Two more days to prepare — or worry.
Starting this storm season, the National Hurricane Center is making a notable change in its forecasts. It won’t affect the cone of uncertainty — the tracking graphic just about everyone who lives in Florida or other coastal states watches with anxiety. Forecasters create that only after a tropical depression forms. That graphic will stay at 5 days, as usual.
The change will come for graphics the NHC produces before a depression forms. They rank the odds of disturbances and tropical waves morphing into full-fledged systems within broad areas. Those forecasts, provided twice a day, will switch from a 2-day and 5-day chance of formation to a 2-day and 7-day chance.
“We realize there’s always a need for additional lead time for a variety of users to know there’s something forming,” said Michael Brennan, NHC’s acting deputy director. “That’s why we decided to push out.”
The NHC announced this update on Friday, along with several others, including that the size of the cone will remain about the same in 2023. That’s because the cone of uncertainty is based on the margin of error for past storms.
It’s a fixed number that only changes year to year, not storm to storm. The cone is smaller in the short-term forecast and bigger in the long-term forecast as a reflection of how well forecasters have done at predicting past storms in that range.
Another update this year is new potential storm surge flooding maps for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The forecast maps for the mainland, which are now a formal product starting this year, help show how much storm surge flooding an incoming storm could bring.
Hurricane season starts June 1.
This story will be updated.