Technology helps forecasters better predict, track storms

National Weather Service

When Hurricane Iniki hit nearly 22 years ago, many were caught off guard. But new technology means that now we know earlier than ever when a storm is headed toward the islands.

With 140 mph winds, Hurricane Iniki pummeled the island of Kauai. Many residents knew it was out there, but didn’t know the storm would take a sudden turn towards land.

Since then, scientists say technology has come a long way.

“Now, we have two geo-stationary satellites — one of which, that covers Hawaii, is located over the eastern Pacific and gives a much better top-down look and we’ll get better images for any tropical cyclones approaching the state,” said John Bravender, meteorologist at the National Weather Service.

Bravender says computer modeling was also very limited back then, but that too has changed.

“Nowadays, we have much higher resolution computer models globally that cover the entire area,” he said.

With more data to analyze, scientists say it helps them create a more accurate forecast. But there’s always room for improvement.

“Right now, we’re on a new generation of two stationary satellites that will offer better resolution, more frequent imagery, and a greater variety of images that will help with every aspect of tropical cyclone forecasting,” Bravender said.

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