# How Do Spaghetti Models Predict a Hurricane’s Path?

### How Do Spaghetti Models Predict a Hurricane’s Path?

If you’re living in a coastal area prone to hurricanes and major tropical storms, you may not be all that interested in the statistical and meteorological big picture behind storm prediction. What you really want to know is what a particular hurricane is going to do — what its path is going to be, and when it’s going to strike your area.

As the Atlantic hurricane season began June 1, 2021 (it runs through Nov. 30), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) predicted between 13 and 20 storms that would be big enough to merit names, with winds of 39 miles per hour (63 kilometers per hour) or greater.

However NOAA updated that forecast Aug. 4, to 15 to 21 named storms, three to five of those it’s predicting will be Category 3, 4 or 5 hurricanes with winds 111 miles per hour (179 kilometers per hour) or faster.

### Spaghetti Models and Forecasting

To aid in forecasting efforts, meteorologists utilize visualizations called spaghetti models (also sometimes known as spaghetti plots). To a lay person, spaghetti models look like, well, a bunch of spaghetti strands thrown randomly against a wall. In reality, though, spaghetti plots are a method of combining information from a variety of predictive models onto one map, to come up with a picture of a hurricane’s potential track.

“Each model that is used to predict hurricane paths — and in many cases intensity — can have that path plotted on a map,” Daniel J. Leathers explained when we spoke to him in 2019. He’s a professor and director of the Meteorology and Climatology program at the University of Delaware, who also serves as Delaware State Climatologist and as a co-director of the Delaware Environmental Observing System. “All a spaghetti plot does is take the results from all of these models and plot all of them on the same map.”

To understand why spaghetti plots are important, you have to understand that there are a whole bunch of different modeling methods that are used to track hurricanes, and like presidential election polls, they don’t all produce the same results.

The object of creating such a map, according to Leathers, is to see the extent to which all the different models agree. “When the paths are very similar to one another, this means that all the models are agreeing (to a large extent) about the future path of the storm,” he says. In contrast, if the individual plots are all over the place, “then that says that there is great uncertainty in the models about where the storm will move in the future. Spaghetti plots are a way of seeing all of the model results at one time, and not relying on just one model for a forecast. They are very helpful in conveying the certainty, or uncertainty, of a forecast.”