Tropical Alphabet Soup 9/8/11

By: Josh Knight
By: Josh Knight

There's a lot happening in the tropics as we approach the peak of Hurricane Season. Here is a breakdown of what's going on as of Thursday afternoon!


Tropical Alphabet Soup

Three named tropical storms are keeping us busy (and proving difficult to pronounce - thanks Katia = Kah-tya) as we approach the statistical "peak" of hurricane season on September 10, this weekend.  We almost had the middle of the alphabet covered all at once:

Katia - Cat 1 Hurricane  |  Lee - Dissipated  |  Maria - Tropical Storm  |  Nate - Tropical Storm


So what does it all mean for us?  The good news is that as of Thursday afternoon Katia has become a weaker Category 1 with winds at 85 mph.  The track of the system takes it out to sea and ultimately has little impact on any of the U.S.  It will however create some dangerous surf on our beaches and bring some cloud cover to the coast.  So, we can just about write her off.

Let's go down the line, Maria - this one is going to be interesting.  Of everything out there, Maria is going to be the one we'll have to watch the closest.  The track Thursday afternoon looks like this:


 Maria is actually forecast to remain a Tropical Storm through the next 5 days, which is good news for much of the Caribbean and the Bahamas.  But, these extended forecasts are often pretty far off on intensity or wind speed, and location.   Meteorologists will always say, "It's important to pay attention to the cone, not the line." 

Here's why, consider Irene from just a few weeks ago.  Here are two separate forecasts from five days apart.  The first is from Sunday August 21.  The track takes the hurricane through Cuba and

toward the Florida Keys, reaching Category 1 (74 mph - 95 mph) speed winds. Ultimately this won't be too far off, as long as we consider the cone.

Irene did continue moving toward the northwest but also became a Major Category 3 Hurricane  and ended up in a completely different place by Thursday.  The Image from 5 Days later is below:

Irene is with in that original "forecast cone" just about where the yellow circle is, but it is in a totally different place and on a completely different course.

For this reason, you'll often here us and other forecasters say we will continue to keep an eye on a specific tropical system, in this case Maria.  You can expect more updates in the near future.  However, I'm not saying the current forecast is wrong for Maria, sometimes the tracks and intensity are forecast very accurately, I'm just saying we all must understand that these forecasts are not perfect.  If Maria does have any impact on our weather, it won't be until later next week.

To click through and see how the forecast for Hurricane Irene changed, check out this link on the National Hurricane Center's website:

Last, but not least, our newest system, Tropical Storm Nate.


Tropical Storm Nate is in the Gulf right now and continues to strengthen,  The latest track from the Hurricane Center would mean we won't see much of an impact from this either.  However, when forecasters determine a track, they are looking at a number of different models, or potential paths, and some of them still take Nate northward in the Gulf and eventually bring some of the moisture to our area (similar to Lee).  Check out the cone though, you can see this system does not have a lot of guidance, and could easily end up in a number of places in the Gulf by Tuesday.

At this point, heading our way seems less likely, but we'll still pay close attention to Nate as well.


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