The long range signals were there. They showed up weeks ago; indicating that September would have the potential of being very active in the Atlantic. This, despite the constant beating of the “less active season predicted” drum that had been going on since the season began in June. As time progressed, things changed. The El Nino did not come on as strong and is more western Pacific based. Sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic went from record cool compared to average to slightly above average now. All of the ingredients seemed to drop in to place to make September the biggest month of the season by far.
This pattern has produced Gordon which almost became a hurricane before moving on shore along the AL/MS border. The remnant low pressure area continues to bring heavy rain to areas well inland – and this will spread north and east over the next few days, adding to the already saturated soil across portions of the Northeast.
Now we have Florence which was a category four yesterday. It has since weakened due to stronger upper level winds but this will be only a temporary bump in the road as conditions are set to dramatically improve in a couple of days.
Then, we have 92L which is forecast by all of the reliable models to develop as it too moves generally westward. This feature should be monitored closely by interests in the northern Leeward Islands.
As if all of this weren’t enough, yet another strong tropical wave will emerge from the west coast of Africa and is likely to develop as it tracks steadily across the now fertile, no longer cooler than normal, tropical Atlantic.
So what about Florence? This is the hurricane that has social media buzzing with talk of a hit somewhere along the East Coast.
The short of it is: we will have to just wait and see for probably another 48 hours or so. Once we get to within five days of a possible landfall, the guidance and the official forecast from the NHC becomes much more reliable.
I think it all comes down to how strong the high pressure is that is, and will continue to be, parked over the northwest Atlantic and interior portions of the Northeast. Look at the weather.gov map today. Heat advisories for areas from New Jersey to Massachusetts – in September. Why is it so hot? Strong, deep layered ridging over the region. This causes the air to sink, compress and warm. It also traps hurricanes and keeps them from turning away from the coast.
If this pattern remains locked in place for the next week to ten days, then Florence likely makes landfall along the Mid-Atlantic or possibly as far south as South Carolina. We won’t really know for another two days or so in my opinion.
Eventually we will get recon missions out to Florence and this will include upper level synoptic missions from NOAA to sample the steering layers which will hopefully help the global models to resolve how strong the ridge of high pressure really is. This, in turn, will aid the NHC in their forecast in dealing with a potentially very intense hurricane Florence.
What I know for sure will happen is that we see large swells begin to affect the Eastern Seaboard (Bermuda first) as Florence approaches. This will delight surfers but will be extremely dangerous for swimmers. Beach water temps are as warm as ever this summer and people are still heading down to the coast when time allows. Florence will send lethal waves towards the coast and this needs to be taken very seriously. I will discuss this hazard more in the coming days.
For now, we wait, just a little longer, and we should get a clearer picture of what Florence will do. I have seen the runs of the GFS vs the ECMWF which indicate a distinct threat to the East Coast but it’s simply too far out in time to have to worry about a specific area. Let’s just be ready in case the worst does in fact happen. I’ll be on top of it regularly with updates posted here, my YouTube channel via video discussions and on Twitter and Facebook.