The current hurricane warning system (Saffir-Simpson) is relatively simplistic in that it categorizes events into one of five categories. Although this system helps to quantify the magnitude of a hurricane, it is a wind scale that does not account for flooding from coastal storm surges or torrential downpours. However, new models are being rolled out in 2017 that are designed to account for these and other related effects. However, this begs the question – is it overkill?
The Downside of a Multi-Factor Hurricane Warning System
In theory this seems like a great idea, because in the last 50 years nearly 50% of tropical cyclone deaths were caused by storm surges and 27% were caused by torrential rains, whereas only 8% were attributed to wind. But some forecasters worry that more advanced prediction models could cause information overload and confusion.
The main benefit of the current system, they claim, is its simplicity, which is helpful in the sense that it is easily understood by the masses. Similarly, it is easily understood by government officials who may need to make quick decisions on, say, whether or not to float an evacuation order. If on the other hand people have a reduced understanding of what the warnings really indicate, it could lead to delayed or erroneous decision making.
I think the deployment of a more detailed and accurate hurricane warning system makes sense. It will clearly improve the ability of utilities and other companies to prepare because, as they say, knowledge is power. And although I think the general public might struggle initially to interpret the more advanced warnings, like anything, they will eventually come up the learning curve and get used to the new system. To me, this is an absolute no-brainer.