There's been a recent trend in television weather over the last few years, one that has concerned me and the hurricane specialists at the National Hurricane Center.
A new term has emerged in the media called an INVEST. It is a weather system which the National Hurricane Center is interested in collecting specialized data on and running model guidance. Once a system has been designated as an INVEST, data collection and processing is initiated on a number of government and academic websites.
Up until the Internet data explosion, an INVEST was just discussed by a few forecasters. Outside of some TV stations and the National Hurricane Center, few had access to the model data. When a system developed, or was likely to develop, we started paying attention, alerting you if needed, and it might eventually get a name.
An INVEST is not a storm and may never become one. Richard Pasch, a hurricane specialist at NHC in Miami doesn't like this trend either. "There is this assumption that because we have put a number on it that it is going to become a storm or a hurricane."
Pasch, who has been with the hurricane center for 23 years said, "This proliferation of information has gotten to the point where everyone's got the model data and all the other data and they can go ahead and make their own forecasts. It certainly is a little dangerous and it's a reality we have to cope with it."
Knowledgeable tropical meteorologists know the differences in the models you might see on a so-called "Spaghetti Plot" and understand the upper level and surface weather conditions surrounding the INVEST. This information is easier to express on television. But, if you are just looking at a single image on the Internet, it is harder for us to express doubts or uncertainties about the possibility of a system developing.
Dennis Feltgen, at the National Hurricane Center, added, "Model forecast is not reliable because the data is limited, with no center for the models to latch onto. Placing INVEST tracks on the air visually carries the same weight as the model tracks of a tropical cyclone, which does not serve the viewer."
At Bay News 9, we'll try to differentiate the routine INVEST from something that might develop or threaten our area. It is a six-month hurricane season, don't be overly concerned every time you see hurricane models INVESTigating a possible system. We'll have the latest every hour at 49 minutes after in our Tropical Update.