UW-Madison tools help track Hurricane Ophelia

September 14, 2005

As Hurricane Ophelia is set to make landfall on the North Carolina coast on Wednesday or Thursday (Sept. 14 or 15), analysis techniques developed by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Tropical Cyclones group in the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies are helping to predict the anticipated path of the storm.

Since 1982, the Tropical Cyclones group has been developing specialized tools used by forecasters with weather satellite data using its Man computer Interactive Data Access System (McIDAS). The group forges techniques of use to forecasters, and for any major tropical storm its Web site transfers large amounts of data to researchers, forecasters and the general public. (During Hurricane Katrina, the site experienced 1.8 million hits.)

Most of its work is done far ahead of an actual hurricane, according to team leader Chris Velden, providing online analyses and imagery to forecasters long before storms reach land using the resources of the Data Center of the UW-Madison Space Science and Engineering Center. After using Tropical Cyclone group products during Hurricane Katrina, National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield noted that CIMSS imagery and products would see much future use.

As they did with Katrina, forecasters at the hurricane center and in the National Weather Service will depend on those techniques and data for Tropical Storm Ophelia. According to Velden, Ophelia is "meandering between tropical storm and hurricane," and because it is hugging the coast, satellite-based data is less critical than other types of information, although still helpful. Velden expects the storm to continue up the coast and eventually move out to sea.
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Velden can be reached at (608) 262-9168, chrisv@ssec.wisc.edu.

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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