Bermuda Hurricane Model Expands to the Caribbean

Image of Hurricane Fiona path

At time of writing (2022), Hurricane Fiona transited across the Caribbean, impacting several Small Island Developing States (SIDS) including a fatality in Guadaloupe. 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. Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Dr. Samantha Hallam and ASU BIOS COO Dr. Mark Guishard are teaming up again to expand upon the work related to the effect of upper ocean heat on Bermuda hurricanes conducted during Dr. Hallam’s internship at BIOS in 2019.

Her internship project, supported by the U.K. Associates of BIOS formed part of her doctoral thesis while attending the University of Southampton, England, and resulted in a peer-reviewed scientific article entitled, “Increasing tropical cyclone intensity and potential intensity in the subtropical Atlantic around Bermuda from an ocean heat content perspective 1955–2019,” which was published in Environmental Research Letters in 2021.

This study modelled the effect of upper ocean heat on hurricanes in Bermuda and revealed that average water temperatures down to 50m depth in the local ocean provide a better indication of hurricane intensities for storms in Bermuda than do surface temperatures. The resulting model is called the Tropical cyclone Ocean-coupled Potential Intensity Model (TOPIM).

Hallam, Guishard and other collaborators are working to extend the TOPIM project for use in the Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS), with grant support from Ireland’s program for overseas development, managed by the Irish Marine Institute.

“I’m excited to have the opportunity to collaborate once again with Sam on this worthy project,” Guishard said. 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.”

Through collaboration with the University of the West Indies, Hallam and Guishard plan to expand the TOPIM model’s reach beyond Bermuda to Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Bahamas, and Barbados.

“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’ program,” said Hallam, who now works as a Senior Post Doctoral researcher at the Irish Climate Analysis Research Units of Maynooth University. “We are hoping to have the model available for the 2024 hurricane season.”

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