Experts discuss the complexity of tracking hurricanes

by: John Ahrens Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Cleanup continues after Hurricane Arthur slammed into the Carolina coast as a Category 2.

ARTHUR SPECIAL SECTION

That is a category stronger than what the National Hurricane Center forecasted.

Meteorologist John Ahrens asked experts at the hurricane center Monday some questions.

They maintain their forecast was on point when Arthur made its way from Florida to the Outer Banks.

But in a matter of just hours before landfall, that storm revved up to 100 mph winds.
 
"Unfortunately, it’s just the state of the science," said Matt Eastin who researches hurricanes at the University of North Carolina - Charlotte.
 
He said the hurricane center is usually off by a full category when a storm makes landfall.
 
"It is a big difference,” Eastin said. “It can be a bigger difference when the storm makes a direct landfall in more populated locations."
 
In Arthur's case, a cold front was forecasted to push Arthur a little more out to sea in cooler water.
 
Instead, that front stalled in east Charlotte and Arthur strengthened in the Gulf Stream.
 
It's differences like that can throw an intensity forecast way off.
 
"You almost have to study 20 to 30 different things and understand how all of those interact with each other. It's very complex,” Eastin said.
 
But the most important part is the storm's track.
 
Eastin said over the past 20 years the hurricane center has gotten better at tracking in its forecasts.
 
Part of the problem is how to study the storms. Hurricane hunters have to go through very harsh conditions just to get a small sample of the storm.
 
Most of the time, the storms are too far off in the Atlantic to get an accurate gauge of their real strength.