Improvements in computing since Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005 have led to more detailed data that will allow officials to better prepare for hurricanes like the currently active storm, called Isaac. Researchers at university supercomputer centers in Texas and Louisiana have access to predictive geographic data that is up to 20 times more accurate than what was available when Katrina hit, ComputerWorld.com reported.

Researchers can model storm surges to predict what will happen and that data can inform decisions during an emergency. Computer simulations are being used to determine the best staging areas for people and supplies and identify which areas will be hit hardest, said Robert Twilley, an oceanographer and executive director of the Louisiana Sea Grant Program.

For comparison, today's hurricane models use 1.5 million nodes and can be completed in about one and a half hours. In 2005, hurricane models had about 300,000 nodes and took six hours to complete. Today computer models are accurate within 10 meters, whereas hurricane models in 2005 had minimum resolutions of only 100 to 200 meters.