The Feds Are Throwing Out the “Cone of Uncertainty” Before Biden Leaves Office

Carolina K. Smith MD /
Carolina K. Smith MD /

As the National Hurricane Center (NHC) evaluates the 2023 hurricane season, they decided 2024 needed to get a major change before President Biden leaves office. Most notably, the estimated landfall cone will be removed from hurricane forecasts. Listing the potential range for the eye of the storm to make landfall, the cone is often referred to by people who live in or near the coasts as the “cone of uncertainty.”

This cone was concentrated solely along the coasts, and in the eyes of the NHC, it fails to show the active tropical storm and hurricane conditions, watches, and warnings. They feel that just focusing on the coasts where flooding and high tides can be the biggest concerns puts people off the coast into a false sense of security.

A recent study from Colorado State University supported that theory. With most people believing that those outside the cone were “safe,” they failed to ensure they checked reports on the weather as well as other watches and warnings. NHC director Michael Brennan told CNN that this mistake can be a very dangerous one. “This is most critical for strong hurricanes that can carry tropical storm and hurricane force winds well inland, but it will improve the risk communication for wind hazards for all tropical cyclones.”

From studies, Brennan and others at the NHC decided that warnings, including inland wind warnings, would be far more successful than just forecasting about the coast.

Oddly enough, for many who live in locations that frequently experience hurricanes, these kinds of maps are just a normal thing. For years now, forecasters in and along the tropics used wind advisories and rain measurements far inside land. Even the Weather Channel has gone in that direction in the last few years.

Removing the cone of uncertainty might help reduce “panic,” but honestly, it just takes away from the games that go with hurricane parties.