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Bermuda storm model expands into Caribbean

Waves crash over the Causeway as Hurricane Lee passes the island (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

A Bermudian-based study into storm intensity resulted in a hurricane forecast model that is now being expanded into the Caribbean.

The study, co-authored by Mark Guishard, the chief operating officer of the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, linked ocean water temperatures to storm intensity

While warm surface waters have long been linked to hurricane development, the study, published in Environmental Research Letters in 2021, found that average water temperatures down to 50 metres below the surface gave a better indication of hurricane intensities for storms in Bermuda.

The study resulted in the creation of the tropical cyclone ocean-coupled potential intensity model, Topim, which is hoped to improve the ability to accurately forecast hurricanes and tropical storms.

The Currents newsletter, published by Bios, revealed that Dr Guishard and his co-author, Samantha Hallam, along with other collaborators, are working to extend the Topim project for use in the Caribbean Small Island Developing States.

Through collaboration with the University of the West Indies, Dr Hallam and Dr Guishard intend to expand Topim’s reach to Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, the Bahamas and Barbados.

The project has received grant support from Ireland’s programme for overseas development, Our Shared Ocean, which is managed by the Irish Marine Institute.

Dr Guishard said in Currents: “I’m excited to have the opportunity to collaborate once again with Sam on this worthy project.

“During my hiatus at the Bermuda Weather Service, she and I were able to use the model to estimate the potential strength of hurricanes threatening Bermuda in real time, further validating its utility as a tool for forecasting and analysis.

“I hope to extend the use to examining projections of storm intensity near Bermuda for future climates.”

Dr Hallam, now a senior post-doctoral researcher at the Irish Climate Analysis Research Unit of Maynooth University, added: “I am delighted to have the opportunity to adapt and roll out the Topim model, which was initially developed with Mark for Bermuda, across the Caribbean SIDS through Ireland’s Our Shared Ocean programme.

“We are hoping to have the model available for the 2024 hurricane season.”

The Our Shared Ocean website highlighted that the Topim was tested in Bermuda in 2022 when Hurricane Fiona approached the island.

“As the storm approached Bermuda, Topim delivered predictions of the potential intensity of Hurricane Fiona which were shown to be more accurate than standard weather prediction models by the Bermuda Weather Service,” the website said.

“These predictions were based on the dynamic relationship between wind, atmospheric pressure and ocean depth and proved to be the most accurate predictor of hurricane intensity available.

“The current project will deliver a state-of-the-art Topim model for the wider Caribbean co-developed with the University of the West Indies, which represents 17 Caribbean nations, and improve regional weather and climate adaptation across the region.

“Topim will provide the West Indies with a local operational tool to assist with hurricane intensity predictions, contribute to local preparedness and provide an indication of the future threat of tropical cyclones in the region.”

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Published May 22, 2024 at 7:56 am (Updated May 22, 2024 at 7:52 am)

Bermuda storm model expands into Caribbean

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