The cone – an obsolete tool that needs to be eliminated

I’ve been personally stressing as long as Twitter has existed that the cone that the NHC uses and then public seems to love is a misleading tool, often causing deadly confusion.

The focus on the “cone” does more harm than good. It’s often forgotten, that the cone projects into the future the potential location of a center of any given storm. Serious Impacts especially in larger storms are always FAR & WIDE inside AND outside the cone.

While the tools the National Hurricane Center (NHC) provides do repeatedly state that the cone only forecasts the center and storm and that storm effects are expected XXX number of miles from the center, the public generally doesn’t grasp this. Most people do not read beyond the top lines of any NHC alert, and therefore mistake the area in the cone for the area of storm impacts. “We’re out of the cone,” is a common refrain which allows people to let their guard down, repeatedly before major storms.

I have said that not putting Lee and Collier under a Hurricane Warning when they needed to, was the fault of the NHC and potentially cost lives. However, I do have to note that the cone itself, just one tool in the NHC forecast packages that go out every six hours might be more decisive in creating either panic or complacency than the actual issuing of watches and warnings.

While the “cone of uncertainty,” has become a major part of Hurricane lore, the time to end this obsolete and largely counter-productive visual tool has come. Particularly as storms become larger and more potent, the cone is increasingly useless. Maybe the cone is still a decent tool several days from impact, but as a storm gets closer to landfall, be it in the Caribbean, Central America or the United States, the cone should be retired.

This should be among the reforms the NHC makes over the winter and spring months in preparation for the 2023 Atlantic Hurricane Season.


  1. I kind of like the cone. I live in Tallahassee and have for decades used it to determine which direction, if any to flee, and how much attention to pay. Lacking the genius of Krishnaiyer, I don’t understand the vast improvement of his recommended replacement would be. However unlike the vast majority of folks, I do understand that the cone is a summery of the best guess estimates of the future. I’m sure after some study I’ll and everyone else I’ll be able to understand Krishnaiyer new and improved cone replacement.

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  2. I believe that Ian will change Hurricane forecasting. For folks in Tampa to evacuate SOUTH is something that I cannot understand, and improved forecasting will hopefully change the thinking on who evacuates and where they should go. All that being said, let us all do what we can to help those who have been affected by this storm.

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