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Meteorologist focuses on hurricane climate, forecasting changes

By Staff | Jun 12, 2020

PHOTO PROVIDED Allyson Rae

The National Hurricane Center is not seeing a change in number or intensity of tropical storms with climate changes, but the amount of water they drop has increased, NBC2 Chief Meteorologist Allyson Rae told attendees of the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce’s virtual business luncheon on June 10. Participants were invited to “bring their own lunch” and ask questions via the Zoom chat.

“Storms are moving 10 percent slower than they were (in 1950), which means more rain is falling on places,” Rae, who worked with the NBC2 and ABC7 weather team from 2010-2014 and returned in 2017 after three years with a Washington, D.C. affiliate, said. “Because of climate change, the warmer air can hold more water.”

Although hurricanes are measured by their wind power, in today’s climate, it’s the water – rain and storm surge – that has the more serious impact, especially to barrier islands, she said. Rae urged viewers to not compare upcoming hurricane experiences with past storms, because every storm and every year is different.

“This is what we’re dealing with right now, this could impact us this year if not next year,” she said.

The good news about this year, which forecasters are predicting as heavy on tropical storm activity, are the improvements in predicting storm surge, minimizing tracking errors, and pinpointing landfall.

“The cone that you see is 30 percent smaller than it was just a few years ago,” Rae said.

She explained the differences between American and European projection models, advising that taking “one model as gospel is a bad idea. Take the average Don’t follow one ever, look at the trend.” Rae also touched on storm preparation and how to access tools that would help in readiness well before storms approach, including water.net/HurricaneGuide/NBC22020HurricaneGuide.pdf.

“Thanks for being so flexible in helping us organize this so quickly,” chamber President John Lai told Rae. “You’ve provided some valuable information in an easy-to-understand manner.”

Lai thanked those who attended the meeting, which will remain the format in the foreseeable future.

“While this is not our preferred method, we thank you for joining us as it will be a few months before we meet in person,” he said.

Lai also introduced new Board of Directors Chair Brian Kautz and recognized the chamber’s new board members and 2020 winners of the annual awards. Kautz presided over the meeting for the first time and thanked outgoing Chair Mary Bondurant.