New computer model gives hope for forecasting hurricane intensity

MIAMI (AP) - Meteorologists have spent decades drastically improving predictions on where a looming hurricane could hit.

Now, they aim to better determine how powerful those storms actually will be.

Forecasters are debuting their new Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting model next month.

For the first time, it will take into account most data from within the storm and use it in real time to better determine its strength.

Senior hurricane specialist Richard Pasch at the National Hurricane Center says the new model should allow forecasts to analyze the storm's middle core.

Until now, experts have mostly relied on the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory model. It depended on initial storm information paired with historical data for similar storms.

The higher-resolution new model will consider conditions over the oceans that have never been plugged into models before.

It could take years, and some tinkering, for the new model to realize its full potential. But forecasters hope the result will be a greater understanding of storms such as hurricanes Charley and Wilma, which grew substantially stronger in a matter of hours. Wilma went from being a tropical storm to the strongest Atlantic hurricane on record in a day.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)