As Hurricane Matthew churns from Haiti toward Cuba and the Bahamas, millions along the Southeast U.S. coast are preparing for the storm. As of midday Tuesday, the entire East Coast from Miami to Boston was within the National Hurricane Center's (NHC) "cone of uncertainty" storm track forecast. With supermarket shelves already going bare in Florida, many are basing crucial storm decisions, such as whether to stay near the shore or head inland, in large part on forecast graphics like the cone of uncertainty map. Forecasters at the NHC produce this map multiple times each day based on new information from computer models, weather observations and other sources. But published, peer-reviewed research, along with an informal poll of Mashable newsroom colleagues, indicates that it's unlikely do itmost people truly understand what the cone of uncertainty graphic actually shows.
Yes, but they're more useful to forecasters than the public, says Emanuel. He laments that people sometimes base key decisions, such as whether to purchase insurance, on forecasts calling for "quiet" seasons--despite the fact that even seasons with few hurricanes can yield highly destructive storms, such as 1992's Hurricane Andrew. "The seasonal forecast is so widely misinterpreted that it's actually counterproductive," he says. "While the seasonal forecasts are useful across a broad range of demographics, one can't simply and solely determine their own personal preparation based on those seasonal forecasts," adds Hart, who also points to Andrew's example.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said late Wednesday that Lane had winds of 50 mph (85 kph) and is expected to strengthen into a hurricane Thursday and a major hurricane by Saturday. Its center was 1,350 miles (2,170 kilometers) southwest of the southern tip of Mexico's Baja California Peninsula and heading west at 13 mph (20 kph).
"The fact that we have a much better understanding of where these storms are going to go is a great first step. We sort of have half the circle filled in, and we need to get that other half filled in, which is that intensity component," said Steve Bowen, director and meteorologist for insurer Aon Benfield's Impact Forecasting team.
Hurricane Irma is rewriting weather history for the Atlantic Ocean, setting numerous records for its ferocity on Tuesday into Wednesday. The storm set a milestone for the most powerful hurricane on record in the Atlantic Ocean, outside of the Caribbean or Gulf of Mexico. St Maarten airport reported sustained winds at 133 mph gusting to 161 at storm's peak there. These islands are likely to receive extensive, potentially catastrophic damage from storm surge flooding and winds that are equivalent to an EF-4 tornado. The last one looks especially horrible https://t.co/w99L2aMa6H