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Local high school student develops new way of forecasting hurric - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Local high school student develops new way of forecasting hurricanes

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Neil Nathan is a bright, 16 year old junior at Caddo Magnet high school.

Just recently, he placed third overall at the Junior Science Humanities Symposium in Baton Rouge with a project called "Prospective Study of Logarithmic Spirals and Hurricanes". In fact, Neil's work impressed the judges so well, that he'll next compete at the national level in Washington DC this April!

Neil says:  "It's actually a continuation of a project I did a few years ago where I studied hurricanes and I found they had a correlation...the spiral how each hurricane has a spiral pattern that's called the logarithmic spiral.

It's a spiral that appears everywhere in nature and I found a correlation between the pitch angle which is the angle of the spiral and the hurricane's intensity and I found that all the hurricanes that had very low pitch angles tended to be strong hurricanes and the hurricanes with high pitch angles tended to be very weak hurricanes."

Neil also determined that the pitch angle remained constant through the life of each storm. So, he developed a scale to use in forecasting intensities of many different tropical storms.

Neil checked his findings with the storms from the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season and even on the disastrous Hurricane Katrina. And his forecast intensities measured up quite well!

His conclusions:  "So this could be used you know to predict the hurricanes to get a better picture of the intensity and maybe help with preparedness so people would be more prepared for the hurricanes disaster."

How does Neil's forecast methodology compare to the national hurricane center?

Neil's spirals are similar to the intensity forecasts derived from the Dvorak method used when the storms are too far away for hurricane hunters to fly into them.

Dvorak employs additional parameters like infrared and visible satellite images for cloud temperatures and storm shapes to predict their intensities.

When the tropical storms move closer to land areas, Hurricane Hunters fly through them. They do this to determine the internal structure of the storms from the size of the wind field to the pressure and temperature changes.

At the same time, high altitude air craft determine the storm environment. All of this data is fed into computer forecasts up to several days out. It's also relayed to emergency management officials concerning watches and warnings plus evacuations.

One thing that both Neil Nathan and the National Hurricane Center have in common is the goal of improving hurricane forecasting accuracy to help save lives and protect property and of course this is a good thing.

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