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National Hurricane Center releases new forecast cone for 2024 season

Hurricane Idalia moves inland into Florida's Big Bend region in August 2023.
International Space Station/NASA
Hurricane Idalia moves inland into Florida's Big Bend region in August 2023.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) will be implementing a new experimental cone graphic to display critical watches and warnings for inland counties during hurricane season.

Announced in January, the change will be put into practice “on or around Aug. 15” and will better communicate wind hazard risks.

“This change will give us a more complete depiction of the wind risk,” NHC Deputy Director Jamie Rhome said.

Previous NHC cones would show the projected path of a tropical storm or hurricane, as well as the timing of the storm and any watches and warnings for coastal areas. The new graphic will continue to have the same information but illustrate potential impacts for areas away from the coast.

The change is meant to de-emphasize the cone in the visualization to make the warnings and watches stand out.

“As you look at the graphic, your eyes naturally gravitate to what is ultimately more important, which is the risk that comes with the storm,” Rhome said.

The latest version will appear alongside the traditional graphic as meteorologists gauge its usability for the public.

“We bring new features or new additions and open these new features up for people to provide comments to us,” Rhome said. “At the conclusion of the experiment, we use those comments to determine whether to make the change permanent, to discontinue the change or to evolve the change but in a different iteration.”

Understanding the cone

The example of the new cone uses Hurricane Ian’s track to reflect the changes.

National Hurricane Center
The National Hurricane Center's experimental forecast cone will show watches and warnings for inland counties.
The National Hurricane Center's current cone displays watches and warnings only for coastal counties.
National Hurricane Center
The National Hurricane Center's current cone displays watches and warnings only for coastal counties.

The graphic displays the cyclone’s center location, maximum sustained winds and its movement. Watches will continue to be displayed in pink for hurricanes and yellow for tropical storms. Warnings will continue to be displayed in red for hurricanes and blue for tropical storms.

“[The] graphic may not be available as soon as the current cone graphic due to the time need to compile complete inland watch and warning information,” a statement on X read.

Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.

Warnings and watches

Hurricane Warnings are issued for an area when an area is forecasted to face sustained winds of at least 74 mph within the next 36 hours. Tropical Storm Warnings are issued when sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph are expected in the next 36 hours.

A Hurricane Watch is issued when winds of 74 mph or higher are a possible threat within the next 48 hours. Tropical Storm Watches are issued when winds of 39 to 73 mph pose a possible threat within the next 48 hours.

The cone has been used by the NHC since 2002 and was most recently revised in 2017, when red and orange circles were added to indicate the tropical storm and hurricane force wind radii. This was adopted because of the confusion between the width of the cone and the storm’s expected wind field.

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