But the number of scientists working on hurricane modeling has dropped in recent years, according to government officials, and the amount of time needed to build the new hurricane system is daunting.

Naomi Surgi, who is overseeing the development of the system for the Weather Service’s Environmental Modeling Center, said she hopes to have the project complete by 2007.

But she acknowledged that more scientists are needed in her group to work on the system.

“The number of scientists needs to be dramatically increased,” Surgi said.

Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield said he’s concerned about the staffing problem because the project offers the most promising possibilities for better forecasts. Current computer models are capable only of using crude representations of weather conditions to predict a hurricane’s track and strength. The new system will incorporate many more details that for the first time will give forecasters a look at the entire structure of a simulated storm. Forecasters will be able to follow a hurricane step by step, change by change, as it approaches land.

“The hope is that we’ll see a significant improvement in both track and intensity forecasting,” Mayfield said. “We’ve got to start somewhere, and quite frankly, we all have concerns about not having enough dedicated resources to really make this work.”

(c) 2005, The Miami Herald.

Visit The Miami Herald Web edition on the World Wide Web at http://www.herald.com/

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-10-09-05 1756EDT

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