CCU scientists showcase new hurricane outlook model

Thursday morning, a team of scientists unveiled a new piece model system that will aid in hurricane forecasting. The Hurricane Genesis and Outlook Project, or HUGO, predicts landfall probability of a hurricane five days away from landfall. It was developed by Coastal Carolina University's School of Coastal and Marine Systems Science.

"We feel very confident that we can improve intensity forecasting in addition to track forecasting," said Dr. Len Pietrafesa. He's a Burroughs and Chapin scholar at CCU.

Pietrafesa said HUGO also shrinks the "cone of uncertainty," which is the probable track of the center of a tropical storm and hurricane.

HUGO uses data from shoreline activity as well as previous Atlantic hurricanes.

"We can provide the visualized output in a movie format to whomever would like to have it," added Pietrafesa.

Randy Webster, Horry County's Director of Emergency Management, is excited about the new model. The information HUGO will provide will help Webster in deciding how to handle evacuation and other important safety decisions when a storm is approaching.

"Everything that we can use and every bit of information and data that we can get to help us make the right decision to give the right advice and the right recommendation as a storm is approaching Horry County or South Carolina. I need those tools," he said. "Right now the modeling we have is just linear. It goes this far but we don't know what that depth is. Is it an inch? Is it six inches? Is it truly six feet so there's a lot I'm excited to see where this model is gonna go."

In addition to tracking specific storms as they develop, the new system will help CCU forecast how busy they think a season will be.

CCU hopes the model will one day be used by the National Hurricane Center to predict hurricanes. But that's a process that can take years. The Hurricane Center's chief of forecast operations James Franklin told the Associated Press that models have to be tested extensively, both in seeing if they can accurately track historical storms and forecast current hurricane threats.

Hurricane season began June 1 and ends November 30.