course model resolution can miss important small-scale influences on storms.
- Models initialized too late can suffer from lag and low accuracy.
Key Factors in Forecast Models
- Initial Conditions – The precise storm status when the model starts its forecast. Small differences can greatly alter projections.
- Model Physics – How well the equations represent atmospheric interactions and storms.
- Grid Spacing – Finer resolution models better resolve storm details and influences.
- Ensemble Spread – Wider spread indicates low confidence, clusters higher confidence.
- Model Agreement – Models clustering together increase confidence in that solution.
- Teleconnection Influences – Global patterns like El Nino, MJO can alter projections.
- Run Frequency – More iterations allow models to ingest the latest data.
Evaluating Model Forecasts
- Consistency – Models reliably predicting similar tracks or intensity changes instill confidence.
- Evolution Trends – Gradual smooth shifts versus volatile fluctuations.
- Physics Sensibility – Storm behavior matching expected scientific principles.
- Agreement With Recon – Data from hurricane hunters confirming model expectations improves credibility.
- Verification Scores – Statistical measures like track error over time judge model skill.
- Expert Assessment – Experienced hurricane meteorologist interpretation based on trends, data, and science.
No model is perfect or final. Evaluating an ensemble of guidance provides the best storm analysis.
Role of Maps and Models in Hurricane Forecasting
Bringing together all data streams, hurricane forecasters analyze models and craft official projections. Maps and models provide vital insights on steering flows, intensity trends, and potential impacts.
Storm Tracking Maps
- Monitor current position and movement relative to forecasts.
- Identify areas under threat for warnings.
- Assess initial model accuracy.
- Project storm track days in advance through model consensus.
- Reveal threats like flooding rains, wind fields for preparedness.
- Enable trend analysis of intensity through ensembles.
- Improve understanding of atmospheric factors influencing storm.
Official NHC Forecast
- Experts synthesize models, recon, data into a final call balancing certainty and risk areas.
- Higher confidence for initial 48 hours, spreading by day 5.
- Shifts issued every 6 hours, updated when needed. Hedges called for questionable trends.
- Designated experts have access to additional confidential data and models.
Hurricane Tracking Advancements
Despite improvements, hurricane forecasting still faces challenges. Progress continues through new technologies and research.
- Higher resolution models better resolve storm processes.
- New satellites like GOES-16 provide sharper faster images.
- More advanced recon instruments and broader use of drones.
- Improved assimilation of ocean, boundary layer, and initial condition data.
- More calibrated ensemble suites.
- Machine learning and AI to better interpret complex model interactions.
While uncertainty always remains, advancing tools for visualizing and predicting hurricanes helps meteorologists provide actionable forecasts to protect lives and property.
FAQs About Hurricane Tracking Maps and Models
What is the most commonly used hurricane forecast model?
The GFS (Global Forecast System) is the primary dynamical model used for Atlantic hurricane forecasting, run by NOAA. The GFS provides global coverage out to 16 days, running 4 times daily.
How accurate are hurricane forecast models?
On average, hurricane track forecasts have become more accurate over decades. But significant errors can occur due to limitations in representing storm physics and environmental variables. Using an consensus or ensemble of models improves accuracy.
What is the spaghetti model showing?
Spaghetti plots display multiple hurricane model track forecasts on a single map, creating streaks or clusters of potential paths. This reveals the spread among models, showing uncertainty and possible solutions.
Subscribe to our list
Don't worry, we don't spam
How do meteorologists make the final hurricane forecast?
Experts synthesize data from models, reconnaissance, satellites, radar and past climatology into an official hurricane forecast. Near term, recon data is weighted heavily, with models gaining importance further out as uncertainty increases.
Why do hurricane forecasts keep changing?
Hurricane forecasts are updated every 6 hours to incorporate the latest weather data. Subtle changes in current position, intensity, and environmental influences can alter the projected path and strength – requiring constant adjustments.
What new technologies are improving hurricane forecasting?
Higher resolution models, improved satellites, expanded reconnaissance, enhanced data assimilation, and advances in machine learning are driving gains in forecast accuracy. But uncertainty will always remain a limitation.
Accessing live hurricane tracking maps and exploring forecast models provides in-depth storm analysis for experts and public safety. Maps from the NHC, NOAA, and other sources visualize current position, warnings, and projected paths. Dynamical and statistical models ingest environmental data to indicate potential tracks and intensity trends. Evaluating an ensemble suite allows forecasters to synthesize these tools into official projections that aim to provide life-saving information and support storm preparedness, response, and recovery. With continual improvements in modeling, data gathering, and computing power, hurricane forecasting is advancing – but maintaining vigilance each season remains critical.