Hurricane predictors admit they can’t predict hurricanes

Two top U.S. hurricane forecasters, revered like rock stars in Deep South hurricane country, are quitting the practice because it doesn’t work.

William Gray and Phil Klotzbach say a look back shows their past 20 years of forecasts had no value.

The two scientists from Colorado State University will still discuss different probabilities as hurricane seasons approach — a much more cautious approach. But the shift signals how far humans are, even with supercomputers, from truly knowing what our weather will do next.

Gray, recently joined by Klotzbach, has been known for decades for an annual forecast of how many hurricanes can be expected each official hurricane season (which runs from June to November.) Southerners hang on his words, as even a mid-sized hurricane can cause billions in damage.

Last week, the pair dropped this announcement out of a clear, blue sky:

“We are discontinuing our early December quantitative hurricane forecast for the next year ... Our early December Atlantic basin seasonal hurricane forecasts of the last 20 years have not shown real-time forecast skill even though the hindcast studies on which they were based had considerable skill.”

Ottawa Citizen


"Our seasonal hurricane forecast schemes issued in early June and early August have shown significant real-time skill since they began being issued in 1984. Our early April forecasts have also begun to show significant forecast skill in recent years. However, we have yet to demonstrate real-time forecast skill for our early December forecasts that have been issued for the last 20 years (1992-2011). Because of this lack of real-time forecast skill, we are suspending providing quantitative outlooks for specific numbers of named storms, hurricanes, hurricane days, etc. at this extended-range lead time. We will continue to investigate the potential for quantitative prediction at this extended-range lead time and will re-institute quantitative outlooks if the potential for forecast skill looks good"