Track changes and uncertainties are part of the Hurricane Ian forecast

Hurricane Ian slammed into the southwest coast of Florida on Wednesday as a Category 4 monster just miles from where the National Hurricane Center originally predicted it might strike.

In the days leading up to touchdown, the forecast moved the center of the runway as far north as Big Bend, Florida on Sunday and also hovered over Tampa Bay on Sunday and Monday. Potential track forecasts have raised fears that the densely populated Tampa and St. Petersburg region could take its first direct hit since a 1921 hurricane.

Ultimately, Ian made landfall over 100 miles to the south, very close to the first position estimate for a potential Florida landfall.

So were the weekend forecasts wrong?

“If we look at Ian’s forecast path with the 5-day cone, his future landing spot was pretty much always within the forecast cone, right on the edge,” said Colorado tropical meteorologist Phil Klotzbach. State University and lead author of its seasonal hurricane forecasts.

The first warning for Tropical Depression Nine, which became Hurricane Ian, came very close to the exact position where the hurricane finally made landfall on September 28, 2022.

The forecast cone, also called the “cone of uncertainty”, is often misunderstood. It is a series of circles along the positions of the forecast centers. The size of each circle shows two-thirds of the official five-year forecast errors.

As of 5 a.m. Sunday, the forecast track for Ian's center had shifted north toward Big Bend in Florida, but the cone of uncertainty showing potential forecast errors still included the southwest coast of the Florida where Ian made landfall.

This is the area where the center of the storm is most likely to move over five days, said meteorologist Scott Spratt, who retired in December as a warning coordinator for the National Weather Service office in Melbourne, Florida.

“It’s a great snapshot that shows you every six hours where your geographic location is relative to the cone,” Spratt said. “It allows people to see trends and prepare.”

USA Today

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