The birds called Veeries, were a better predictor of Atlantic hurricane intensity than the supercomputer predicted models.
Christopher Heckscher predicted that the 2018 Atlantic Ocean hurricane season would be strong, with accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) —between 70 and 150. The source of his data – A bunch of birds in Delaware.
The USA’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, using a supercomputer estimated it at 103 or lower.
The actual ACE – 129.
The birds were more accurate!
The birds were Veeries, (the focus of Heckscher’s study) who were a better predictor of Atlantic hurricane intensity than the supercomputer predicted models. They sensed what was in store months before most tropical storms form.
Veeries breed in moist woods across the northern US and Canada. When the birds lose a brood of eggs to predators or foul weather, the birds try again until they hatch young. But at some point, if they remain unsuccessful, the Veeries call-off nesting for the year, molt into fresh feathers and prepare for their long migration to Brazil.
Heckscher noticed that the birds reached that cutoff point earlier in some summers than in others. That’s when the birds knew that the storms would hit and destroy their nests and broods
Veeries had longer breeding seasons during years when there were mild hurricane seasons and shorter ones in bad years. Their behavior lined up closely with both the ACE and the number of major hurricanes. Early migration earlier gave the birds a chance to avoid the hurricanes while crossing the ocean and reach on time at their wintering grounds.
These findings remind us of the connections of nature. But they also serve warnings. The vast majority of major hurricanes in the Atlantic form during peak migration season. As climate change worsens there could be a growing threat to migratory birds both in terms of the path they take and their breeding.
Remember there are unseen connections in business and nature always plays its part to increase unpredictability.
Oh yes! The American Meteorological Society and the National Hurricane Center declined to comment.