MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - With the tropics becoming more active, we breakdown what the cone of uncertainty is and how it shows the potential path of an impending tropical system.
According to the National Hurricane Center, the cone represents the probable track of the center of a tropical cyclone. It is formed by first predicting the probable center location of the storm and then drawing circles around those points to make the forecast track (at 12, 24, 36 hours, etc.). The size of the circle is set so that two-thirds of historical official forecast errors over a 5-year sample fall within the circle.
There have been some misinterpretations about the cone of silence. Some people think that if a storm or its impacts are not directly down to the center of the cone it is a missed forecast; this is not correct as the cone of silence is showing the area in which the storm could move, it is not always right down the center of the track.
Some also interpret the size of the cone as the size of the storm or its impacts. That is also not correct, as the size of the storm or its impacts are not regulated to the cone size, it is just showing the potential track the storm could take over the next several hours.
Forecasts are still not perfect, but the cone of uncertainty has been shrinking as forecasts have improved over the years. In the event of hurricanes and other tropical systems, those located anywhere in the cone of uncertainty should be prepared for storm damage.