NOAA offers expertise on preparedness, forecasting, research, response and recovery
NOAA has developed this guide to help journalists get the timely information, graphics and video they need for stories throughout hurricane season.
Before, during and after a hurricane, NOAA scientists are working to make America a more Weather-Ready Nation through preparedness and resiliency that saves lives, protects property and strengthens the nation’s economy.
Monitoring and forecasting
Experts at NOAA’s National Hurricane Center (NHC) study the latest data to aid them in forecasting the track and intensity of every tropical cyclone over the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, and the eastern North Pacific Ocean. With each storm, NHC confers with the National Weather Service forecast offices in the path of the storm to coordinate watches and warnings in those communities.
- For every active tropical cyclone, NHC issues a complete advisory package every six hours. It includes an updated forecast and graphics with the track and intensity forecast, time of arrival of tropical storm and hurricane-force winds, key messages, a potential storm surge flooding map, and a storm surge watch/warning graphic. NHC also posts the same information on Facebook and Twitter to ensure a wide distribution.
- When hurricane watches or warnings are posted for a portion of the U.S. coastline, NHC opens a television media pool to provide live interviews to national news/weather outlets and those local TV stations in the path of the storm.
- NWS provides timely forecasts and decision support services to help local officials determine what public safety actions are needed, such as whether to evacuate, close roads and schools, or open shelters.
Hurricane specialists use weather observations from satellites, radar, and aircraft reconnaissance, and analyze a variety of computer models to forecast the track, intensity and potential impacts of hurricanes, tropical storms and tropical depressions.
- NOAA’s GOES satellites orbit the earth, continuously observing tropical cyclones. Its polar-orbiting satellites fly over the storm about twice a day at a lower altitude, carrying microwave instruments that reveal storm structure.
- When a tropical cyclone could threaten land, NOAA hurricane hunters and U.S. Air Force Reserve fly around and directly into the tropical storm’s center collecting detailed observations using tail Doppler radar and dropsondes to determine the storm’s location, structure and intensity. NOAA’s aircraft are based at the Aircraft Operations Center in Lakeland, Florida. Follow their updates on Facebook and Twitter.
NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) issues seasonal hurricane outlooks in May for the Atlantic basin, the eastern North Pacific Ocean and the Central Pacific Ocean. CPC updates the Atlantic basin outlook in early August.
NHC’s Tropical Cyclone Reports contain comprehensive information on each tropical cyclone, including synoptic history, statistics, casualties and damages. And the National Hurricane Center Verification Report provides track and forecast verification for tropical cyclones. Other topics of interest to reporters each season include the naming of hurricanes, the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, and tropical cyclone climatology.
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Before a storm arrives
Hurricane preparedness is extremely important. To increase public safety, NOAA provides actions to take, before the hurricane season begins, when a hurricane approaches, and when the storm is in your area, as well as what to do after a hurricane leaves your area.
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NOAA researchers study all aspects of hurricanes to advance models that improve weather forecasts that save lives, protect property and support our nation’s economy. This season, NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory is deploying a large array of air and water uncrewed systems to gather data designed to help improve hurricane track and intensity models and forecasting. Drones will be launched from NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft that will fly into the eyewall of hurricanes to collect data in the area where warming water can fuel rapid intensification. Other uncrewed systems — Saildrones offsite link, hurricane gliders, surface floats and global drifters — are being used to gather observations for research and forecasting. In 2022, NOAA will also deploy the NOAA G-IV Hurricane Hunter to study how thunderstorms that drift off the west African coast develop into tropical waves, the “seedlings” for many tropical cyclones.
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Climate change connection
NOAA tracks how changes in our atmosphere, ocean and climate are influencing the frequency and intensity of hurricanes. In this 2021 ScienceBrief review, offsite linkNOAA and partner scientists found that climate change is likely fueling more powerful hurricanes while flooding during hurricanes is being amplified by sea level rise. Other research by NOAA found the speed of movement of tropical cyclones, including hurricanes, has been slowing in recent decades, with more storms lumbering slowly over land, unleashing more rain, and causing more flooding. In early May 2022, two NOAA scientists published a blog that looks at how human-caused climate change is influencing Atlantic hurricanes. In addition, NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory regularly updates a website with the latest research and analysis of how climate change is impacting hurricanes.
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Response and recovery
NOAA’s National Ocean Service supports the resilience of coastal communities, economies, and ecosystems with end-to-end services in support of preparedness, response, and recovery. We provide data and information needed for hurricane forecasts and to help coastal authorities prepare for potential storm impacts.
When hurricanes make landfall, they often bring with them stronger-than-normal ocean currents that can shift navigational channels and bring debris that may threaten the ability of vessels to navigate safely along the coast. NOAA provides customer-driven maritime support services to ensure navigational safety, environmental protection, and the efficient and reliable flow of commerce through our waterways immediately following a storm. The NOAA team includes navigation managers, the regional resource for the complete range of NOAA’s Navigation Support Services, and navigation response teams which are distributed nationally and are able to rapidly respond to survey needs.
NOAA’s mobile navigation response team’s efforts are aimed at speeding the resumption of shipping after storms, and protecting life and property from underwater dangers to navigation. Working with the regional navigation managers, the teams work around-the-clock after a storm acquiring and processing data to speed the reopening of ports and waterways by verifying water depth and identifying dangers to navigation.
NOAA helps coastal communities make decisions today that will leave them better prepared and more resilient to storms in the future. This includes conducting aerial surveys both pre and post storm, if appropriate. This imagery is used by managers and responders to determine how best to apply assistance after the storm.
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Impacts on fish, mammals, habitat
Hurricanes can have impacts on seafood safety, fisheries, marine mammals and ecosystems. NOAA Fisheries experts monitor seafood safety during hurricane season and all year long. Following a storm or catastrophic disaster, the office’s Seafood Inspection Program works to assess seafood safety and ensure consumer confidence in seafood products from the impacted region.
Because storm surge may have increased water levels during a hurricane, it is possible for marine mammals to enter waterways where they are not typically found, including lakes, canals and levees. NOAA asks the public, for their own safety, to not approach marine mammals and instead report any injured, out of habitat or dead marine mammal to NOAA.
NOAA Fisheries evaluates the economic impact a hurricane may have had to the commercial and recreational fishing industries after the storm, and it can help fishing communities get back on their feet by NOAA’s fishery disaster assistance programs.
NOAA Fisheries Office of Habitat Conservation has experts available upon request who work with a variety of partners to assess and restore coastal and marine habitat such as wetlands and coral reefs to boost an impacted community’s resilience to future hurricanes, and sustain economically-important fisheries for future generations. Some of the projects have resulted in restoring corals after Hurricane Matthew as well as a damage assessment and restoration of reefs off Puerto Rico after Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
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NOAA hurricane multimedia resources
- NOAA Aircraft Operations Center (NOAA Hurricane Hunters)
- Video - https://www.omao.noaa.gov/learn/aircraft-operations/media/video
- Images - https://www.omao.noaa.gov/learn/aircraft-operations/media/images
- Tour a NOAA Hurricane Hunter
- King Air (emergency response aircraft) - https://youtu.be/Rw-Cm6hz5Eg
- Latest NOAA geostationary satellite imagery of the Tropical Atlantic: https://www.star.nesdis.noaa.gov/GOES/sector.php?sat=G16§or=taw
- Satellite tracker for active hurricanes: https://www.nesdis.noaa.gov/hurricane-imagery
- A Guide to Understanding Satellite Images of Hurricanes: https://www.nesdis.noaa.gov/content/guide-understanding-satellite-images-hurricanes
- GOES Hurricane Monitoring Fact Sheet: https://www.goes-r.gov/education/docs/fs_hurricane.pdf
- Frequently requested weather B-Roll and NOAA Facilities: NOAA Weather B-Roll offsite link