My preview of the hurricane season is up on Pajamas Media. Perhaps the most interesting point is this:
There…seems to be a new focus among the [seasonal] forecasters on explaining the uncertainties inherent in their task. NOAA, for instance, now includes percentage probabilities along with its predictions of storm activity, somewhat like the margin of error in a public opinion poll. And the margin is quite high: Ã¢â‚¬Å“an above-normal season is most likely (65% chance), [but] there is a significant 25% chance of a near-normal season and a 10% chance of a below-normal season.Ã¢â‚¬Â (Definitions here.) Ã¢â‚¬Å“This outlook is probabilistic, not deterministic,Ã¢â‚¬Â NOAAÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s introduction states. It is Ã¢â‚¬Å“based on predictions of large-scale climate factors known to be strong indicators of upcoming seasonal Atlantic hurricane activity,Ã¢â‚¬Â but there are Ã¢â‚¬Å“uncertainties inherent in such climate outlooks,Ã¢â‚¬Â which the percentage probabilities are designed to take into account. …
Still, despite these acknowledged uncertainties, and despite the recent failures, forecasters have soldiered on and tried their best to accurately predict the 2008 season. In fact, the Klotzbach/Gray team has based its forecast on a newly tweaked model, designed to correct some of the errors of previous years. Cynics might compare this to college footballÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s BCS, which has repeatedly changed its formula to compensate for previous yearsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ problems Ã¢â‚¬â€ the sports equivalent of Ã¢â‚¬Å“hindcastingÃ¢â‚¬Â Ã¢â‚¬â€ only to see brand new problems develop in subsequent seasons.
On the other hand, this is how the science evolves, and Klotzbach and Gray are forthright in admitting that it is a work in progress. In any event, Ã¢â‚¬Å“hindcastsÃ¢â‚¬Â based on the new model come much closer to the mark than the real-time forecasts did in all of the last four years, which is significant, since 2004 and 2005 were both well above average (and were under-forecasted), while 2006 and 2007 were below average (and were over-forecasted). Ã¢â‚¬Å“The new hindcast model improves upon our real-time forecasts by approximately 60%Ã¢â‚¬Â¦over the period from 2004-2007,Ã¢â‚¬Â Klotzbach and Gray write.
P.S. Naturally, the comments are all about… you guessed it… global warming. *sigh*