In this hurricane tracking tutorial we are going to show readers how to follow high pressure systems and low pressure systems to figure out what direction a formed hurricane or tropical storm may go. Please use the comment section at the bottom to have discussions with us and other readers and consider sharing this article on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter so that others can learn about guidance of hurricanes and tropical systems.
While there are many factors on guidance of tropical cyclones, it is important to note that generally, these storms tend to be repelled by or blocked by high pressure systems and attracted to or follow other low pressure systems. On most weather related software packages, high pressure systems are noted by red color and low pressure systems are noted by blue color.
In the tutorial examples below, explanation of each map will be directly under each image.
Using the map above, we see low pressure system 972 (our hurricane) in the Caribbean with low 1010 in the Gulf of Mexico, and high pressure systems 1028 over Maine and the Northern Atlantic. 972 is being blocked from going North by both highs, and guided to Florida by low 1010. Notice the white area between high 1028 in Maine and low 1010 in the Gulf as this is where our hurricane low 972 will be drawn to.
For the remainder of this tutorial, we will refer to this white area as the boundary.
In the map above, we see low 969 (our hurricane) being blocked from going North, and lows 1009 to the south and southwest. Our low will continue to be attracted to the boundary of white space over northern FL.
Using the example above, we see low 965 (our hurricane) continuing to be blocked from going north and attracted to the boundary of white space over northern FL. There are no other low pressure systems to pull this storm in it’s direction.
With two high pressure systems to the north, low 965 will continue to track towards FL and the boundary between the high to the northeast and the low in the gulf. The low in the gulf is close enough to begin to pull low 965 towards it which will help give guidance more towards FL near Miami.
Now in the example above, you see a high to the northeast, and two lows to the northwest and southwest, low 958 will now turn a bit northwest towards the boundary of white space over Georgia.
In the example map above, you see the high pressure system in the northern Atlantic Ocean pulling away and no longer blocking low 981 from going northeast, and dominant low 992 diving in from the great lakes to pull hurricane low 981 towards 992 and the boundary of white space now over South Carolina. Low 981 will now turn north.
Low 994 (our hurricane) is now attracted to the boundary of white space between high 1024 and dominant low 991 over South Carolina and North Carolina. This storm will now turn northeast and follow the white space between the high pressure over Bermuda (red) and the low pressure (blue) over western NC.
In the example above, our hurricane low 974 is now prevented from going northeast by the high over Maine, and will be drawn to low 997. Since it was being drawn northeast and can’t now, this system will slow down or stall and want to change direction to the boundary of white space created between the high pressure over Maine and the low pressure in Canada.
In the example tutorial map above, you now see our hurricane low 966 being block by a high to the northwest and attracted to the boundary of white space created by the low pressure over Canada and high 1029. Our hurricane can now move northeast which is exactly what this storm did.
Tropical cyclones, whether a hurricane or tropical storms, are very complex weather systems and there are many factors which dictate direction and guidance for these systems. But in the example tutorial above, you can clearly see how high pressure systems and low pressure systems along with the boundaries between them will dictate in which direction the center of circulation will follow. Using this article, the next time you are on social media following the next storm and you see someone saying “I think hurricane noname will defy the National Hurricane Center and head towards North Carolina” you can now pull out your trusty hurricane tracking software or map and check to see if his or her reasoning is sound.
Also, we encourage you to head over to the tropical tidbits website where you can look at various computer models related to active tropical systems as this information is used by the National Hurricane Center to determine their guidance and direction in their next update advisory on a system.