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Comparison of Hindcasts Anticipating the 2004 Florida Hurricane Season

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  • 1 Department of Geography, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida
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Abstract

Advances in hurricane climate science allow forecasts of seasonal landfall activity to be made. The authors begin with a review of the forecast methods available in the literature. They then reformulate the methods using a Bayesian probabilistic approach. This allows a direct comparison to be made while focusing on a single hindcast of the 2004 season over Florida. The models, including climatology, are estimated using Gibbs sampling. Diagnostic checks verify convergence and efficient mixing of the samples from each of the models. A below average sea level pressure gradient over the eastern North Atlantic Ocean during May and June in combination with an above average tropospheric-averaged wind index associated, in part, with a strengthening of the Bermuda high pressure during July resulted in an above average probability of at least one Florida hurricane. The relatively high hindcast probabilities for 2004 were in marked contrast to the most recent 50-yr empirical probabilities for Florida, but fell short in anticipating the unprecedented level of activity that ensued. Similar results are obtained from hindcasts of total U.S. hurricane activity for 2004.

Corresponding author address: James B. Elsner, Dept. of Geography, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306-2190. Email: jelsner@garnet.fsu.edu

Abstract

Advances in hurricane climate science allow forecasts of seasonal landfall activity to be made. The authors begin with a review of the forecast methods available in the literature. They then reformulate the methods using a Bayesian probabilistic approach. This allows a direct comparison to be made while focusing on a single hindcast of the 2004 season over Florida. The models, including climatology, are estimated using Gibbs sampling. Diagnostic checks verify convergence and efficient mixing of the samples from each of the models. A below average sea level pressure gradient over the eastern North Atlantic Ocean during May and June in combination with an above average tropospheric-averaged wind index associated, in part, with a strengthening of the Bermuda high pressure during July resulted in an above average probability of at least one Florida hurricane. The relatively high hindcast probabilities for 2004 were in marked contrast to the most recent 50-yr empirical probabilities for Florida, but fell short in anticipating the unprecedented level of activity that ensued. Similar results are obtained from hindcasts of total U.S. hurricane activity for 2004.

Corresponding author address: James B. Elsner, Dept. of Geography, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306-2190. Email: jelsner@garnet.fsu.edu

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