New hurricane Scale?

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By Nick Szankovics on April 30, 2013, 12:10am Last modified: May 1, 2013, 9:45am

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I have looking through new information and data  streams and have learned that researchers at Florida State University have developed a new way to rank and rate hurricanes, and that this system may soon replace the Saffir-Simpson scale on tropical cyclonic activity. According to the studies and development, this new system is known as TIKE (Track Integrated Kinetic Energy) which is a byproduct of the IKE system. The IKE system measures intensities of horizontal winds over the life span of a storm, and with the integration of the new system, they can map out a lifespan of a tropical system using this method and map intensities that have a higher chance at saving lives and property.

So how does this new TIKE system work? Well, over the lifespan of a tropical system, intensities vary as well as size and movement. TIKE takes into account all these factors and maps out the total strength of the storm, without having to rely on wind fields which confine themselves to specific areas of the storm. For example, a Hurricane could be Category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale, but only minimally impact the area due to it's track. In this instance a category 1 hurricane would do more damage upon direct impact, and that is what TIKE attempts to decipher for the Hurricane Warning community. It has been shown that smaller scale hurricanes like Sandy, Irene, and other weaker tropical systems have caused much more damage than their stronger category counterparts. 

How is this possible? Well, duration, forward movement, and total coverage of wind fields are a huge factor in determining the strength of the tropical system on the new TIKE system. This ensures that the proper information is relayed to emergency management officials, as well as the general public. Storm surges with large scale wind fields may be more destructive than those associated with higher categories of tropical systems. Movement may be faster in a  specific direction of a hurricane, leading to enhanced wind damage along specific sectors. All of this is factored in to achieve the TIKE value.  Researches at Florida State University believe this method holds the key to figuring out when the next big storm will strike, not only in intensity, but overall area of effect which is more important than how strong a storm is.

Many meteorologists that work for the National Hurricane Center actually agree that this type of monitoring makes more sense than observing the small core of such systems. This was definitely the case when SuperStorm Sandy came ashore in October 2012, causing the 2nd costliest storm in US record. Barely a Category 2 hurricane before being classified as subtropical, Sandy made a massive hit on the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic US causing billions in damage and grinded most of the area to a halt in it's aftermath. Meteorologists hope that this new method will help analyze a storm in a more dynamic and plausible way, making watches and warnings in areas that may be affected by the approaching storm more accurate and appropriate. 

Application of such a system could start as early as this year in the National Hurricane Center, and the researches at Florida State have applied this idea to storms between 1990 to 2011 to examine the ideals and effects, and compared them to the official category of the storm at the times of reports. It has shown something quite spectacular in the meteoroligical community. They show that TIKE values spike during La Nina conditions, and when the surface of the Atlantic represents conditions more tropical. This means that TIKE values could predict intensity of developing tropical systems far in advance, often times over the course of an entire development season. This can prove invaluable since emergency management organizations have a need to know these prediction numbers to better prepare for what the Tropical development season holds that particular year. 

So let's take a moment to welcome TIKE into our forecasting future, in hopes it serves it purpose to let shorelines and communities across the US prepare better for events that may not be rated so high on the Hurricane scale, but can be just as deadly and destructive.

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Nick Szankovics

Town: Norwich, CT  

Reporting for WXedge since February 2013.

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