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 crucial for monitoring developing storms in real-time. This allows residents in vulnerable areas to prepare by evacuating or sheltering in place.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the top live hurricane tracking maps and forecast models available to follow storms as they form and track across the ocean. We’ll compare features, accuracy, and sources of data for each resource. Read on for an in-depth look at real-time hurricane monitoring tools.
Outline of Live Hurricane Tracking Maps and Models
- Importance of real-time storm tracking for preparation
- Overview of tracking maps and forecast models
Live Tracking Maps
- NOAA National Hurricane Center Tracking Map
- Data sources
- Windy Hurricane Tracker
- Data sources
- AccuWeather Hurricane Tracker
- Data sources
- The Weather Channel Hurricane Tracker
- Data sources
- CNN Hurricane Tracker
- Data sources
- Wunderground Hurricane Tracker
- Data sources
- GFS (Global Forecast System)
- European Model
- HWRF (Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting)
- Overview of how they work
- Useful for seeing range of possibilities
- South Florida Water Management District Spaghetti Plots
- Tropical Tidbits Spaghetti Plots
Cone of Uncertainty
- What the cone represents
- Important to note uncertainty
- How accuracy increases with time
Animated Tracking Maps
- Useful for visualizing storm movement
- Ventusky Animated Wind Maps
- Windy Animated Wind Maps
- Tropical Tidbits Animated Model Maps
Tracking Map Overlays
- Storm surge
- Show potential flood zones
- Rainfall accumulation
- Help predict flooding rains
- Tornado probability
- Assess tornado risk as storm approaches
Mobile Tracking Map Apps
- Weather Channel App
- AccuWeather App
- Windy App
- Hurricane Tracker App
Using Tracking Maps and Models Together
- How models inform forecast track maps
- Monitoring both for complete picture
Preparing for Hurricane Season
- Build emergency kit
- Have evacuation plan
- Get insurance/documents in order
- Secure home
- Listen to authorities
Live Hurricane Tracking Maps for Real-Time Monitoring
Having access to authoritative live hurricane tracking maps is crucial for monitoring storms in real-time as they develop and approach land. The following tracking maps from trusted sources provide the most up-to-date positions and forecasts for active storms.
NOAA National Hurricane Center Tracking Map
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) of NOAA provides an official live tracking map that is the gold standard resource for monitoring hurricanes.
- Shows current position and extended forecast track of all active storms
- Indicates tropical storm-force and hurricane-force wind fields
- Updates with latest NHC forecasts every 3 hours (more often when hurricanes near land)
- Displays coastal watches and warnings
- Satellites, models, and forecast discussions all in one place
As the official source of forecasts and advisories, the NHC map has unmatched accuracy and reliability for real-time storm tracking. All data comes directly from NOAA and the NHC.
Windy Hurricane Tracker
Windy provides an immersive hurricane tracking map powered by advanced weather models and real-time data.
- Interactive map shows storm position, track, and wind speeds
- Visual overlays for waves, rain, and clouds
- Animated forecast maps up to 7 days out
- Graphs of weather data including pressure, gusts, and precipitation
Windy ingests the latest model data including the GFS, ECMWF, and icon models for high accuracy forecasts. Maps can be tailored with different forecast models and parameters.
AccuWeather Hurricane Tracker
AccuWeather’s real-time hurricane tracker map provides forecast tracks, satellite imagery, and impacts like surge and rain.
- Current storm locations and forecast tracks extending out 5 days
- Satellite images updating every 1-2 hours
- Coastal inundation maps showing potential storm surge
- Impact maps for rainfall, wind, and tornado threats
AccuWeather Meteorologists create hurricane forecasts using trusted weather models, satellite data, and insights from their team. The tracker maps leverage this analysis for accurate real-time monitoring.
The Weather Channel Hurricane Tracker
The Weather Channel provides an interactive map that includes the latest official NHC forecasts alongside weather models.
- NHC forecast track, cone of uncertainty, current position
- Spaghetti models showing range of possibilities
- Model consensus forecast track
- Customizable map layers
The Weather Channel ingests official NHC data along with top weather models like the GFS and European models. Synthesizing this data provides a robust view of potential storm tracks.
CNN Hurricane Tracker
CNN’s hurricane tracker provides an intuitive map with the critical information needed to monitor active storms.
- NHC official forecast track and cone of uncertainty
- Current storm position and direction
- Clean, straightforward interface
- Latest hurricane advisories and updates
Pulling NHC data ensures the CNN tracker provides accurate, reliable tracking information. The simple design makes storm monitoring easy to understand.
Wunderground Hurricane Tracker
Weather Underground’s hurricane tracking map visualizes storms with radar, satellite imagery, and model forecast tracks.
- Radar shows real-time precipitation
- Satellite data updates frequently
- Spaghetti models and forecast track consensus
- Custom layers for tide, lightning, and clouds
Weather Underground incorporates high-resolution radar, frequently updated satellite data, and forecast models into their tracker for accurate live monitoring. The customization allows users to tailor the map.
Hurricane Forecast Models for Storm Prediction
In addition to tracking maps, hurricane forecast models are critical for predicting a storm’s path and intensity. Here are the top forecast models used today.
GFS (Global Forecast System)
The GFS is a global weather forecast model produced by NOAA to predict major weather systems including hurricanes.
- Global scale – covers the entire planet
- Lower resolution than limited-area models
- Runs 4 times per day and out to 16 days
- Freely available output
- Relatively low intensity accuracy
The GFS has become a standard baseline model for hurricane path forecasts. It provides critical data on steering winds that influence storm direction.
The European Center model is a global forecast considered among the most accurate hurricane prediction tools.
- Run by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts
- Higher resolution than GFS – about 25 km grid
- Updated twice daily, forecasting 10 days out
- Very accurate forecast track record
- Used in many forecast consensus models
The European model excels in predicting hurricane pathways using superior modeling of atmospheric dynamics. It is a premier tool for the U.S., despite being produced overseas.
HWRF (Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting)
The HWRF is a specialized hurricane forecast model focused on predicting intensity and structure changes.
- Developed by NOAA and NHC
- High resolution – convection permitting to 3 km grids
- Detailed hurricane physics representations
- Run when storms threaten the U.S.
- More accurate intensity forecasts
- Experimental forecasts out to 7 days
While intensity remains challenging to predict, the HWRF is making strides by incorporating detailed inner core hurricane processes.
Spaghetti Models for Assessing Forecast Uncertainty
Spaghetti models provide a way to visualize the spread across different hurricane forecast model solutions. They show multiple potential tracks, illustrating uncertainties beyond just the NHC forecast cone.
Examining spaghetti model output gives a fuller picture of the range of possibilities that should be considered when tracking a storm. However, some solutions may be outliers not weighted as heavily by forecasters.
Useful spaghetti model resources include:
- South Florida Water Management District – Provides spaghetti plots for active storms in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific basins.
- Tropical Tidbits – Leading source for spaghetti plots that includes the latest runs of many forecast models. Adjustable storm names, models, and forecast hour.
By assessing the spread of solutions across models, spaghetti plots provide important insight into the probabilities of a storm’s potential track that is not captured in a single determinstic forecast. However, users should be careful not to focus too heavily on outlier solutions showing low probability paths.
Cone of Uncertainty in Hurricane Forecasts
Official hurricane forecast tracks from the NHC include a “cone of uncertainty” surrounding the forecast path. This represents:
- The probable track of the storm center
- The likely error or uncertainty in the forecast position
The cone provides a visualization of the area impacted by strong winds, surge, and rainfall based on past NHC forecast errors. It is not showing the entire area that will see storm impacts.
Key facts about the cone:
- Encompasses about two-thirds of historical track errors
- Size informed by previous 5 year’s worth of forecasts
- Narrows as forecasts become more certain with time
- Does not show storm size or intensity
Remember, impacts can extend well outside the cone. It’s important to focus on hazards for your local area based on the storm’s latest forecast, not just the skinny black line. The cone provides a probabilistic outlook based on past performance that increases in accuracy as the storm approaches.
Animated Tracking Maps to Visualize Storm Movement
Animated hurricane forecast maps provide a vivid visualization of how a storm is predicted to move over time. Seeing motion can give important perspective compared to a static image.
Useful animated tracking resources include:
- Ventusky – High resolution weather model animations up to 10 days. Adjustable parameters like winds, rain, temperature.
- Windy – Immersive animated maps powered by advanced weather models extending out 7 days.
- Tropical Tidbits – Up to 7 day animations of many hurricane forecast models like the GFS, Euro, and NAM models.
These mesmerizing animations provide a continuous loop perspective on how a storm may develop over hours to days. Toggling between model solutions provides a range of potential scenarios.
Animated maps are best used in conjunction with official NHC forecasts to properly weigh probabilities and uncertainties that are not reflected in model output alone. But they provide an invaluable visualization of how forecasts evolve.
Tracking Map Overlays for Storm Hazards
Hurricane tracking maps can include useful overlays depicting potential hazards and impacts beyond just the forecast track itself. Common options include:
Maps showing possible storm surge flooding if peak surge occurs at high tide. Visualizes areas at risk for life-threatening coastal inundation.
Projected total rainfall maps help anticipate inland flooding based on the storm’s forecast motion and precipitation bands.
Areas at heightened risk for tornadoes can be shown based on the storm’s characteristics and path. Tornadoes add another threat, especially on the eastern side.
Overlays provide crucial information on flooding rainfall, storm surge zones, and other serious impacts beyond just wind speeds. Preparedness requires knowing your risk for all hurricane hazards based on the specifics of your location and the storm forecast.
Mobile Weather Apps for Hurricane Tracking On-the-Go
Mobile weather apps make it easy to monitor hurricane forecasts and live tracking maps on your smartphone or tablet. Top options include:
Weather Channel App
Robust app with hurricane tools including tracking map, spaghetti models, push alerts, and video updates from meteorologists. Available for iOS and Android.
AccuWeather’s app features animated forecast tracks, severe weather alerts, hurricane news, and video. Available for iOS and Android.
Provides Windy’s immersive forecast tracking maps in mobile app form. Millions of installs. Available on iOS and Android.
Hurricane Tracker App
Specialized tracker app with live NHC maps, latest advisories, video coverage, and models. For iOS and Android.
Mobile weather apps make storm monitoring possible even without power or internet at home. Ensure your devices are fully charged before the storm arrives.
How Tracking Maps and Models Work Together
Hurricane forecast maps rely on output from complex computer forecast models. Models provide a range of potential scenarios. Forecasters assess multiple models along with real-time data like satellite to create an official track prediction.
It’s crucial to examine both forecast tracking maps as well as the underlying models themselves. The models convey forecast uncertainty and probabilities. The NHC synthesizes models and data into their best estimate forecast track and cone.
Always rely foremost on the latest official NHC forecast for your preparedness actions. But using models and maps together provides a more complete picture of storm possibilities as you track its progress.
Preparing for Hurricane Season
Tracking storms in real-time is crucial – but equally important is being prepared before hurricane season begins:
Build An Emergency Kit
Stock up on essentials – water, food, medications, batteries, documents, pet supplies. Have enough for each person for at least 3 days.
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Make An Evacuation Plan
Know routes, destinations, pet policies. Keep gas tanks full. Have cash on hand. Practice the plan.
Get Insurance and Documents in Order
Review policies, take inventory of belongings, backup critical documents online or offsite.
Secure Your Home
Trim trees, install storm shutters/panels, clear gutters and drains, anchor loose outdoor items.
Listen to Authorities
Follow evacuation orders and other official instructions. Stay informed with trusted weather sources.
Preparation can make all the difference in safely weathering hurricanes. Take steps now before the season arrives.
Frequently Asked Questions About Live Hurricane Tracking Resources
What is the most reliable live hurricane tracking map?
The National Hurricane Center’s official forecast tracking map is the most reliable resource. It incorporates the latest forecast data and is updated regularly.
How often are live hurricane tracks updated?
The NHC updates their official forecast tracks and maps at least every 3 hours, more frequently if storms pose an imminent threat to land. Other tracking maps update every few minutes to hours.
How accurate are spaghetti models compared to the forecast cone?
Spaghetti models show potential tracks beyond just the main NHC forecast. They convey uncertainties but may include outlier solutions. Use the cone for the most likely zone.
Can mobile weather apps be used without cell service or WiFi?
Many weather apps will load basic info and tracking maps even without internet access. But service will provide more robust real-time data. Download maps ahead of storms.
Why do some live tracking maps disagree on the forecast track?
No two tracking maps will show the exact same forecast track. There are inherent uncertainties with storms. Look at the NHC for the official outlook.
How large of an area can expect impacts outside of the hurricane’s eye?
Tropical storm force winds can extend over 100 miles from the eye. Heavy rains may reach hundreds of miles wide. Storm surge flooding depends on local terrain.
How often are hurricane forecast models updated?
Models are run in cycles of every 6 to 12 hours, with new data continually ingested. The higher resolution models update less frequently compared to global models like the GFS.
Can I rely solely on spaghetti model plots for hurricane forecasts?
Spaghetti plots provide an overview of possibilities, but users should be cautious not to overweight outliers. Look at consensus and the NHC track for highest probabilities.
Tracking hurricanes requires paying attention to multiple data sources to gain a complete picture of the forecast and key impacts for your area. Combining live tracking maps, forecast models, and preparing early is the best way to stay safe.