Tropical VS. Tornado Forecasting

Forecasting Tropical Storms or Hurricanes is much different from forecasting Severe Storms here in Oklahoma, in fact some of the upper level conditions we look for to forecast severe storms, are completely opposite attributes from what we look for to forecast if a Tropical Storm or Hurricane will intensify.

Let me give you an example, when forecasting a Severe Storm that may produce a Tornado, one would look for strong upper level winds, and wind shear, which means winds at different levels going in different directions.  When forecasting if a Tropical Disturbance will intensify, one looks for upper level winds to be minimal.  When a Hurricane moves into an area where upper level winds are strong, it will typically weaken.  So when you hear us talk about a Tropical Storm or Hurricane moving into an unfavorable environment for strengthening, that means the upper level winds are very strong.  When trying to decide if a severe storm will be strong one looks in areas where the upper level winds are the strongest.

Have I confused you yet?

Another thing is moisture.  If there is any dry air close to a Hurricane or Tropical disturbance that will also add to the demise of the storm.  When we look to forecast Tornadoes, one of the main things we look for is the clash between dry air and moist air.  Pretty crazy huh?

Steering of a storm is always hard to forecast…just where will it go?  Once a Tornado forms it becomes a little easier to at least warn a certain concentrated area, but with a Hurricane, the forecast track typically involves a larger area by virtue that a larger area will be affected.   At least with a Hurricane, one had a few days to prepare typically.

These are just a few points, but it still begs the question, what is worse?  A Tornado?  Or a Hurricane?  And…which one is more difficult to forecast.  I think this will be a debate at many Meteorology conferences ahead.

Sarah

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