Hurricane Graphic

New Hurricane Tool

Cone of concern. Cone of dread. Cone of death. The National Hurricane Center’s (NHC) familiar forecast cone map goes by a lot of unofficial nicknames, all of which reflect this undeniable fact: you feel worried if you’re in it and better if you’re not.

That misreading of the forecast cone has made it the subject of some criticism over the years. Emergency managers believe it fails to reflect the risks posed to coastal communities that may be out of the cone one day but in it the next. Also, those in-land may be close enough to the eye of a storm to still experience serious wind damage.

This year, the NHC is rolling out an experimental version intended to address those issues by adding new layers of threats and a lot more colors. The NHC believes the new map better bridges the gap between informing the public and confusing it.

The forecast cone, introduced 22 years ago, has been misinterpreted by the public practically since day one. It’s meant to show the NHC best guess for where the eye of the storm will travel, with a cone around it that follows a formula based on the average errors the hurricane center makes when tracking a storm.

It’s a handy tool for showing where a storm may go. But even a small track shift can translate to a big change for a hurricane that parallels Florida’s long coastline. For example, the relatively minor shifts in the NHC predictions for Hurricane Ian’s path in 2022 led to entire counties in Florida exiting the forecast cone’s shaded area and, in some cases, delaying or avoiding calls for evacuation in response.

Starting August 15, the NHC will publish an experimental second version of the cone, where the inland spots under watches and warnings will also be colored in red and blue. It also will show the wind field of the storm, depicted in a gold tone, showing how far out the damaging winds stretch. This addition should make residents outside the cone more aware of the potential impacts from high winds. For more details on the new forecast cone visit NHC at

Excerpt from: Carter Weinhofer (May 15, 2024), New Hurricane Graphics Better Explain The Dangers of Approaching Storms,  Retrieved June 6, 2024 from