New hurricane guidance models being developed at URI

    New guidance models to forecast hurricanes and nor'easters are being developed at the University of Rhode Island.(WJAR)

    While Hurricane Florence is going to have a major impact down South this time around, other storms have come up this way in the past.

    That's why local scientists that have come up with new guidance models to better prepare us for the next big one.

    You've probably seen meteorologists refer to "guidance models" -- like the GFS or the EURO, the results of huge complex physics equations run by supercomputers -- during a TV weathercast.

    At the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography, they're half way through refining new high resolution guidance models, 10 times more intricate, with $1 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security, to help forecast nor'easters and hurricanes that solely impact Southern New England.

    Professor Isaac Ginis is one of those model builders.

    "This is, for us, the way, to improve the communication between the model predictions and the decision makers," Ginis said.

    The one just for Rhode Island is finished but not operational yet. Over the next two years, Massachusetts and Connecticut will get the same treatment.

    Ginis said that the way it is right now, "Pretty often the discussions mostly kind of an average, that this area will be affected. But we are trying to be more specific, more local."

    These new guidance models with their high resolution will also take into account, for example, topography, the height of the land, and how that interacts with the storm system. And other factors like coastal flooding due to storm surge, inland flooding due to heavy rainfall, and how all they all impact emergency infrastructure like physical buildings and communications towers.

    "Coastal flooding is very sensitive to the details of the wind at a given location, to the shape of the coastline, and to the details of the topography," adds Ginis.

    All in 3-D, all automated, accessible by local, state, and federal emergency agencies, every 30 minutes when they're up and running. Another tool to help prepare for the inevitable next major hurricane or nor'easter headed our way.

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