Forecasting Any Weather Is Challenging. Irma's Forecast is More Challenging. Here Are Some Reasons Why.

     It's a wonderful feeling when your child starts developing their motor skills. There are fun parts and their are challenging parts. You want to teach your child the simple pleasures in life. Rolling over, crawling, walking, feeding themselves, coloring. Think back though to that first time you put a puzzle in front of your child. Lots of moving pieces that eventually make up a larger picture.

     When your child first sees this puzzle what is the first thing they do? Yep, the puzzle pieces go straight to their mouth. You take the pieces away and you sit there and you work with your child to teach him what pieces go where. Then the next time they see the puzzle they have a basic understanding of what to do.

      So what does that have to do with forecasting the weather?

      It actually relates pretty well. In college we are taught many different weather algorithms and how to calculate them. The atmosphere is like a huge puzzle. Each day is never the same. Our job as forecasters t is to try and put the pieces to the atmospheric puzzle together, in the correct places. If one piece to the puzzle is off it can upset and disrupt the entire forecast.

    We call weather models numerical models. Do you know why?

     If you guessed because they have a lot to do with numbers your are correct. Each model has its on algorithm built into it. They account for past weather events that are similar to current set ups, pull data from weather balloon launches and surface weather stations, and ingest information from tele-connection phases. Each weather model has its own sophisticated and unique algorithm built into it. Each model there fore interprets the atmosphere differently. This allows us as meteorologists to see different scenarios of upcoming weather events. Through training and experience its our job to produce a forecast after piecing together information from the models.

     You can kind of understand why forecasting Irma is difficult. This has the potential to be a high impact weather event that could affect millions. It's imperative that we get the forecast right with this storm. There are tons of bad information surfacing with this storm to the likes I have never seen before. These fake headlines are click bait. They generate a headline that scares you and then take one model run, the most devastating model run at that, and base their story around that. Sure a devastating storm is possible but the entire coastline from Florida to Maine have a chance to see Irma make landfall. Yesterday (Sunday) NOAA Hurricane Hunters flew into the storm for the first time. Before this we were forecasting based solely off satellite data. Satellites do an amazing job and are capable of much more than they even were last year. However, The Hurricane Hunters fly the storm dropping weather instrumentation throughout it. That data is compiled and ingested into the models and it gives us a much clearer picture as to what is going on inside the storm.      

      So here is what the NOAA Aircraft found during this morning's flight.

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...NOAA HURRICANE HUNTER AIRCRAFT FINDS IRMA A LITTLE STRONGER...

SUMMARY OF 800 AM AST...1200 UTC...

LOCATION...16.8N 52.6WABOUT 610 MI...980 KM E OF THE LEEWARD ISLANDS

MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...120 MPH...195

KM/H PRESENT MOVEMENT...WSW OR 255

DEGREES AT 14 MPH...22 KM/H MINIMUM

CENTRAL PRESSURE...947 MB...27.96 INCHES  

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      Irma continues to strengthen and models this morning with some new data in the are taking it further South now. It is still too early to know what impacts she will have on our weather locally but the chances for another major hurricane to make a US Landfall are increasing. We will continue to put the pieces of the forecast together today and our forecast team has a meeting this afternoon to work on this forecast. Irma is still about 7 days out from impacting any weather near us.

     What should you do right now?  Well you should always have an emergency kit available. Have 2-3 days of non perishable foods, flashlights, batteries, drinking water, a camping stove or grill, ice, oil lamps, blankets, and a way to keep your cell phone charged without electricity. 

Stay with us as we provide a clearer forecast in the upcoming hours and days.      

Chris White

Chief Meteorologist

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#Irma satellite image from 10:35am Monday September 4th