Citizen scientists analyzing tropical cyclone intensities



A new crowd sourcing project called CycloneCenter enables the public to analyze historical global tropical cyclone (TC) intensities. The primary goal of CycloneCenter, which launched in mid-September, is to resolve discrepancies in the recent global TC record arising principally from inconsistent development of tropical cyclone intensity data. The historical TC record is composed of data sets called “best tracks,” which contain a forecast agency's best assessment of TC tracks and intensities. Best track data have improved in quality since the beginning of the geostationary satellite era in the 1960s (because TCs could no longer disappear from sight). However, a global compilation of best track data (International Best Track Archive for Climate Stewardship (IBTrACS)) has brought to light large interagency differences between some TC best track intensities, even in the recent past [Knapp et al., 2010Knapp et al., 2010]. For example, maximum wind speed estimates for Tropical Cyclone Gay (1989) differed by as much as 70 knots as it was tracked by three different agencies.