As of right now, Hurricane Rita is projected to make landfall in Texas. Still, Hurricane Ivan and Katrina both took eastward turns before they made landfall. How accurate is the forecast this far away from landfall?
BTW, I don’t live near the coast so this isn’t a backhanded question of, “Should I evacuate or not.”
All you can really say is that hurrricane forecasts are more accurate today than they were 20, 10, or 5 years ago. Landfall predictions get more accurate as the storm moves closer to landfall. Still, hurricane predictions require some difficult data gathering, sophisticated data modeling, and the fastest supercomputers in the world. A hurricame is a chaotic system so small changes in sea temperature for example can have a large effect on the strength and path of the storm.
Predicting the hurricane path means creating a probability graph with the best modelling available. There are many competing models and some give very different results from others.
Here are some of the probability charts for Rita by the National Hurricane Center.
Saw in interesting comment from the CNN weather guy this morning.
He was basically asked the same question and explained that part of the issue is that there are no weather balloons being sent up through the hurricane. The fact that it takes place in open water as opposed to over land where we’re able to get a pretty good picture of the nature of the air above makes it a lot more difficult to predict.
As it stands we rely on the images brought by satilites and readings brought by hurricane hunter planes. Thats only a portion of the needed data which creates uncertainty.