What are Different Models of Tropical Storm Tracking?

Every year, millions of people around the world brace for the start of hurricane season. Whether it be the populations living in coastal areas, shipping companies, travelers, or members of the tourism industry, knowing what is on the horizon is vital. 

For some, accurately forecasting a hurricane or tropical cyclone allows them to plan in advance and avoid the inconvenience of a disrupted trip or take needed precautions to protect their home. But for the key players in industries who have millions of dollars on the line when faced with severe weather, accurate and timely hurricane tracking becomes all the more important. 

Thankfully, there are many different tropical storm tracking models available to help businesses plan ahead. 

With DTN Severe & Tropical Weather Suite, you don’t need to be left in the dark about upcoming tropical storms. With DTN expert meteorologists on your side to provide live alerts before and during severe weather, you will be able to plan a safe course of action to protect your assets in case of severe weather. 

The following takes a look at some storm tracking features, such as the difference between the “early” forecast and the “late” forecast provided by the National Hurricane Centre, as well as five main types of tropical storm tracking models used today. 


Palm trees blowing in hurricane

National Hurricane Centre’s Forecasts

It’s important to understand that storm tracking models are not instantaneous. Forecast models are complex numerical equations that gather large sums of data to analyze the changes in wind, temperature, and moisture within the atmosphere. They typically take several hours to complete, so it is impossible to have a forecast that reflects current information. 

Imagine that models run at 2:00 am, 8:00 am, 2:00 pm, and 8:00 pm every day, and the forecasts are available at 5:00 am, 11:00 am, 5:00 pm, and 11:00 pm. The three hours between the model and the forecast isn’t enough time for the model to finish running and create a forecast. 

There are two general types of forecasts that the National Hurricane Centre makes available to respond to this issue: the “early” and the “late” forecast. Using the example with the 5:00 am forecast, you would be unable to use the 2:00 am model since it is not ready. 

So, for the early forecast, the previous model (completed at 8:00 pm the day before) would be used, and the data would be shifted forward by 6 hours to represent the “current” forecast. You can recognize which forecasts are “early” forecasts by checking the identifier – if it ends with the letter I, it is an early forecast.

The late forecast would be the actual data recorded from the 2:00 am model, but this forecast would not be available until after 5:00 am. This “late” forecast would then be the basis for the 11:00 am early forecast (since the 8:00 am model would not be complete yet.) 

So, not only are the early and late forecasts available at different times, but they actually use different models and projections to provide their forecasts as well. 


Hurricane on radar

5 different tropical storm tracking models

Tropical storm forecasts can predict tracking/trajectory, intensity, storm surge, and rainfall. Five main models are used to produce these different types of tropical storm forecasts:

Dynamical models
Dynamical models are the most complex, analyzing atmospheric data to provide global weather forecasts. As they give global data, they are not designed specifically for tropical storm forecasting in a particular area. 

Limited-area dynamical models
These models provide the same mathematical forecasts as dynamical models. Still, they are more focused on a specific area of the globe, making them a better choice for tropical storm and hurricane forecasting.

Consensus models
Consensus models provide the average of multiple forecasts. There are various consensus models available based on different forecasts that use different averaging methods, such as simple averaging, weighted averaging, and bias-corrected averaging. 

Statistical and Statistical-Dynamical models
Statistical models use statistical equations to predict tropical storm movements and changes based on historical data. They are less complex than dynamical models but often establish the benchmark for determining if more complex models are considered to be skillful. 

Statistical-dynamic models do what the name suggests – provide a blend of both historical (statistical) and atmospheric (dynamic) data and often prove more skillful for intensity forecasting than dynamical models.

Spaghetti models
Spaghetti models show all the potential storm paths. This presentation shows the storm’s trajectory based on various models and can be a good indication of how confident the models are in their trajectory prediction. For example, if there is a wide disparity between the models, this can indicate that there is a higher level of uncertainty about the storm’s path. (Also, they are just fun to say, too!)



DTN offers the cutting edge in storm forecasting

We have certainly come a long way when it comes to storm tracking. While the first National Hurricane Center hurricane forecasts started in the 1950s, it wasn’t until the 1990s that more accurate tracking and intensity forecasts became available. Those improvements in weather and storm forecasting are still continuing today.

Today, with the continued advancements in technology, hurricane forecasts are available earlier and have become more accurate than ever before. The expert meteorologists at DTN work diligently to provide live, personal consulting and tailored decision aids alongside cutting-edge tropical storm forecasts earlier than the official forecast from the local authority.

When you rely on DTN Severe & Tropical Weather Suite, you have access to many benefits, including:

  • Personalized decision criteria and consultations for your exact locations
  • Early tropical storm formation bulletins
  • Squall outlooks and updates
  • 7-day tropical outlooks, with 8-15 day extended outlooks

When it matters most, you need access to the fastest, most accurate forecasts available so you can do your job right. Learn more about the products available to you and your business today.