An examination of model track forecast errors for hurricane Ike (2008) in the Gulf of Mexico

Michael J. Brennan, Sharanya J. Majumdar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Sources of dynamical model track error for Hurricane Ike (2008) in the Gulf of Mexico are examined. Deterministic and ensemble model output are compared against National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) Global Forecast System (GFS) analyses to identify potential critical features associated with the motion of Ike and its eventual landfall along the upper Texas coast. Several potential critical features were identified, including the subtropical ridge north of Ike and several synoptic-scale short-wave troughs and ridges over central and western North America, and Tropical Storm Lowell in the eastern North Pacific. Using the NCEP Gridpoint Statistical Interpolation (GSI) data assimilation scheme, the operational GSI analysis from the 0000 UTC 9 September 2008 cycle was modified by perturbing each of these features individually, and then integrating the GFS model using the perturbed initial state. The track of Ike from each of the perturbed runs was compared to the operational GFS and it was found that the greatest improvements to the track forecast were associated with weakening the subtropical ridge north of Ike and strengthening a midlevel short-wave trough over California. A GFS run beginning with an analysis where both of these features were perturbed produced a greater track improvement than either did individually. The results suggest that multiple sources of error exist in the initial states of the operational models, and that the correction of these errors in conjunction with reliable ensemble forecasts would lead to improved forecasts of tropical cyclone tracks and their accompanying uncertainty.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)848-867
Number of pages20
JournalWeather and Forecasting
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2011


  • Data assimilation
  • Forecast verification
  • Numerical weather prediction/forecasting
  • Operational forecasting
  • Tropical cyclones

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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